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Melanie on cervical cancer and family

Melanie was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2021. Now celebrating a year post surgery, Melanie shares her experience of cervical cancer and juggling treatment with motherhood.

"Looking back now, I’d had symptoms for a while. After my son was born in 2019, I went to my GP as my periods were different and I was getting some spotting in between. My GP sent me for an ultrasound on my ovaries and it came back fine. 

I hadn’t been for screening for a few years due to pregnancy and then delays due to covid and staff availability. It all felt routine as I had been for tests before but after this one, I experienced spotting afterwards.

A couple of weeks later my results included a referral to my local gynaecology ward at the hospital. It felt like a confusing letter, with lots of phrases and medical information I had never heard including HPV and dyskaryosis.

They carried out a LLETZ and a cone biopsy and sent the sample off to the lab. Again, I had little knowledge of the procedure, and it was only when I mentioned it to people at work or my friends, suddenly loads of people had been to that appointment and had the procedure done.

Not long after I was called back to the hospital to get a diagnosis of stage 1b squamous cell carcinoma of the cervix. I had a hysterectomy with removal of my cervix, part of my vagina, my lymph nodes and my ovaries. My surgery was complicated.

It was estimated as a 3-hour operation but ended up taking just over 8 hours!

I experienced a lot of issues post-surgery with infection and bladder issues too. Leaving my ovaries was an option they put forward to me but given that the type of cancer I had was particularly aggressive, I chose to have them removed. It was a difficult decision as it now means I’m on HRT for a large part of my life but I’m glad I made that decision. A few months later my consultant advised me to have 5 weeks of chemo radiation and two brachytherapy boost treatments. This was advised around new guidance as a preventative measure so I could have the best chance of the cancer not returning.

I think the one thing that stood out to me throughout surgery and treatment was how young I was compared to all the women around me. I was often the youngest person on the chemo ward by decades and it did make the process difficult feeling a bit on my own dealing with very small children.

We had to take different approaches with both children as they had very different experiences and understandings of what was happening to mummy.

With my eldest, she had some awareness of what was happening, that mummy had to go away because she’s ill, but it will make her better. We didn’t use the word cancer, opting instead for softer language. There’s no right way to explain it to a child but we are keen to keep the conversation going. Whenever she asks questions, we try to answer as openly and honestly as possible. Like she asked a few weeks ago why I didn’t get “that thing” (periods) anymore. We know it is going to be an ongoing topic as our children get older but hopefully positive things can come out of this, such as encouraging my daughter to go for her smear test and get to know her body.

Jo’s was an absolute lifeline in terms of interpreting information and hearing from other woman about their experiences.

Jo’s gave so much more detail than any of the NHS pages and the personal stories are absolutely invaluable. I remember watching videos on what happens during and after surgery and seeing other people deal with bladder issues which, made me more equipped to handle it myself. Even hearing stories and advice on how to handle sex and relationships after cancer was something I hadn’t even thought about. A lot of the medical professionals I was speaking to were so focused on saving my life and the medicine, that they forgot I was a human and wanted to know the emotional impact the experience would have on my relationship and family.

I’ve just celebrated one year post surgery and so far, there’s no sign of recurrence.

I’ve gone back to work full time and I’m back to juggling a three and six-year-old. I still experience the aftereffects of treatment and surgery but every day it gets easier to navigate and I’m having more and more conversations with other women about HPV, smears and menopause, which is helpful for me and I think for other women too."


If you or a loved one has been affected by cervical cancer we're here for you. Find more information here >

Last Updated: 
08 Dec 2022