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Rachel was diagnosed with stage 1b cervical cancer in 2019. She shares her story, including the impact her diagnosis had on her mental health.
In February 2019, I attended my routine smear test, the results of which showed that I had cell changes and that I would be referred to a colposcopy clinic. To be honest, I didn’t think much of it at first and went along to the colposcopy appointment alone.
I sat down with the doctor who said that my results had in fact shown ‘severe’ cell changes. At that point, I burst into tears. They took a biopsy and I waited two weeks for my results to come through.
As I sat down, the doctor looked at me and said bluntly: “It’s not good I’m afraid, it’s cancer.” I remember I went numb. I didn’t understand how this could have happened as I had always had clear regular smear test results.
I just remember the nurse saying that it was curable but all I could think was “oh god, this is happening, this is really happening” over and over.
I was diagnosed with stage 1b cervical cancer. After an MRI, I was told that I would need to have a radical hysterectomy and lymph node removal. I remember after the operation whilst I was in recovery the anaesthetist let me speak briefly to my husband on the phone and apparently I told him that I was “out with the kids”.
Three weeks after my operation I went for my outpatient’s appointment to receive my results. I was so nervous but before I had even sat down in the surgeon’s office, he said “it’s good news by the way” with a lovely smile on his face. He showed me the histology results which said no more treatment is required. I jumped up and gave him the biggest hug and a kiss. I cannot thank my surgeon enough. He and his wonderful team saved my life.
My little girls don’t know anything about my cancer. I’ve decided that I will tell them when they are older, but for now all they know is that I had a “bad tummy”.
I am determined that something ‘good’ comes out of this. I am passionate about raising awareness of smear tests and try and start up conversations about it with the other women in my life, my friends, colleagues and family. As a result of me telling my story, seven ladies I know have gone to their smear tests so far.
The six months leading up to my first check-up were nerve-wracking and I don’t feel like I’ve properly been able to relax but luckily everything was clear!
I won’t deny that cancer has taken its toll on my mental health. I have been diagnosed with PTSD and am awaiting counselling but I try and appreciate every single day. The aftermath of cancer can be hard so that’s why I believe it’s so important to make time for yourself and rest when you need to rest. Despite what I have gone through, I have tried really hard to stay positive. I try and appreciate every single day and keep smiling, even when it seems really hard. It’s important to fight and believe in yourself too.