“Everyone thinks it won’t happen to them, but it did to me”

During Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (22nd - 28th) January, #TeamEve will be sharing a number of blog posts around different topics, whether it's personal stories, or talking about HPV and the links to cervical cancer. We want to raise as much awareness during this week around cervical cancer and hope that you'll join us in doing so.

Gemma tells us her own personal story of developing cervical cancer at just 28 years old.

There are many milestones in life, your first steps, first day at school, first kiss, your first legal pint, leaving home for university, getting married, and having children to name but a few. But at 28, cancer isn’t one you ever expect to encounter.

Everyone thinks it won’t happen to them, but it did to me.

The day I heard those fateful words, “we found cancer cells”, will be forever etched in my mind and are still as vivid today as they were over two years ago.

In 2015 I was a healthy 28 year old, I ate well, was training for a 10k charity run and was generally loving life. In May I was invited to attend my second smear test having had an all clear result three years earlier. A smear has never particularly bothered me, I’d rather be safe than sorry, so I just popped in to see the nurse before heading off for a 5k run.

It drifted from my memory and I thought nothing more of it until two weeks later when I received a phone call from my doctor. “We’ve found some abnormal cells in your smear test”. Her words  took me by surprise, not least as it was 7am and I’m not a morning person, but she reassured me that everything was fine and they just need to do some further tests. I mean that is what smear tests are designed to do, find abnormal cells before they can do any damage.

I went for further examinations, followed by a cone biopsy which would remove the abnormal cells. These were then sent away for analysis with the results returning within 4 to 6 weeks. As they say life carried on, albeit my anxiety levels were high to say the least, until my world turned upside down.

On July 1st 2015 I was told I had cervical cancer having had no symptoms and a previously clear test.

Thank god I went for that smear, had I not, well I don’t dare think.

I had early stage cervical cancer, adenocarcinoma, of which only 10% of cervical cancers are typically this type and are usually harder to detect.

As it was caught early I was fortunate enough to have an operation that means I should still be able to carry my own children, and didn’t require any further treatment other than regular follow ups.

A smear test takes minutes. Yes it is slightly uncomfortable and a little undignified, I mean who really wants to spread their legs in front of a complete stranger, but if a few minutes of discomfort could be the difference between a longer happy life or one cut cruelly short then for me it’s a no brainer!

With smear attendance at a 20 year low I urge everyone who needs to go, TO GO!  I can honestly say a smear test may have saved my life, had I left it a few more months, or even years I might have faced a completely different battle, that let’s face it may not have had such a positive outcome.