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Nigel's wife, Rachael, was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Being a partner of a woman with cervical cancer, Nigel shares how he used Jo's information and support services to support Rachael.
Rachael, my wife, has always been to her cervical screenings. It’s something she has always been open about, so when she went for her cervical screening appointment in 2020, we didn’t think anything of it. When her results came back with HPV, it was a big shock. We are both in our 40s and have teenage kids, and hadn’t ever even thought about this kind of stuff or that it could happen to us. Obviously the first thought was: how did she get HPV? It took us a while to grasp the fact that most people have it at some point, and HPV can stay dormant in your body and it’s possible that you got the virus many years – even decades – ago but never knew you had it.
Rachael was asked to return for a second cervical screening 12 months after her original one and, while we were away in Cornwall, we got the call saying that they had found abnormal cells. I started to research everything I could about cervical cancer and different treatment options, and that’s how I found Jo’s. It was very reassuring to read other women’s stories about cervical cancer and their treatments, as it helped us understand what to expect and how I could support Rachael.
The hardest part was the waiting. Looking back, it all happened very quickly, but in the moment it felt like a lifetime of not knowing what was next. The only good thing was that we felt at least slightly prepared for what might have been coming from reading other stories on the Jo’s Forum. Rachael was diagnosed with stage 1b cervical cancer and scheduled for an open radical hysterectomy. All our doctors and nurses were excellent, especially the Macmillan nurse who was honest with us about the diagnosis and what it meant.
The fact it all happened so quickly meant we didn’t have a chance to over-analyse anything, which I guess was a good thing looking back. I would recommend for any partner to do your own research, as your loved one with cervical cancer might not be processing the information during appointments. However you should be selective with how you research! Data is a good way of understanding the facts, but real life experiences can tell you so much more than research papers. This is where Jo’s was amazing – all the stories about what to expect are so honest, and there are lots of positive tips and hints too.
At this point, Rachael has had the post-op histology results and her first six-month scan which were both all clear, so the prognosis is very good. As Jo’s was such a lifeline for us, I took on the Sussex Hills cycling challenge along with five of our friends, to raise funds and awareness as a way to say thank you. It’s a pretty big undertaking for me, but I want to turn the experience into a positive. I was able to promote the ride at work (as well as with friends and family), and introduced the company to Jo’sand cervical screening awareness week and, as a result, a team of colleagues came down and completed the ride with me. It was hard work but also a lot of fun and very rewarding.
Here are a few photos from the Sussex Hills Cycling Challenge: