In May 2013 I started bleeding in between periods. I wasn't even that worried about it but Sarah my partner told me to go to the doctor where he did some blood tests which came back all fine. However over time the bleeding got worse and I was sent to hospital for an ultrasound in 2013. They suspected I might be going through the menopause as I'm in my 40s but again, nothing was found.
By February 2014 the bleeding had got very heavy and it started to frighten me that I was losing so much blood. I was referred to a gynaecologist but the appointment was a few weeks away and I was feeling faint and unable to get through the day at work so I booked a private appointment instead. The gynaecologist could see a tumour on my cervix and after some further investigation I was diagnosed cervical cancer.
As a gay woman I always thought I didn't need smear tests, I thought you were only vulnerable if you have sex with men. I never had so I ignored invitations to go for my screening and at some point also filled in a form I found on the NHS website so I would not receive these letters in the future. Now I know how wrong I was.
I started five weeks of weekly chemotherapy and then had six weeks of daily radiotherapy. I was also supposed to have internal radiotherapy but this wasn't successful as there wasn't enough normal tissue left around the cervix. So then I had another 4 weeks of radiotherapy. The chemotherapy made me very ill, with nausea and vomiting and I had bladder and bowel problems. The whole experience also affected me a lot emotionally. For a long time I didn't know how serious it was going to be, you just wait around and don't know if the next thing they tell you is that it has spread to your lymph nodes etc. Initially they did actually think it had spread further than they thought and started talking about palliative care and that was very difficult and put a lot of strain on me.
We also have a 12 year old daughter who we adopted and it was hard telling her I had cancer but we got some good advice from Macmillan which helped.
I finished treatment in August 2014 and have since then gradually got back to feeling well again. After four months off work I'm also back to work which I'm very glad about.
Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust has helped me in many ways; through the online forum and I also went to a Jo's support group meeting in London prior to my treatment which was incredibly helpful. The women there were able to tell me, from their own experiences, what to expect from treatment and I was looking at all these healthy young women sitting in front of me and it really gave me hope that everything was going to be ok. I also attended Let's Meet where I learnt a lot and had a great day. I'm very thankful to the charity.
It's really important to me now to raise awareness of the importance of screening especially in the gay community. Lesbians need to know that even if they have never had sex with a man that they need to go for screening and health care professionals also need to be made more aware that we're still at risk of getting cervical cancer.
I feel so grateful to be well again and leading a normal life. I try to appreciate every day and get used to a less certain future. Facing my fears and successfully completing the treatment has also given me a huge sense of achievement. A life-threatening illness like this has also brought me closer to many family and friends who have shown how much they care.
[Names have been changed.]