Another guest blog post by one of the WCSUK ladies.
"August 2011 was a momentous month for me, in more ways than one. I had my two sons visiting from Australia with their families, and life was pretty damn good.
I had felt incredibly tired for weeks – possibly months, but had put it down to the excitement of getting everything ready for their visit, and running round visiting people and places with them, and having great fun and laughter with all the joys that having a 15 month old baby in the house brings.
I was 53, soon to have my 54th birthday in September. I was having a horrible time with the menopause – had I finished my periods or not?
Every time I thought I had, I had such a disappointment to find that, actually, after 6 months of having no periods, along came another. I didn’t pay too much attention to it to be honest, I was far too busy getting on with life – planning for the visit, running the Canine Charity that I had founded with a couple of friends, and looking after my 80 year old mum.
However, just before August I started to bleed after nothing for 9 months, and just didn’t stop. I was so fed up after four weeks of bleeding that I decided to pop to the doctor to ask for some tablets which would stop the bleeding and make me feel lesstired. What a shock when I saw him and asked him for some medication, when he said ‘Yes, I could certainly do that for you. But I wouldn’t
be doing what is best for you. Bleeding like this and for so long, is not usual and we need to get this checked out – it will probably benothing at all, but it needs to be checked’.
There and then he phoned and got me an appointment for the following week, to see a Gynaecologist at a local hospital. I thought it would be a quick visit, possibly an examination and that would be it. But no. After taking my medical history – problems with very painful periods from the age of 13, a son born by Ventouse, the next by emergency C Section, endometriosis and fibroids - I had a smear testand was booked in for various ultrasound scans and a hysteroscopy.
On the 15th September, my sons and their families went back home, and the house was quiet again. I was really sad, missing them from the outset, but that happens every time. I had the scans, and went for the hysteroscopy, but the doctor couldn’t manage to do it under a local anaesthetic, so I had to be admitted for a general, which was done on the 28th September 2011 – it’s strange how dates have now become very important to me!
I was in and out on the same day, and went home armed with an appointment to see the consultant in 2 weeks time. However, the very next evening I had a call from the hospital asking if I could pop along to see the doctor the following day. I explained that I already had an appointment for a fortnight, but the secretary insisted that the consultant needed to see me thenext day.
That is when I knew.
So, on the 30th September, I went along with my husband, after a sleepless night, and I remember sitting in a different room than usual to see the consultant, a room with lots of different jerseys from various football, rugby and cycling stars. I remember staring at them as the consultant explained that I had womb cancer.
I remember hearing the words, and listening to how, if I had to have cancer at all, this was the ‘best one to have’, but carrying on looking at the framed jerseys on the wall. No tears. No hysterics.
Just a calm acceptance.
I looked at my husband, who was sat next to me, clutching my coat and my handbag. He was a deep shade of red, and staring at me intently. I kept thinking that we had only just waved our sons off back to Australia – what am I going to do without them near?
I heard the consultant ask me if I was alright, and I said. ‘Yes, I’m fine thank you – so what happens now?’
What happened next was that I was referred to the Christie Hospital. Because I was overweight the consultant I saw decided that he would prefer me to have an apronectomy as well as a Total Abdominal Hysterectomy, so I was also referred to a Plastic Surgeon. A date was arranged for surgery, but I was phoned a week earlier to see if I could go in the next day for surgery. I agreed, and had surgery on 16th November 2011. I woke up in the Critical Care Unit, after having an apronectomy, total abdominal hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo oophorectomy, and had a wound which was 20inches long, which took some getting used to, but I had the most fantastic nurse in the CCU, who got me through the 3 days whilst I was in there – I will never forget him.
I was allowed home after 7 days, with the District Nurse coming in to check on me every day. However, the day after going home my 20inch wound decided to come apart, leaving me with 3 pretty big cavities. The disrict nurse sent me back to the Christie for a review, but it was
decided to pack the wound and dress it on a daily basis. So from November through to April 2012 I had a daily visit from the nurse to pack and dress the wound, and a weekly visit to the dressings clinic
for a check and a photograph of the wound to see how things were progressing. Through these weeks there were several dark days, and I was so thankful for my circle of family and friends.
In April I was given the ok to be handed over to the Oncology team. The histology had showed that the cancer had grown into my cervix, so I was prescribed 20 external radiotherapy sessions, and 19 hours ofBrachytherapy (internal radiotherapy). I got through the external sessions with nausea, bowel and bladder problems, and shocking fatigue, which I had expected. The 19 hours of Brachytherapy was very challenging – not painful, but not being able to move for 19 hours, apart from when the nurses turned you to rub yourback, was difficult. The worst thing was the boredom, and not being able to eat or drink much because of being flat on my back, but at 5.30am my 19 hours were up, and I had the tastiest tea and toast EVER!
I experienced very bad back and leg pain a couple of weeks after the Brachytherapy, so the Oncology team organised a CT scan, which showed up a problem with my liver and with my lymph nodes – but no cancer in my pelvic region. Fabulous news!
The hardest thing in dealing with all this was having my sons so far away and having to tell them, and also telling my mum. Watching my husband trying to stay positive and deal with everything was terrible too. I just wanted to gather everyone who is special to me together and keep them near.
I was very ignorant of the symptoms of womb cancer, and I am especially thankful to my doctor for acting so promptly. From what I hear doctors like mine are few and far between.
I have done so many positive things since my diagnosis – after not having a proper holiday in the past five years I have been on two in the past few weeks, I took part in the Sport Relief Mile (only
walking it, but it felt great!), after being a singer up to two years ago I am now singing again and have got a ‘gig’ lined up for Christmas!
Cancer hasn’t beaten me – it made me evaluate my life and get on and enjoy it.
So here I am, almost 12 months after my diagnosis, 3.5stones lighter (with more to go!), a very strange body shape (I lost my belly button as a result of the apronectomy!), still having good days and bad, but let me tell you – life is damn good"!