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Skye on comparing cancer to having a full-time job

"One thing I wasn’t told was how much time was taken up by having cancer. First it was being diagnosed and having to tell what felt like everyone about it. Then during treatment, my life was full of driving to and from hospital appointments, waiting for rooms, machines, staff or treatments to be available, and sleeping. Even now, five years in remission, I’m sharing my story, living with the side effects and helping others going through similar experiences. It takes up time now in different ways to then, but it’s always going to be with me. 

I’m cancer free but never free of cancer.

From the age of 24 I was experiencing irregular bleeding and bleeding after intercourse. I visited the doctors three times in between coming off antidepressants and was turned away each time with no examination. Once I reached the age of 25, admittedly, I was reluctant to go for a smear test. It was a daunting thought and something I felt very private about. Having visited the doctors for a fourth time after my partner told me he could 'feel something', they suggested I book my smear, so I did. The nurse was brilliant, really supportive and put me at ease. She immediately had difficulties getting a swab from me due to the bleeding but sent one off anyway. I received a letter in the post around 10 days later telling me a colposcopy had been booked for LLETZ treatment as my results were a very high grade, CIN3. 

I avoided Googling any of my symptoms or results because I didn’t want to get misinformation. I guess it was also a form of denial because deep down, when I saw their faces during the colposcopy, my stomach dropped. I knew it was something bad. Looking back, they did give little hints that it could be cancer, but I was not in a headspace to pick up on them and didn’t really believe them. How has this gone to from abnormal bleeding to preparing for the worst?

It was a Friday when they tried to call me, but I kept missing the call because I was at work. Having to wait the weekend was horrible, trying not to worry or expect the worst. The call on Monday couldn’t have come quick enough. They explained that they had wanted me to come in so they could sit down with me, but it was better to just tell me outright… it’s cancer.

I had been sitting in the office. I think I screamed. I was crying a lot. All I could do was text one of my work friends saying, “it’s cancer”. Then I got a taxi home. I didn’t cry when I told my loved ones. I felt like I had to be strong, and crying wasn’t going to fix it. It was like the tears just didn't want to come out. 

Then it was blur as I was thrown through all these tests and handed information. It was all very weird. Within a month I had the grading, type, and the ’what’s next’ conversation. Then the waiting game began again before treatment started in November. Seven weeks daily radiotherapy (25 sessions), five sessions of chemotherapy and three sessions of brachytherapy towards the end. 

Every treatment appointment was an all-day production.

Drive for an hour to get to the appointment, wait around, have the appointment, sometimes waiting for results or for immediate side effects to fade, drive home. After my brachytherapy sessions the drive included a detour via KFC because for a long time, the only thing I could stomach was fried chicken skin. My last session was 30th December which made Christmas a little difficult. I was constantly going for tests including a blood test on Boxing Day. My mum was amazing the whole time, driving me to and from my appointments even when we had to go an hour away to Northampton hospital. 

Even when I didn’t have scheduled appointments, I still felt like I was constantly in and out of hospital. During my first chemo session, I got home and noticed a rash, shaking and fever. They provide a guide and tell you to look out for side effects. Mine were under the ‘get to A&E ASAP’ section so I was rushed through quicker than I’ve ever been in my life, and put straight on antibiotics. Even towards the end of my chemotherapy, I had a 2-litre blood transfusion. Something I don’t remember anyone telling me was after my blood transfusion, was that I’d no longer be eligible to give blood which broke my heart. 

My employers and work friends have been great. My work has a good absence policy for illness, and I took six months off with full pay which was one less worry during treatment. They put me on a gradual return to work but I think I rushed myself to back into work, too keen to ‘get back to normal’.

The first two years after treatment were the toughest mentally.

Dealing with the long-term side effects, trying to ‘get back to normal’ and generally trying to forget about it. But the menopause was the biggest constant reminder. Mum breezed through the menopause and while I tried looking for information, it was all targeted at women of natural menopause age. I found it difficult to find any support for younger women and information for how this would impact their life. Even women I knew and knew what I had been through almost dismissed my menopause experiences because they thought it wasn’t the same. This experience was one of the main reasons I wanted to share my story. 

I never met anyone my age throughout my treatment and even now I’ve only just found two other people going through cervical cancer, one of which is my age. The lack of support and information meant the whole experience was quite isolating for someone my age. 

I always thought that I would never tell anyone about my cancer, but then January after my treatment, I saw a Race for Life advert saying, “run for someone you love” and I thought, ’you know, I’ll run for me’. Sharing my story has been amazing. It’s helped me start conversations at work, join new initiatives and meet new people who understand or want to understand what I’ve been through.

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Last Updated: 
20 Mar 2023