Words of Wisdom and Experience of Gynae Cancers

Cervical. Ovarian. Vaginal. Vulval. Womb.

There’s still so much to do to raise awareness of these too-little-known and too-little-talked-about cancers. Here, five women with personal experience share what they’ve learned and offer timely advice.

The-Eve-Appeal-NL35-Kate-Bolton

Kate's story...

The time that elapsed between Kate attending her routine smear test and having radical surgery for cervical cancer was little more than a month. She’d had no warning signs, and no reason to think her test results would come back as anything but normal.

The shock was enormous: “It was a lot to handle, everything happened so fast”. Although she’s glad she was diagnosed and treated so quickly – “speed was the important thing” – it left Kate in need of a way to process what she’d been through.

“Your smear test is a very important, life saving thing”

She found that writing about her experiences helped: “I went through a phase of really wanting to talk about it. I wrote a couple of blogs and shared them on social media. That’s how I found out about The Eve Appeal. They responded, and I found that very encouraging.”

Today, Kate is well, but is concerned about awareness. “I went for that smear test because I saw it as a routine thing that everybody did. It was just kind of presented as, this is what you have to do. And I don’t know that’s the case anymore. I feel it should be pushed harder and more clearly understood.”

Click here to find out more about the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer.

The-Eve-Appeal-NL35-Jackie-Trickey

Jackie's story...

“The fact that I could develop vaginal cancer didn’t even enter my mind”, says
Jackie.

“I’d been a nurse for 45 years so I had a fair idea of things. I was trained
to do smear tests, I used to teach breast examination, all of that. But I never heard anything about vaginal cancer. It never even entered my head because the only symptom I got was that I was leaking a bit of urine now and again.”

However, knowing this wasn’t normal for her, Jackie went to her GP in the summer of 2012. It saved her life; six months later, when the problem hadn’t resolved, the GP referred Jackie to a specialist. “And that was it”, she says. “My treatment took me to hell and back, but I’m now getting on with my life, and happy to say I am still cancer-free.”

“Never ignore any kind of symptom”

“There are symptoms listed when you read websites, but mine wasn’t straightforward. I think what needs to improve is, yes, tell women about vaginal cancer and the symptoms, but also to tell women to never ignore any kind of symptom. If something’s not normal for you, go to your GP.”

Click here to find out more about the signs and symptoms of vaginal cancer.

The-Eve-Appeal-NL35-Zaynab-Mirza

Zaynab's story...

In 2013, Zaynab had an ultrasound that found a large growth in her right ovary.
The scans didn’t seem to indicate too much urgency to have it removed, but by
the time she had surgery the tumour had grown. Five days after the operation she was told it was ovarian cancer.

“Be aware of what your body is telling you”

Her symptoms – bloating and constipation – had been put down by
doctors as a combination of IBS and fibroids. But her efforts to treat it as
IBS didn’t work. Finally, Zaynab’s sister suggested she see another gynaecologist.

“Even though it was a delayed diagnosis, and I had a horrible four years
prior to being diagnosed, there’ve been so many times when I thought, I just got
lucky”, Zaynab says. “Not only did they remove the cancer, I feel I have been
given a better chance of surviving it.”

Zaynab is now under the care of Professor Martin Widschwendter, whose pioneering research The Eve Appeal is helping to fund: “For me, it’s personal”, she says. “If I could give one piece of advice to women, it would be do not ignore what your body is telling you. Any kind of pain is not normal.”

Click here to find out more about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer.

The-Eve-Appeal-NL35-Karen-Pritchard

Karen's story...

“Many women don’t even know the word vulva”, says Karen. And the first time she heard the words ‘vulval cancer’, they were from a dermatologist. “He said, you’ve got a very mild form of lichen sclerosus – it’s an auto-immune condition. And then, he did say, there’s a small possibility it could turn into vulval cancer.”

Karen had been back and forth to doctors for years: “Basically, I’d been
sore and irritated down there since my 20s.” She’d always been misdiagnosed
with thrush, so hearing she had lichen sclerosus felt like progress.

“Keep going back”

However, a small lump developed – and that was when Karen’s persistence
in going to the doctor really paid off. A biopsy established that the lump was
cancer. She was referred for surgery to remove that side of her vulva as a
matter of urgency. And it was caught before it spread.

She is telling her story today to help raise awareness. “I don’t want to
frighten anyone. I just want them to think, as soon as they spot something,
no matter what it is, go to the doctor.”

Click here to find out more about the signs and symptoms of vulval cancer.