17 Jan | Cultural Calendar | Guest Blog

Cervical Cancer Awareness


In the Summer of 2020, Abigail Gilbert's life was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Read Abigail's account of how she discovered she had cancer, what the signs were and her advice on getting checked and taking measures to prevent cervical cancer.

Summer 2020 was different for me; I was diagnosed with cancer in the middle of a pandemic.

It began when I noticed bleeding during intercourse. Nothing that stood out, I thought I had miscalculated my period, there was no pain. It happened again and by the third time I realised I needed to see a gynaecologist.

The fact that everyone was in lockdown and avoiding hospitals meant I got seen quickly. I was sent to an oncologist within days and scheduled for an immediate radical hysterectomy.

As if major surgery, removing my uterus, ovaries, cervix and part of my vagina wasn’t enough, I was then sent for radiotherapy and chemo for two months, not to mention the menopause that is a guaranteed side effect.

I was lucky that I already had my children, however younger women are not so fortunate. Cervical cancer treatment nearly always leaves you sterile.

It has been two and a half years since then. Two and a half years of hell that doesn't end when treatment finishes. For the rest of my life, I will be looking over my shoulder for it to come back.

Nothing prepares you for this and no amount of "it won't happen to me" will prevent it from happening to you.

So please, if you feel something is not right with your body, listen to your instincts. Do not listen to people who say it's probably nothing because early intervention is the ONLY chance of survival. It was only twelve months since my last smear test, but I knew something wasn't right, thank goodness I didn't wait another two years until my next PAP smear!

Abnormal bleeding (between periods, after sex, brighter or darker blood), unexplained weight loss, smelly discharge, get them checked!

Do not wait for all of the symptoms, most women might only have one, some have none at all so remember your screenings too, never miss a smear test and get your teens (male and female) vaccinated against HPV before their 15th birthday!

 

Abigail Gilbert is married to David and they have two teenage children. She works as a Relocation Consultant.