Going to the hospital for a fairly routine examination, and coming out of it knowing that you have cancer is a very strange feeling.
Tuesday 4 November 2014 was the worst day of my life so far. I had been bleeding in between periods and after sex for a few weeks prior to this, and after looking up these symptoms on Google, which was not a good idea, I went to see the nurse at my GP surgery. She immediately could see that something fishy was going on down there, and referred me to the local hospital. Here I would have a colposcopy, which means a little camera going up your vagina. Yep, there was the tumour. Attached to my cervix in all its glory. I was asked to come back in a fortnight, to find out the staging and plan of action.
I left the room, where my friend Helen was waiting for me. She is one of the best people on this earth, and held me whilst I sobbed on her shoulder and left mascara stains on her nice winter coat. We went back to my flat, where I phoned my manager and friend Big Claire (we're the tallest girls in the office by a good few inches), to say I probably wouldn't be coming in to work tomorrow as you know, just gotten cancer and all. Calling my Mum and Dad to tell them that their only child, who they managed to have after 19 years of trying for a baby, has cancer, was not nice.
The next two weeks were awful. Waiting to be told how likely it is that you might die is paralysing, and I would flit between rushes of adrenaline and spending countless hours staring at the wall, or wailing into a pillow. Being a strong mixture of dramatic and fatalistic, I obviously presumed everyone would next be gathering at my funeral, rather than birthday party. I was scared, but the thing I felt more than fear was anger. How dare this be happening to me? I'm only 24. Cancer, if you kill me I will be so, so furious at you. I'm not done yet.
I found out that the tumour was a stage 1b, which as far as tumours go, is pretty good. I had to have an EUA (examination under anaesthetic) where cameras were inserted up my bottom, front bottom and right up my lady pie, to check no other naughty lumps were welded to my rectum, bladder or womb. When my doctor, Mr Ind, told me that everywhere else was all clear, it was like being told I didn't have cancer at all. This meant I could have a radical trachelectomy, which removes the cervix, surrounding tissue and top part of the vagina. Bring it on.
My operation was on Tuesday 9 December 2014. Apparently I love having big events on a Tuesday. Mr Ind had gone through the possible risks and side effects with me, which included an emergency blood transfusion, permanent bladder damage and a kidney infection. None of this bothered me. All I could thing about as I closed my eyes, was the possibility of waking up with lymphoedema. Lymphoedema is a long-term condition that causes swelling in the body's tissues, most commonly the legs. I was not okay with waking up to a pair of fat ankles. I've got cancer in my cervix, not my feet. Thank you very much.
You'll be pleased to hear that my ankles and I survived the ordeal; the operation was a success. Now, I have regular check-ups and when I get to the 'five years all clear' mark, my chances of recurrence will be next to nothing. I am writing articles, blog posts, giving talks and doing stand-up comedy about my cervical cancer extravaganza. A noise needs to be made, and I want it to be as loud as possible. Cervical screening, aka smear tests, begin at 25 years old in England and not enough women are attending their appointments. Or, ladies avoid going to see their doctor if there's a problem 'downstairs' because they think it will eventually go away, or it's just too embarrassing. Looking after our gynaecological health is crucial. Yes, cancer and vaginas are two awkward subjects, but I don't want them to be. Let's talk about them, laugh about them and raise awareness about them.
I wouldn't change what has happened to me, because as odd as it is to say, so many good things have come out of it. If I can make a difference, then I will die with a smile on my face. But that will be in my sleep when I am 101, and not from this cruel disease. Cancer, you were barking up the wrong chuff.
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