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Stephanie was diagnosed with cervical cancer aged 25. She talks about the treatment options she had and her experience of side effects.
I was invited for a routine smear test before my 25th birthday and went straight away. I was a bit apprehensive but my Mum had talked me through what would happen.
I didn’t have any symptoms so had no reason to think that anything was going to be wrong however I started to feel worried and anxious shortly after I received a letter inviting me to attend a colposcopy. I wasn’t sure what all the terminology on the letter meant, things like ‘HPV’.
Colposcopy was really tough as I sensed that the staff were concerned about me. They took a biopsy and just weeks later I was called in to receive the devastating news that I had cervical cancer – stage 1b. I remember being in the waiting room afterwards and I couldn’t speak. I just wanted to know what was going to happen next.
I was given two treatment options; to either have a hysterectomy or trachelectomy. I chose to have a trachelectomy because I want to have children in the future, so it was a really easy decision for me to make. I would say for other women deciding on a course of treatment that it depends on what stage of life they're at. If I had children already I probably would have had a hysterectomy but I wanted to try and keep my fertility and I was so lucky that my consultant did everything she could so that this could happen.
I had chemotherapy first after being advised by my consultant this would more likely stop the cancer from coming back. I had three rounds of chemotherapy in three week intervals. The worst part was definitely losing my hair, I was more upset about this than anything else.
After the chemotherapy I had the trachelectomy treatment via robotics. My Dad came with me as I wanted the stronger, less emotional parent to sit with me until my surgery time. It was really emotional as this was the first time I had seen my Dad cry. One of the hardest things for me during my treatment was for my little sister, who was two years old, to understand why I had lost my hair, why I was wearing a blond wig and the scars that I had.
The day I was given the all-clear on the 28th November I will remember forever as probably the happiest day of my life so far. I don’t think the experience had quite sunk in as it all happened so fast. It’s been nearly two years since I got the all-clear and finished my treatment but it can be hard for others to understand that it still really affects me. I suffer with side effects of my treatment and get tired very easily (and work one day a week from home), my feet can give me cramp-like symptoms too but they’re a small price to pay! I now have 3 month check-ups with the same consultant I had during my treatment, with regular smear tests and a yearly MRI scan.
I found out about Jo’s when I was first diagnosed as I was given a leaflet in a pack. I found the website really informative and I’m looking forward to going to Let’s Meet to chat to other women who have had the same experiences as me. I cannot stress how important it is to go for a smear test, I had no symptoms so I was very lucky that I did.