- 5 years ago
- Location: SA
- Age: 35
A PAP SMEAR SAVED MY LIFE!
In 2014, my doctor told me I had an adeno (glandular) cervical carcinoma. This is in the less common 20% of cervical cancers. I had been unwell for approximately 6 years with nearly all of the symptoms of cervical cancer but because my Pap smears came back normal, doctors did not make the connection. My cervical cancer grew too high up in the cervical canal to be detected by a Pap smear. Only once it had grown big enough and down towards the outer layer of the cervix was a Pap smear able to detect it. Below is my story. I have shared it with the hope that it might answer other’s questions and/or offer some support to others who are going through a journey with cervical cancer.
At the end of June 2014, I went for what was known then as a Pap smear. I would make sure that I went every 2 years as required at the time. When the results of that came back as possible ‘cancer in situ’ or CIN3, I was referred to another doctor for a Colposcopy. On the 2nd of July, I had the Colposcopy. Two days later on the 4th of July 2014, I was told that I had cervical cancer and would probably need major surgery such as a hysterectomy to remove it. I was referred to a Gynecological Oncologist in Adelaide who sent me for an MRI and CT scan.
On the 10th of July 2014, I had a staging biopsy under general anesthetic so the specialist could determine the course of treatment I would require. About a week after the staging biopsy, my Gynecological Oncologist rang and told me that I had two options. A radical hysterectomy (removing my uterus, part of my vagina, my cervix and a large amount of the soft tissue surrounding that area) or a trachelectomy (removal of my cervix only). The difference between a total hysterectomy (uterus and cervix removed) and a radical hysterectomy is that more is removed from your body with a radical and the operation is longer. The trachelectomy would preserve my ability to carry a child (which I hadn’t experienced yet) but came with the added risk that chemo and radiation were a higher possibility and of possible re-occurrence of the cancer. My cancer was a stage 1B1 which means that it was not larger than 4cm but because it was located predominately high up in the cervical canal, I would require extensive and drastic treatment.
I made my decision in about 2 seconds flat to have the radical hysterectomy and informed my specialist while still on the phone being given my options. I am unsure why I was able to make this decision so quickly but by that stage the worst-case scenario had been talked about for a few weeks so I had already started processing what might happen. Trust me, it was a shock at first but I am glad the doctors were so straight with me and didn’t wait till the tests came back to tell me what might be my new reality.
Tuesday, July 22nd 2014 will always divide my life into two sections, pre and post radical hysterectomy. This was the most emotional and traumatic thing I have ever experienced. The pain from the incision was bearable with medication but the catheter that I had in for 4 days was necessary but unbearable. My operation went for 3 hours and my bladder and bowels were moved aside to get to my uterus etc. This affected their functioning in the weeks, months and now years following the operation. However, I feel this is a small price to pay. I was in hospital for 7 days (it was originally meant to be 4 days) due to complications. I spent a further 7 days in a rehabilitation hospital because the nerve in my right groin was damaged in the operation and I was unable to walk properly or move my leg in certain directions. This is a known but uncommon complication when having a radical hysterectomy. Unfortunately, two weeks after I was discharged from the rehab hospital, I was readmitted to the hospital in Port Lincoln (where I lived) with a bleed in my stomach and kidney stones to pass.
The physical scars and pain of my cancer healed as expected but the emotional scars still affect me nearly 7 years on. While in Flinders and Port Lincoln hospitals, I was in the gynecological and obstetrics ward with all the new mothers and their babies. This added to the trauma I experienced from the operation, as I attempted to walk (to build up my strength) around the ward seeing new babies and happy families. I was able to keep it together until I saw a new dad walking his baby back to the nursery on about my 5th day in hospital. As the physical scars healed, the emotional ones came out in force.
While my operation in 2014 divided my life into two sections, so did 2017, pre and post marriage and motherhood. In March 2017, I married an amazing man, who is my best friend and became a parent to his 3 beautiful kids. At the time the kids were 2, 4 and 7 years old.
My cancer journey has left me a changed person and proved to me that there is more strength in me than I could ever have imagined. My parents were instrumental in my journey and provided much needed support and love along with my sister, niece, best friend Nadia and other family and friends. I could not have gotten through all of this without my mum, who was by my side the whole time.
I am now almost 7 years cancer free and while it is still a daily struggle with pain, both emotional and physical, I am reminded each day by this how lucky I am to be alive.
Have a Pap smear! 5 minutes of being uncomfortable could save your life! I AM LIVING PROOF THAT A PAP SMEAR COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE!
After my operation, I had to go back every 3 months for a check up and Colposcopy. I now go back every 6 months and will continue to do that until I make it to 5 years cancer free. Then it will be every 12 months. 5 uncomfortable minutes every 2 – 5 years sounds much better doesn’t it! 🙂