Together; a partner’s story of vulval cancer

Matthew Baumhauer speaks openly and honestly about his wife, Clare's, diagnosis of vulval cancer, and how the ordeal has affected them both. Clare and Matthew are passionate ambassadors for increasing awareness into vulval cancer and its signs and symptoms.

It was March 2016 as I watched my wife walking down the stairs in hospital crying in pain after having some biopsies and I just knew we were in for a very difficult time.

Another appointment later and our worst fears were confirmed. My wife has vulval cancer. I felt scared, sad, and helpless as I couldn’t do or say anything that would make her feel better. I needed to be strong and confident for her (although I felt like breaking down in tears), telling her we’ll get through this together, all will be fine.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the tClare and Matthew Baumhauerrauma my wife had to endure and the consequences of the surgery to remove the tumour. The devastation continued through 58 sessions of radiotherapy, and further hospital admissions due to cellulitis and lymph node removal. It has been very tough to bear, and I am so proud of how remarkable my wife has been during all this treatment. She never complained, never moaned and even in the greatest of pain put on a brave face and soldiered on.

My wife is now having to endure the after effects of her treatment, the onset of the menopause brought on by radiotherapy, as well as lymphedema and the constant pain in her leg and groin due to the operations she’s had.

This list is not exhaustive, but we will deal with each step as it comes. We are both very angry about the lack of awareness of this little known cancer, lichen sclerosus (a chronic inflammatory condition that can affect any part of the skin, it mostly affects the genital skin (vulva) of girls / women at any age), and all of the misdiagnoses by GPs. My wife has fought tirelessly every day to raise as much awareness as possible, talking to the press, liaising with the Eve Appeal, using social media as a platform to shout loud and proud to the public about vulval cancer. My wife has had many messages of thanks and many women going to see there GP’s and getting diagnosed earlier from her work.

For me, our lives have changed forever. I have cried, I feel sadness often when I see how much pain my wife is in, I miss the intimacy, but, I love my wife with all my heart and even though life will never be the same as pre-cancer, I’m lucky we still have each other. When we got married in 2006 we made a vow, in ‘sickness and in health’. Together we’re stronger, together we will fight this and together we will never let cancer take over our lives.

Since her diagnosis, Clare has started a lichen sclerosus and vulval cancer awareness and support group, and has campaigned passionately to increase awareness of both diseases.

If you have any concerns about any symptoms you are having, you can speak to Ask Eve, The Eve Appeal’s nurse led information service by emailing nurse@eveappeal.org.uk or phoning 0808 802 0019.