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Stephanie found the emotional impact of cervical cancer and treatment really difficult. She shares her story and explains how the experience has made her think differently and "be grateful for every little moment".
In early May 2018 I attended my routine cervical screening. My previous results had always come back clear so I was surprised when a nurse from a colposcopy clinic rang up asking if I could attend a clinic after my latest result was showing I had cell changes.
During the appointment, I knew something was wrong because of the number of black dots on the screen and the look the nurses gave each other which indicated that there may be something a little more than just a few cell changes. Biopsies were taken and for the next week I tried to keep my mind off it.
The following week I was called back to the colposcopy clinic. They sat me down and I could see from the look on their faces that this was not going to be good news. They said that the results showed there were cancerous cells on my cervix that needed urgent further investigation.
The gynaecologist said that they had found a cancerous tumour inside my cervix and the results had showed that it was stage 3 adenocarcinoma. I was shocked. I just couldn’t understand how this had happened. I’d had some heavy periods and a dull pain in my pelvic area but I had brushed it off- I definitely never thought these could be symptoms of cancer.
But after an examination, they found that it wasn’t as bad as they had previously thought. He said he could see the tumour wasn’t as big as the histology report had suggested at just 32mm and it was stage 1 cancer. I was so relieved.
I had an open radical hysterectomy and had 14 lymph nodes removed. However, after the operation, the doctor told me that the cancer was present in one lymph node. This meant I needed to have chemotherapy and radiotherapy to eliminate any chance that it could spread somewhere else in my body. I was disappointed. I had hoped that surgery would be the end of it all but if this is what I needed to do to make sure the cancer was definitely gone then I just wanted to get on with it. So, I began my treatment: I had radiotherapy every day for five weeks and chemotherapy every Tuesday. I remember I would feel so ill after chemo but I had a great support network throughout my treatment: my dad came with me on most days and the nurses were so lovely and talked me through every step.
That was then and this is now.
As I finished my treatment and 2018 came to an end, the tiredness and ‘brain fog’ hit me like a ton of bricks. I never could have predicted just how debilitating it could be. I also never anticipated the emotional impact of cancer and treatment and I now have PTSD as a result of what I went through and the shock of it all.
As of my last check-up in May 2019, I am all clear. I am still here to watch my children grow up. I feel better as the weeks pass and I healed well, mentally and physically. I found that going to the gym has really helped with my recovery and my mental health along with the incredible support of my friends and family that pulled me through the bad days. My journey with cancer has changed me: it’s made me think differently about things and be grateful for every little moment, no matter how big or small. Cancer was never going to break me, I have too much to live for!