My Story | Julie M., United Kingdom
As there don't seem to be any other stories of stage 2 cervical cancer survivors here, I'll add mine!
My name is Julie. I am nearly 40 years old and was diagnosed with stage 2 squamous cell carcinoma of the cervix in March 2000. I have two teenage children, and have been married to my (second) husband for three years. I am a qualified nurse, with an extra qualification in occupational health nursing.
Since 1996, I had been troubled with recurrent cystitis/urinary tract infections and had a cystoscopy with dilation as a day patient. I mention this as an extra, as no one has made any connection between the urinary tract infections and the subsequent cancer diagnosis but me. The procedure worked, but as an added problem I began to bleed after intercourse, and smear (Pap) tests and internal examinations were difficult because I always bled a bit.
My doctor, who was always helpful and thorough, did another Pap test (my Paps in 1992 and 1995 had been reported as normal) and referred me for a gynaecological opinion. This came through for early 1998, and at the initial appointment, the young doctor said that I should return for an examination and biopsy taken under general anaesthetic. When I had the procedure, however, no biopsy was taken, just "cauterisation of a benign cervical erosion."
The bleeding continued and gradually got worse. As I had just started a new job and moved house, and was due to get married in the coming months, I went to my (new) doctor. He examined me, and then referred me again to the hospital. I pulled a few strings and got an appointment fairly quickly where "cauterisation of a benign erosion" was performed again. And again, no biopsy was taken.
The bleeding continued, and by this time, I was also feeling tired all the time. Since I was not anaemic, this was put it down to a demanding job, the wedding, children, house etc.!
The organisation I was contracted to work for announced that in three months time they would not be renewing my contract, so I decided to look around. I landed a "peach" of a job - a real step up the ladder!
The bleeding was really getting me down by this time and I was relying on tranexamic acid to stop it more and more. The day before I started the new job, I had a really heavy bleed - so sudden and so heavy I was frightened. After I had stopped it with tablets a few days later, I asked for an urgent referral to hospital. Since this was going to be an eight-week wait, I paid to see a gynaecologist privately. As a "routine" screen, he did a smear (Pap) test and rang me at my new place of work a couple of days later to tell me it showed severe cellular changes. Biopsies followed which indicated an advanced cervical carcinoma. The MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan showed that the tumour had spread into the vagina and up into the womb, but thankfully, not into the lymph nodes or into the pelvic wall.
My treatment consisted of five weeks of external radiotherapy, two sessions of internal radiotherapy, and five sessions of chemotherapy (cisplatin).
I'm still always tired, and have been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. Although I have made four unsuccessful attempts to return to work, I'm grateful to say I'm still here, praising the Lord, and getting on with life as best I can. EyesOnThePrize.org has been, and continues to be, a real gift. Thank you.