My mum died of breast cancer when she was 48 so I was very focused on picking up the early signs for this type of cancer, and other than the widely publicised ovarian and cervical cancers, I hadn’t given other gynaecological cancers a second thought.
I was around 47/48 when I started to have bleeding about one week after every period, and even with my nursing background, I always managed to explain it away. It wasn’t until I developed pain over my left ovary that I went to see my GP. She was amazing and sent me for an ultrasound. A week later I got a call that changed my life. The ultrasound had picked up a complex cyst on my ovary and a polyp in my womb. I was put on the two week referral. During this period I experienced some of the darkest days of my life and felt I was on an emotional rollercoaster unlike any I’d ever experienced. I was desperate for answers but at the same time terrified of what the answer might be.
During my first consultation what struck me was the calmness of the doctors who saw me as well as their patience in ensuring I had all the information I would need to make the right decision for me. My options were to have one or both ovaries removed as well as the polyp, and even though I was probably already peri-menopausal I did worry about being plunged into surgical menopause and what that might be like. I eventually decided that it made sense to have both ovaries removed and I was given a date for the surgery. Two weeks after surgery I was back at the hospital to get my results. I remember feeling numb and in shock as my consultant explained that the ovaries were fine but the polyp had come back with cancer cells. I think even he had not expected to be giving me this news.
The tiny polyp that I had given no importance to had been womb cancer.
I remember walking back from the hospital wondering how on earth I would tell my family, I went to a friend’s house first and blurted it out, I think that gave me the courage to then tell my husband. We chose not to tell the children at the time, I wanted to wait until I’d had the surgery. I don’t know if that was the right decision, looking back that was probably the right thing for me to do at that time.
My hysterectomy was booked for 3rd January 2013. I wanted to be awake for the operation, I think that stems from being a bit of a control freak. Throughout the operation my consultant, anaesthetist and the theatre team were fantastic at making me feel relaxed, even managing to play my music requests. My womb was sent off for histology and I was diagnosed with Stage 1a endometrial cancer.
That diagnosis has meant a journey of denial, anger and acceptance as well as sheer dread anytime I had symptoms that weren’t normal for me. Noticing something new would make me feel like I was back in that consulting room getting my diagnosis all over again but I learnt how important it was to reach out and question any changes early.
Throughout my 5 year follow up I had incredible support from my consultant and Clinical Nurse Specialist, it was hugely comforting to see them for my regular follow ups but I also discovered The Eve Appeal. Having access to the hospital team and Ask Eve was invaluable!
I consider myself extremely lucky that my cancer was caught so early and would urge anyone to really understand their body and know what is normal for you. Please don’t be afraid to get any symptoms checked out!
I am now celebrating 8 years since my hysterectomy and am working hard to ensure I stay healthy to live life to the full and in memory of my mum. Along the way I have learnt a lot about myself and realised that I am stronger than I thought. I’m not the best about asking for help and showing my vulnerability but it’s been so important to allow friends and family to be there, they have given me strength when I’ve needed it and provided hours of laughter as well as creating great memories.
I am currently exploring if there is a link between my diagnosis and Lynch Syndrome so thank you Ask Eve for being a constant in my search for information and support. My journey continues.