Cervical Cancer Prevention Week: Rachel’s Story

‘Cancer is such a ruthless adversary because it behaves as if it has its own fiendishly cunning agenda’ – Paul Davies

The sad fact of the matter is that every member of my family who has died, has died of cancer. In some families it’s heart disease, in some it’s brain tumours, for us, it’s cancers that always gets us, one way or another.
This poster sits directly behind my head at work:

and it’s a constant reminder of every woman’s worse nightmare, having your woman’s bits, those things that make you womanly, turn against you. My Gran passed away from ovarian cancer in 2002, which , like cervical cancer is very difficult to diagnose until it’s too late.  I’ve had multiple abnormal smear results and because of my family history I get ‘smeared’ once a year year rather than every 3 years – lucky me eh?

Let’s be honest, smears aren’t nice, especially if you’re anything like me who’s experienced the sheer mortification of lying on your back, legs akimbo, and having the nurse tell you that the forceps she’s using aren’t wide enough, high five to me and my super wide pelvis!

In all serious though, it’s not pleasant, and as such It’s easy to forget to make that appointment. I keep on reminding myself that it’s much worse for the poor nurse who has to do that every day, I just need to find my lady balls and get on with it. However a year comes around really quickly when it comes to things like that and life gets in the way. You think of a million reasons why you’ll make the appointment tomorrow and before you know it’s now two years since your last one. I was due my latest smear last August as as of Monday morning, it still wasnt booked.

Then This popped into my inbox from my blogger friend Rachel:

I was 27 years old, I’d just set up home with my gorgeous boyfriend James and life was sweet. I worked hard and I played harder, never stopping to worry about the future. 


Rachel on holiday with James a few weeks before diagnosis

Then one day something weird happened… I bled after being intimate with my partner. Sorry if that’s TMI but it’s pretty crucial to the story. You see, what I didn’t know at the time but soon found out was that’s a symptom of cervical cancer.

As soon as I realised it wasn’t a one off, I got it checked out. Never for a second did I think it might be the Big C but I knew something wasn’t right so I was keen to get it sorted. Even when the nurse referred me to colposcopy the next day it still didn’t cross my mind that a serious diagnosis could be on the cards. How could it be? I didn’t feel ill, I was only young and stuff like that only happens to other people right? Wrong… cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women aged 35 and under! 

My mum didn’t share my naive confidence, as soon as I mentioned the words bleeding and colposcopy she got in her car and drove 150 miles to be with me at the appointment. Thank goodness she did because the colposcopy nurse delivered the devastating blow there and then. It was confirmed a couple of days later when my results came back from the lab.

The next few weeks were a whirlwind of hospital appointments, scans, emotional and exhausting conversations and sleepless nights as I tried to take in the enormity of what was happening. Throughout this time I experienced a huge mixture of emotions, I was frightened but tried to stay focused on doing whatever I needed to do to rid my body of cancer. 

Thankfully my cancer was curable as we’d caught it early enough but the treatment was certainly no walk in the park. I was given a radical hysterectomy six days before Christmas. While most people were getting in the festive spirit, I was getting my head around the fact I would never be able to have children of my own. 

Just I was getting back on my feet after the surgery I then had to start five weeks of radiotherapy and chemotherapy and that really took it out of me. When I wasn’t being sick I was sleeping. I had no energy, no appetite, my weight plummeted and frankly, I felt like crap.


in hospital in 2008 just a few days before Christmas

So why am I telling you all this? Well, it’s certainly not because I enjoy going over what I went through, I don’t need or want any pity and now that I’m healthy again I could very easily pretend it never happened. But as it’s Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (24 – 30 Jan) I really want my experience to be a warning to other women of what can happen if you ignore or delay your invitation for cervical screening (aka smear). I was one of the lucky ones, cervical cancer kills around 8 women every day but it CAN be prevented through screening!


Rachel and James now – happy and healthy!

The cervical screening programme is available to women aged 25+ and if you’re registered with a GP you should automatically get a letter about it. Please don’t ignore that letter, I know life is busy, I know that going for a smear won’t be top of your to do list but it really does only take a few minutes, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about, it’s not that uncomfortable and it could save your life!

If you’ve got any concerns before or after going for a smear then Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust offer a wealth of information and support. They’ve been a huge help to me over the last few years and I can’t thank them enough. 

You can follow Rachel’s healthy happy life on her blog www.lifeingeordieland.com or on Twitter @rachmotormouth
You can find  more information on Cervical Cancer Prevention Week at www.jostrust.org.uk or why not take part in their #smearforsmear campaign and take a selfie smeared in lipstick and post it on social media?
You can also donate by texting ‘JCCT16£5’ to 70070
My next smear is now booked for 3rd February ❤️

1 Comment

  1. January 28, 2016 / 3:52 pm

    Thank you for sharing my story Helen, I’m so glad you’ve made your appointment and hope it goes well! x

Leave a Reply