“It has been said that ‘time heals all wounds’. I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it’s never gone.” Rose Kennedy
In 2010 I received my letter to attend my 1st routine smear as I was 25. I booked and attended without a second thought. It was far from the most pleasant experience of my life, but after a couple of minutes it was over and done with. 3 weeks later after arriving back from a lovely weekend away with my family I had a letter waiting for me. Severe dyskaryosis it said. Being a nurse I had a small amount of knowledge on abnormal smears and cell changes. As soon as my husband saw the letter and saw pre-cancerous cells he immediately thought the worst. We had lost my father in law just 3 months prior. I reassured my husband and informed him pre-cancerous cells were common, cervical cancer is rare.
I attended my colposcopy and had a lletz procedure, my consultant informed me she wasn’t certain she had clear margins. It was a possibility that further treatment may be needed. I still believed everything would be ok and thought this was the end of it. A further 3 weeks later and I received a phone call from my consultant’s secretary, it was a Friday afternoon, and she asked me if I could come in on Monday to discuss the results of my biopsy and further treatment options. Again, my husband went into a major panic. I knew it wasn’t great news but I convinced myself and my husband it was further lletz as they hadn’t got clear margins. I was wrong.
Monday came, I had swayed my husband to go to work as there was nothing to be concerned about. I went with my mum and my 7 month old daughter. We went into the ‘quiet room’ and I still didn’t think it could be cancer. Not until I heard the words come out of her mouth, the words you could never envisage someone saying to you “I’m sorry to tell you this Sarah but you have cancer.” I couldn’t have, I’m a nurse I am the one who sits with the doctor and supports patients when they hear shattering news, it can’t be the other way around.
From this point on things were foggy. I was whisked off for x-rays and an MRI. I remember the radiographer asking me if I was ok, I erupted into tears and sobbed on her shoulder. I didn’t even remember her name but I will never forget that woman, still numb from the news, she was there when I needed her. I felt safe with this stranger. The MRI lasted 40 minutes or so, at one point they had to repeat a section because I could not lay still, my body would not listen to my brain I could not stop the tears. Adele played on the radio ‘Make You Feel My Love’ it took a long time until I could listen to the song again. My husband had been calling and calling but I ignored his calls, how could I tell him over the phone that he wife has cancer. Cancer! Just 3 months after his dad had lost his fight. He was leaving me voicemails and with each one I could hear the fear in his voice. I called him, he knew. “Please tell me it isn’t Sarah, you don’t do you. You don’t have it.” I said nothing and then I cried. “You can’t have cancer, you just can’t.”
In the long days following we just waited for the results and waited to see the oncologist, the person who would decide our fate. What do you do when you’re waiting to find out if you will need a hysterectomy or even chemo and radiotherapy? After the initial shock there were all kinds of emotions running around my head, anger, confusion, fear, guilt, sadness, disbelief, the list goes on. Oddly my main worry wasn’t that I would die, it was that I couldn’t have another baby. Yes we blessed to have Libby but I desperately wanted to have at least one more child. I struggled telling the people I love that I have cancer, it was so surreal. It was like reliving the moment of diagnosis over and over again but I felt for them more than I did for me. As expected it hit my parents and my husband. I was positive that whatever stage this disease was at I would fight it, head on. Who did this disease think it was invading my body?
The scans and x-rays came back, it hadn’t spread, the cancer was caught early, 1a1. This meant it was contained to my cervix. I was offered a cone biopsy as we wanted fertility saving treatment. On my husband’s birthday I had the best phone call of my life. Bev, the specialist cancer nurse called me and told me they got it all. I didn’t have cancer anymore. Tears are rolling down my face as I type this. I could not possibly express into words how it felt. I sobbed, yes again! I was relived, elated, and euphoric. I had been given a new lease of life.
My smear saved my life, I dread to think what would have happened if I would have put it off or waited. I am not saying the system is without flaw, I wish my cells would have been pre-cancerous but I can’t dwell on that. If you are reading this, I beg you please keep up to date with your smears. We are so lucky to have the system we do in the UK. So many lives have been saved, I am living proof. Ask every female you know if they are up to date too.
11 months later we had another baby girl. The pregnancy was complicated due to treatment, I needed a suture in what was left of my cervix to prevent having a miscarriage or a still birth. I attempted a vaginal birth but unfortunately I had cervical stenosis, this meant my cervix was very stubborn and would not dilate more than 1cm. So Evie was born via a Caesarean section. Our family was complete. I never dealt with the diagnosis at the time, I was so focused on beating it and then became pregnant so quickly after that I never stopped to think about it. It was only last year in 2013 that I allowed myself to think about the cancer. I needed help dealing with my emotions and had counselling. My main fear was the cancer returning so after discussions with my oncologist we decided to have a hysterectomy. In January at the age of 28 I had a total abdominal hysterectomy. It was the right decision for me but it was a difficult one. I can never have any more children, it’s a hard pill to swallow but I am here to stay, to enjoy my beautiful children and watch them grow up. My husband has been through so much and without him I’m not sure where I would be. He is my rock.
I love you Mr Johnson