Tag Archives: cervical screening

For FUCancer’s Sake!

Hello old friend! Apologies for the delay – I could sit and list the excuses of why I have neglected you but to put it simply: life got in the way! Several people have asked when I would get back on the FUCancer wagon and update my blog. To this I always reply ‘when I get the urge’. I must admit I didn’t think that moment would occur whilst sat on a sun drenched Cretan balcony on day 1 of a holiday which has felt long overdue.

So why the sudden need? What did I find so compelling that I allowed myself to be dragged away from the turquoise view and honeysuckle scent? The shocking news that attendance at cervical screening is at its lowest in 10 years! http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-37285353 (Yes, I admit that checking BBC news whilst on holiday is not the best way to relax and unwind) But seriously ladies? Have a word with yourselves! As someone who ALWAYS attended screening when invited I find it really difficult to understand why someone would neglect it. The fact is Cervical is one of the few cancers which can be prevented and if caught early has a high survival rate. I can only assume the reasons or excuses people use to put off a potentially life saving check up which literally takes minutes. Opposed to my ranting it would perhaps be more helpful if I gave an insight as to what life is like for me now as a cervical cancer survivor:

– Radiotherapy literally killed my ovaries which catapulted me into an early menopause. Alongside hot flushes, mood swings and difficulty maintaining a healthy weight, it also destroys your libido!
– Imagine someone kicking your lower back which after a while leaves a dull ache. That is the pain I have had on and off for the last two years since going through treatment.
– Another fun side effect of treatment is how on some days I just need to walk the dog and it feels like I’ve ran a marathon! My energy levels are unpredictable, unreliable and on occasions: unavailable!
– The menopause, the pain, the fatigue I knew I was singing up for it. The doctor makes you sign several documents to show you understand and accept that cancer treatment has devastating consequences. However, it was only recently I discovered it is now impacting my oral health. Two fillings & two extractions in the last 6 months which is largely a result of the change in my saliva. The change is a result of what? Chemotherapy and my hormone imbalance thanks to menopause.
– It is not surprising that cancer also had a negative impact on my mental health. Low confidence, panic attacks and stress have all come and gone over the past two years. Without the support of Maggie’s I dare say it is something I would still be struggling with.
– And for those who need it spelling out, the worst of these side effects is the fact I can’t have children.

So – there you have it! I would not wish my experience on my worst enemy. How many more reasons do you need to prioritise your smear? Protect yourself. For FUCancer sake – get it done!!

#FUCancer

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Don’t have the fear, get a smear!

The twenty fifth of January signals the launch of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. According to Jo’s Trust* more than a fifth of women do not attend cervical screening in the UK. In light of this I want to share my experience. This is not a scaremongering tactic. I am sharing my story because I am someone who has always attended a cervical screening appointment when prompted. I take a proactive interest in my health. I know that if I can get cancer, anyone can. Unfortunately it is one of life’s lotteries which is out with our control. However, we all have a responsibility to better our chances against cancer. Wether it be looking at what we eat, our physical activity levels or lifestyle choices – there is plenty we can do to protect ourselves.

Between January and April I developed several key symptoms related to cervical cancer.

– Abnormal bleeding between periods
– Passing blood in my urine
– Achey pelvis
– Discomfort during intercourse
– Persistent cystitis

Of course I had no idea that the source of my problems would be cancer but I did know that something simply wasn’t right. I visited my GP on four occasions before I was finally referred to the hospital. Initially the GP prescribed antibiotics and on the third visit I was told that ‘unfortunately some people suffer with chronic cystitis and there is little they can do’. Thankfully, I was adamant that something was not quite right. I knew in myself that something was wrong. I dread to think what the situation would be now had I not been so persistent with my GP. I was finally referred to gynaecology where the doctor found my tumour almost immediately. Following a series of tests and various type of scans it was confirmed I had stage IIb cervical cancer and within three weeks of being diagnosed I began treatment. My treatment was a gruelling process which left me feeling physically and emotionally drained. The multi-pronged attack of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and Bracytherapy had the desired effect so I am one of the lucky ones. Although I am beyond the side effects of treatment I have been left with irreversible damage. The nature of the treatment has left me unable to have children. At the point of diagnosis I wasn’t even in a position to consider freezing my eggs. Cancer stole the opportunity of me ever carrying my own child.

In light of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week I want to share my story with the hope that someone in the 20% changes their mind and prioritises attendance at their next invitation to a cervical screening. It scares me to think that over twenty percent of women would choose to ignore a simple process which could help prevent the experience I have endured. I have learnt that we are each responsible for our own health. I am proud of myself for having the confidence to challenge my GP when I identified something was wrong.

Whilst reading this if you know or suspect your friend, daughter, sister, mother or auntie is within the 20% then please share my story. At the very least let’s help spread the message that cervical screening saves 5000 lives a year. Don’t have the fear, get a smear!!

*For more information regarding HPV, cervical screening, or cervical cancer please check out Jo’s Trust using the link below.

Jo’s Trust

#FUCancer

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Hypophrenia

Working in sport development, it is probably no surprise that my favourite subject at school was PE and Games. I was never very academic. Mathematics, science, even foreign languages were a challenge. That being said, I did enjoy school. I particularly enjoyed my time spent with the English department. I was never a huge reader. Even now I have an endless list of books I want to read. A list which I rarely seem to make a dent in. But I did love reading Shakespeare and exploring the subtext. My time spent studying English at school helped secure a love of writing. As a teenager I kept a diary. On occasions I find myself revisiting these and reliving memories from my adolescence. I shudder at the thought of anyone reading them but they do supply a few giggles. Since graduating university I have not maintained a diary but I have continued to satisfy my love of English by trying to learn new words. In all honesty, this is partly fuelled by my competitive streak and a love of scrabble too! Today, I learnt a new word:

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Hypophrenia; A feeling of sadness, seemingly without cause.

This is a word I can relate to. A feeling I find myself experiencing frequently. I have a great deal of things to be happy about; I’m getting married in less than 90 days, I have a new job, everyday when I come home I am greeted by an elated puppy (and Parsnip!) and I have overcome cancer. Fantastic, right? I am a very lucky girl? You bet! So why do I simply feel sad sometimes? I don’t know why but hypophrenia is a frequent visitor ever since I found out I was in remission.

I have just completed my second full working week. It may not sound like a huge achievement but I am quietly raising a glass to myself. In a world where normality no longer exists I finally feel like I’m blending in. There is not a day that goes by where I don’t think about cancer or reflect on the scars it has left – physically and emotionally. But I do feel stronger.

#FUCancer