Corinne, cervical cancer
What were you diagnosed with, and when?
I was diagnosed with cervical cancer (stage1B Adenocarcinoma) in August 2016.
How did you find out you had cancer?
My partner and I had been trying to get pregnant for a few years and I was encouraged by my doctor to do fertility tests. During the investigations pre-cancerous cells were found so I was passed over to a gynaecology specialist. After 3 LLETZ treatments and countless biopsies the abnormal cells were still there in a really tricky bit of my cervix so I was booked in to have a trachelectomy (removal of the cervix). The pre-op MRI showed an area the specialist was not sure about so he did a biopsy instead “just to be sure” and said he would phone me with the results and get the op rebooked asap. When his secretary called me asking me to attend an appointment the following day to talk about the results I knew what was coming - not that that made it any less shocking when I actually heard the word “cancer”. My heart stopped and I had to almost pretend he hadn’t said it just to get through the rest of the appointment and out of the hospital before totally breaking down.
What did you think and feel when you were diagnosed?
Although I had known that the pre-cancerous cells might develop into cancerous ones I didn’t really think it would happen to me and I had read that the treatment was the same anyway so I thought it wouldn’t make much difference for me, but I was totally wrong! Now I had cancer, the same cancer that killed my mother when I was a child and it was in a place that couldn’t be treated with the trachelectomy safely so I was going to need a hysterectomy. Loosing my fertility was definitely the hardest part to accept and I went in to overdrive looking into my options. I couldn’t believe what was happening to me and that I was completely powerless to stop or control it.
How did the people around you react?
My family and friends had been with me every step of the way and were totally heartbroken by the news but were mainly relieved it had been discovered early and was treatable. We used a lot of dark humour to aid talking about it. I really didn’t want it to be a taboo subject. My sister-in-law is amazing at asking the questions that everyone is thinking but doesn’t want to ask!
What treatment did you have?
I had a radical hysterectomy that included removal of my ovaries and lymph nodes. Once the removed tissue had been tested it was discovered that the cancer was very aggressive and had spread to the surrounding blood vessels so I went on to have 5 weeks of chemotherapy (Cisplatin) with daily radiotherapy followed by two brachytherapy treatments.
How did you feel through treatment?
My operation was terrifying and I was very emotional and fragile for the first few weeks. I was only in hospital for two days and felt very vulnerable being home so soon after such a massive operation. I used mindful meditation and very gentle walks to aid my recovery. I also set weekly achievable goals so by week six I was feeling a bit more like myself again. When I started my five weeks of daily treatments I suffered from nausea, upset bowls and bladder complications and I got an infection half way through that knocked me off my feet for a week. It was important for me to keep a bit of my social life going to keep my spirits up and I made sure that every day I got showered and dressed nicely for hospital so I felt better. Having the daily contact with the hospital was comforting as I had someone to talk to about the side effects and symptoms.
What happened after treatment finished?
I only finished a couple of weeks ago so I am still early on in my recovery but already I am starting to feel better each day. I have been on Planet Cancer for months so it is nice to start looking to the future and thinking about how I am going to rebuild my life. I have lost a lot because of my cancer but I can also see that I am lucky to be alive. The people that stuck around are my true friends and I now know I am strong enough to handle anything life throws at me.
How did you get involved with Shine?
My specialist nurse recommended Shine to me as I was finding the local cancer support at the hospital was a bit upsetting as I was so much younger than everyone else there. I kept feeling I was simply too young to be going through this and felt isolated.
What difference has Shine made to you?
It has made such a difference to see people that have gone through cancer and come out the other side and to know it is support that I can turn to again and again through each stage. All the doctors and nurses are great but to chat with people that really get it makes a massive difference. All the support is so positive and when I post on Facebook, I get genuine advice from people that have lived it.
How do you feel now about your experiences?
My life plan totally went out of the window. The plan was to get pregnant, marry my partner and plod along with my career living happily ever after. When I lost my fertility I also lost my partner and my career is probably not going to suitable for me now. But my cancer has changed me both physically and emotionally and I am a different person now so I think it is good that my life is a blank canvas. While I know I am going to have to live with hospital check ups and scanxiety, I feel pretty positive about building a good future for myself.
If you could give one piece of advice to yourself before your what would it be?
Don’t be self-conscious about showing your private bits to doctors and nurses. They really have seen it all and are only interested in your health.