Never fear your smear – a cancer diagnosis and a new-born | #GynaeMonth

Throughout September and beyond, #TeamEve wants to spread much-needed awareness among both men and women about gynaecological cancers and their associated signs and symptoms - because as we know, early detection is key and that is only possible because with knowledge, comes power!

Here Laura Lodge shares her very personal experience of being diagnosed with cervical cancer, whilst also dealing with the recent birth of her son; two major events which have had a significant impact on her - in our latest blog post for #GynaeMonth.

“I never thought anything different about going for my smear test in March this year, except for the fact I had my 12 week old baby with me and that I was 29.

I’d always been religious at attending my smear tests. So when I was called for my routine smear whilst pregnant, I spoke to my GP surgery who informed me I would have to wait until 12 weeks post delivery to have it carried out. Not a problem I thought as I’ve never had any cause for concern.

Following my smear I was informed the results would take 2-3 weeks to arrive in the post. 3 weeks passed and I finally received the letter, I ripped it open to read the text that said there has been high grade (severe) abnormal cells found on your smear (dykeratosis). A few more days passed and I received a letter to attend my local hospital for a colposcopy (a camera that looks at the cervix). I still was not overly concerned as I had to go through this procedure at 25 with my first abnormal smear.

I attended the colposcopy as planned a week later. I was assured at this appointment that although the abnormal cells were visible on the camera they were not cancer. I was advised by the consultant that I would require a minor operation under general anaesthetic to remove the cells called a Large Loop Excision and Transformation Zone (LLETZ). At this point I was beside myself with worry not because of the surgery but because I was still breastfeeding and requiring anaesthetic.

The day arrived for my surgery, and it was a success, although I was a little sore. I was informed I would hear about the result within 2 weeks. Yet I knew something wasn’t quite right when 2 weeks after surgery the consultant’s secretary rang and asked me to attend an appointment the next day.

All my fears were confirmed when the specialist nurse came out to call me in.  I had just sat down in the consulting room and the consultant said you have cancer of the cervix, I was shocked as I never thought I would be hearing this. He explained it was a Stage 2 squamous cell carcinoma.

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This is where my world froze, no longer did it feel like me in the consulting room it felt like someone else’s life I was watching pass me by. I knew I needed to be strong as Chester and Ryan my husband were in the room with me. The consultant then explained the plan of care which was all very overwhelming. It’s true what they say once you’ve heard the C word it is hard to hear anymore of the conversation.

“Your case has already been discussed and we have a plan.  We are going to try and carry out a radical trachelectomy and preserve as much of your fertility as possible. Ultimately though this might not be possible and a hysterectomy will be required.” Those were the words of my consultant.

I was 29 years old, and my decisions of future children seemed to be out of control at this point. I remember hearing certain points from then on, I could still have children but only via caesarean, my cervix would be removed and a stitch put in its place, things are going to move fast, and surgery will be soon.

The following 12 hours were the hardest of all telling my nearest and dearest. As saying it out loud made it all that much more real. I was having to put a label on myself. I have cancer.

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Within two weeks I was referred to specialist cancer centre to discuss my surgery. At this appointment I was told I had two weeks until my surgery was scheduled and that I needed to make a decision in this time what surgery I was opting for, how do I ever come to this decision I thought. The following two weeks leading up to my surgery felt like two years.

The day of surgery arrived and I opted for an extended hysterectomy with conservation of my ovaries (to avoid menopause) and sentinel node biopsies from both groins. Saying bye to my family prior to surgery was incredibly hard and even more so now I had a baby.

The surgery was long approximately 7 hours, but all went to plan. To wake up and see Ryan, Chester and family was the best feeling ever and the boost I needed to fight on. I recovered well and returned home after 2 days.

The recovery has been varied but has been increasingly hard with a 7 month old baby to look after. I have good and bad days emotionally, but am beyond devastated about the outcome of the cancer, but in time I will appreciate that the hysterectomy has saved my life.  I will undergo vault smears every year and be under the hospitals surveillance for ten years.

I am so grateful for my smear test as without this I would never have known I had cancer. I still to this day have never had any signs or symptoms of the disease. I cannot emphasis enough the importance of your smear test as without this my story could have been a whole lot different.

“I am thankful every day of what I have got instead of focusing on what I have lost.”

To all the ladies out there my morale is never fear your smear it could just save your life.