"I was diagnosed with womb cancer in December 2015, just 3 months before my 40th birthday. Obviously a cancer diagnosis came as a huge shock, especially to my family, but in a way at the time it was a weight off my shoulders.
I’d had over a year of progressively worsening bleeding, and was having to take changes of clothes everywhere with me and go through the embarrassment of leaks and haemorrhaging at work. Despite blood tests, ultrasounds and repeated smear tests all I was diagnosed with was severe anaemia. My GP thought that changes with my cycle were due to PCOS, my loss of weight (yes I am a larger lady) and an increase in exercise. So at the end of my tether I went back begging for something to be done; my life had become nothing more than an existence. Going out had to be well planned and the sheer exhaustion from the constant bleeding was to much. My husband was in despair that he couldn’t do anything, plus he had the worry of having to see what I was going through.
So in November 2015 I was packed off to Care UK with a referral for a Mirena coil. I had a consultation and was told there was at least a three month waiting list, but at the next appointment they’d fit the coil and also do a hysteroscopy. I left that appointment in tears. I honestly thought I would never make it because I would have bleed to death.
By now I’d had severe bleeding and numerous haemorrhages constantly for 3 months. So when I had a call with a cancellation for the beginning of December I couldn’t wait. I knew it would take time for things to settle down, but that hope of something being done was indescribable.
So on a cold, wet morning I travelled the 20 miles to the Care UK portable cabins for the procedure. The consultant was friendly and went through my medical history. He was concerned about the volume of blood loss, but was happy that I was going to have the hysteroscopy so he could identify any other reason for such loss especially with the results of my previous tests. So with jokes like “Do you have a womb with a view?” the procedure was started. I watched the monitor as the interested, noisy person I am. The look on the consultants face as he quickly asked the nurse to turn the monitor away and to prepare for a biopsy.
That was the moment I knew I had cancer. The room went quiet and the necessary things were done. I was left on the other side of the curtain to get dressed, which was quite a challenge if you can image the scene. I listened as he rang for a courier straight away to collect an urgent biopsy for referral. I was handed a leaflet and told I’d be contacted within the next two weeks by the NHS as I was being referred back to their care.
It was actually only a week before the appointment letter arrived. The following week my husband and I arrived early as requested at the hospital and I was sent to Ultrasound for a scan. Here they asked what I was being scanned for, but other than saying I had a Gynaecology Oncology appointment I didn’t know what they were looking for specifically. At this stage no one other than the voice in my head had spoken the word cancer. So back in clinic I was greeted by the doctor and a Macmillan nurse, who were having a conversation about treatment plans and how my case would be discussed at a MDT meeting in the next couple of weeks. It then dawned on the doctor that I hadn’t been given my diagnosis. She was under the impression that Care UK would have already told me as they were the ones who had done the tests. But in hindsight realised that if they were to give me an appointment it would have been at a much later date.
I left that appointment knowing that I finally had an answer, hence the relief I felt and a bag full of information leaflets. It was my poor husband who despite my hints in the week after the hysteroscopy, was absolutely floored by what the consultant had said. I was going to be getting help with what I was going through, but for him it was about his wife having cancer.
I told family and friends, many of whom had witnessed my struggle, over the next couple of weeks. I can’t cope with secrets and having to go through an illness in secret would have just caused me more stress than what I or my family needed.
I was also aware, that through this process to this point, I had never knowingly ever heard of womb cancer; ovarian and cervical, yes, because they’re the ones as women we're told about, but if I hadn’t heard of it, then many of the other women I knew probably hadn’t either.
The wait for appointments and MDT meeting outcomes occupied my Christmas and New Year. Those long nights whilst my husband worked, my darkest.
I obviously was still experiencing blood loss daily, psychologically dealing with knowing I had cancer, wondering if I would be alive this time next year to see another Christmas or New Year and trying to maintain some form of normality. But despite everything, I got to February and my surgery date.
I had my surgery at St Mary’s hospital on 4th February 2016, where Prof. Edmondson did a total hysterectomy with lymph node removal. Everything went textbook and I came through everything well. Hospital was as expected, but being on a general Obs and Gynae ward was hard when a new mother with complications and baby were put in the bed next to me. The overwhelming panic that swept over me, was like nothing I had ever experienced before. An amazing nurse moved them at the earliest opportunity, but the realisation that I would never have my own children was beyond overwhelming. Without the support of my husband, this could have been a negative turning point in my journey. Bob-the little bleeder (yes, I did name my cancer), had been removed and he had taken so many other things with him.
An infection in the scar, after the staples were removed left me having the cavity packed by the district nurses daily for 2 months. I recovered well from the surgery itself, apart from a torn muscle which I got the night before I left hospital, which still is continuing to cause me pain and discomfort. In April 2016 I started two weeks of brachytherapy treatment at The Christie's in Manchester. The team as expected were wonderful. I felt cared for, if that makes sense.
I now find myself a few months on from the end of my treatment plan. I’m as cancer free as they can confidently say. I’m now recovering! It’s now that I feel the uphill struggle of this whole process. Our lives were turned upside down and another chapter added to the story of my life. I’m going through the menopause (and that hit me like a ton of bricks) and dealing with some issues caused by having the surgery and brachytherapy, but I can say I’m here, recovering and with the opportunity to plan ahead and write that next chapter.
I have good days, bad days and dark days. I’m grateful to have an amazing support system in my family and friends, but most of all, I’m grateful to my husband who has been with me at every stage. He’s held my hand, cried and laughed with me and been my rock. Sometimes during this journey, I felt that he was the one who needed support. I’ve consciously been aware that I’m not alone in this journey. Cancer has taken things away from me, but they’ve also taken them from him.
Over the last 8 months I have witnessed an increased public awareness of womb cancer, by some amazingly strong Peachy Sisters. Our stories are unique to us, but our bond it strong. Raising awareness and getting everyone, not just women, to discuss periods and other gynaecological issues is so important. Although, I still feel that if I wasn’t thrown into this World, it could still be passing me by. If by sharing our stories, it helps just a handful of other women then it’s an opportunity we must take."
If you are willing to share your story then please message me using the contact form.
xx Kaz xx