|Taken just after diagnosis, before her radiotherapy started (October 2004)|
On the 19th August this year, it'll be 10 years since my mum lost her life to cervical cancer, one of the most preventable cancers out there. The Drs think she'd had the cancer for quite a while before things got bad. I remember her having horrendous periods when she was going through the menopause, and even after going through it, she would still randomly get bad bleeds (with bad clotting). Myself and my step-dad urged her to go to the Drs again and again, but after some bad experiences with Drs when she was younger, she had no trust for them, so refused to go, as a result, she hadn't been for a smear since I was born. See, she was a stubborn lady. She was also elegant, sophisticated and pretty much the kindest person you'd ever meet - she'd give you her last pennies if you needed them. She'd nag you go to the Drs, but not go herself through fear. That fear is what led to her losing her life.
Her battle with cancer was a brave and valiant one, her attitude was always 'When I get better' never 'if'. After being diagnosed, and through loss of blood needing several blood transfusions her battle began. She needed radiotherapy to shrink the tumour before they'd operate. She had several doses of this between October and December, and then in January they operated, performing a radical hysterectomy (this is where they remove the uterus, ovaries and all the lymph nodes surrounding the area to remove any cancer cells that might be spreading - they also had to remove a sizeable portion of her bowl as it had started to spread.
After the surgery the consultant told us that he was confident she was no cancer free, and that she might need a little chemo just to kill off any last tiny cells. After being released from hospital she developed a kidney infection, the local hospital said she couldn't get her chemo until this was resolved - but instead of trying to fix the infection they just kept telling her to call back a week later, a week later and again, a week later. In all these weeks with her kidney infection being untreated, the cancer cells were regrouping. By the time she had her first, and only, dose of chemo, it was too late. The tumour was back and it was bigger than before. It had also spread to her nearby organs and bones.
After this, it was a case of managing her pain - for her though, she was still determined to get better, she just wanted to feel well enough to have more chemo, but in reality, on looking back, the disease was winning the battle. She weighed next to nothing and could easily see all her bones through her skin. It was on June 18th 2005 that we had the news of the tumour coming back, 2 months later she passed away.
Whether you've put off having your first smear, or if you're in your 50s and burying your head in the sand, please, please go and get your smear test. It's literally a few seconds of mild discomfort and a little embarrassment and could save your life.
After seeing the horrific suffering and pain my mother went through at the age of 55/56, literally wasting away before our eyes, and knowing how painless getting a smear test is, I know which I'd opt for every time.
Please please, if you're overdue getting in done, do it now, stop reading this, pick up the phone and book an appointment. Don't cancel it or reschedule, go and get it done.