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Tessa's story

TessaMy journey started in February 2008 after my first smear test. I was 24 and had never had a smear as the law changed just before I was due to have my first one. I'd been having a few problems with irregular bleeding for over a year and slowly they had been getting worse.

I wasn't worried as it never occurred to me bleeding was a sign of cancer. I had never been educated about cervical cancer. So I continued to tolerate the bleeding for another six months.

Six weeks later my results confirmed severe cells and I was referred for a colposcopy. Three weeks later the doctor took a biopsy and then gave me that look that means it's not good news. "It's the worst cervix I've seen in a long time; best case scenario is that it's just pre-cancerous cells."

Four weeks after the biopsy I went to collect my results; I had prepared myself for the doctor to confirm that I had cancer. I met the oncologist and he explained the next step would be a cone biopsy in May. The results of the cone biopsy showed they hadn’t been able to remove all the cancer so more technical surgery was needed. I was then referred to The Royal Marsden. Because of my age, preservation of my fertility was very important.

In July at my appointment at The Royal Marsden new information showed neuroendocrine elements, which meant my cancer wasn't straightforward as hoped. These tumours account for less than 1% of cervical cancers and are a very rare and aggressive type of tumour. So suddenly instead of fertility saving surgery I was told "The priority now is to save your life”.

After six cycles of chemotherapy I was to have a radical hysterectomy. I was devastated as I was suddenly told I would lose my hair and will never be able to carry and give birth to my own child.

I started chemotherapy immediately. It only took a few days for my hair to start falling out. A few strands at first then I'd wake up in the morning with my pillow completely covered. After a week my hair had thinned so much I decided to wear a wig. So that was it, my hair was gone.

In November I had my surgery. Whether they could keep my ovaries depended on what the surgeon saw when he looked inside me. I woke up in recovery to find they’d kept my ovaries and performed the whole surgery via key hole. I was so relieved.

The surgeon decided I didn't need anymore treatment and so far so good. I haven't had any side-effects from the surgery and have recovered really quickly. My hair has started to grow back, I no longer wear a wig and I have found full time work as a nursery assistant.

In the meantime I am doing everything I can to raise awareness of cervical cancer and am actively involved with Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, supporting many of their campaigns and also raising funds for their vital work.

Jo's has been there from day one of my diagnosis. It is a community that I felt comfortable in straight away and where I have met friends for life, which is such a positive thing after having gone through such a terrible experience. It is a place where you can find strength at a time when you're at your weakest!

I want young women to be educated about the symptoms of cervical cancer and why a smear test is important. I can't carry my own babies but I will still be a mother one day, I have no doubt about that. It's the hardest thing I've ever had to go through but cancer has shown me I have a strength and positivity I never knew I had.

Read more stories from women affected by cervical cancer

Last Updated: 
Tuesday, 19 February, 2013