How being diagnosed with cervical cancer has changed me

If you read my post on Monday you'll know all about me being diagnosed with cervical cancer last year - if you haven't read it yet please do. The post is all about what I went through in respect to the process - the smear tests, the hospital appointments, and the recovery after surgery. It is an epic post so I suggest you grab a coffee first!

Today I wanted to talk about the other side of things, the way the whole experience has affected me emotionally and mentally.




How I was before diagnosis


Before my diagnosis I didn't think of myself as a vulnerable or sick person, yes I contracted a cold now and then and whenever there was something going around at school I would get it, but when it came to the serious stuff I figured I was fairly healthy apart from being overweight (which I planned on tackling anyway).







I went through life not really worrying about anything, I did my daily chores, yelled at the boys when they were naughty and spent time with my family. While there were things that got to me emotionally (hello mum guilt!) they weren't serious, not really, and despite the odd break down I was happy.




Diagnosis


In between being diagnosed with cervical cancer and finding out that they'd cut it out my head was a mess. A real mess. I didn't know what to think or what to do. Not knowing whether I still had cancer was playing with my head, I kept imagining this black ball slowly growing, eating away at my insides. Silently creeping its way through my system until there was nothing I could do. I started to worry about my boys, about never seeing them again, not being able to see them grow up and have children of their own. It was like having a dark looming cloud over my head all of the time.





  • In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present. 

Francis Bacon





It was just two weeks between having a second LLETZ procedure and finding out the results but those two weeks were the longest in my life, despite being reassured by doctors.




Since diagnosis


In the last year there has been so much going on that it's difficult to put it into a timeline. One thing I do remember is getting the call from the doctor to tell me they could confirm they'd cut out all of the cancer. It sticks in my mind because I was sitting where I am right now, at my desk writing a blog post. I was staring at my computer screen when my phone rang and he said the words. And I cried. I smiled and I cried.

All the worry that had built up inside me, all the worst-case-scenarios, came flooding out. The lump in my throat was like a rock and I couldn't hold it in anymore. I let myself cry. The tears flowed down my cheeks, the relief flooded my veins.

It was a good hour before the tears stopped, my eyes were red and sore but I was cancer free and that was THE BEST feeling. 




Feeling like a fraud


The one thing I can't shake is feeling like a fraud. I am a cancer survivor - that is a fact - but I cringe every time I say it. I wasn't aware the cancer was there and before I knew it it was gone. I didn't suffer any side effects (that I know of) and I didn't have to go through chemotherapy. I feel like an imposter when I talk about having cancer because my experience was over so quickly. 




It is always there


Despite it all being over quickly it is always in my head. A few months after my surgery, when I thought I had fully recovered, I started bleeding in between my periods and the first thing I thought was "the cancer is back!". That wasn't the case, I was still recovering and after a long walk and over exercising I guess something had changed inside. But that's just it, I went through something and it has changed how I think about everything.






Before this happened I wanted to lose weight because I knew I was overweight and could do with losing a few pounds. Now losing weight is more about trying to keep the cancer at bay and be as healthy as possible.

My health was never really an issue, I caught the odd cold and got struck with flu once or twice but generally I was healthy. And I still am. Yes, I was diagnosed with cancer but it didn't change me.





Follow up



I'm now on the list to have smear tests every 6 months, and if the tests remain clear that will be reduced to yearly tests at some point. I went for my first smear test after diagnosis last week so I'm still waiting for my results but the doctors say there shouldn't be anything to worry about. Of course they said that the first time and I've quite a rollercoaster ride since then. And that's the trouble with all this, the doctors can only tell me what they have experience of. Usually the original tests come back with a non-cancerous result. Usually the abnormal cells sort themselves out. Usually there's nothing to worry about.

I'm trying to convince myself that everything will be okay, this time I will take the usual route. But there's still that niggling doubt.

And I think that's the thing - no matter what happens from now on that will always be there. I was diagnosed with a cancer. Cancer has grown within my body and it will always be a possibility in the future. Not that it wasn't before but it wouldn't have occurred to me - now it's the first thing I think.




Positives


So far this post has all been about the down side, being diagnosed with cancer made me think about my own mortality. It terrified me. It continues to have an effect on my outlook and emotions at times, but there is a good side to all this.






For a start the Hubby and I thought about life insurance. We had thought about it briefly before all this began but put it off when I received my first worrying letter. While it was a difficult process (lots and lots of questions) and we found some insurers refused to insure me, we did find someone who would. Both of us are insured now and hopefully we'll never have to use that insurance, but it's there - just in case.

Then there's the way I see, and think about, my family. They always have been the most important thing in my life but these days I spend more time enjoying our family time. We play board games, we watch movies together, we have days out, and every time we do I am thankful to be able to do it. Whenever I think about what may have happened if I hadn't gone for that smear test back in April I shudder. My story could've been so different. And that makes me realise just how lucky I am to still be here.

Life is all about being happy - if you are not happy change things. Because at any moment something could happen that could throw your life into turmoil. Enjoy the best things in life while you have the chance.





  • The most important thing is to enjoy your life - to be happy - it's all that matters. 

Audrey Hepburn





My last words for you are "Go for your smear test", this test takes just 5 minutes and could save your life. Truly.

A long time ago Jade Goody's cervical cancer journey was covered in the media and it increased the rates of women going for their smear tests. Unfortunately rates have dropped drastically and so I hope that sharing my story encourages you to go for your test, or to share it with others to encourage them. 

Let's work together to reduce the rates of cervical cancer!

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com



8 comments

  1. I remember you posting in #sparklemama and I'm so glad to hear they were able to take it all out. I'm sorry it's still weighing on your mind but as you say, it does give you a new perspective on things. My husband is dealing with cancer at the moment and it's crazy how it can be there yet you have no idea. Thanks for sharing your story.

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    1. Thanks Emma. I hope your husband is doing okay - sending all the love your way. 💙

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  2. I am so sorry that you are going through this journey. Thank you so much for being open about it to all those that suffer as well.

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  3. You are a survivor! What you have been through and what you are still going through has changed you and it is a horrible, scary, traumatic experience. That fear of not knowing what was going to happen, or if it will return is just as real as anyone else's battle. You are amazing and I thank you so much for getting a post like this out to the world, you will save lives by sharing your story. Thanks for being part of our linky #ablogginggoodtime

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind words Mac. xxx

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  4. These sorts of things always change your perspective on life. Grab every moment, I say xx

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