Back in late 2002, my sister Michelle had some abnormal bleeding which led to her having a smear test. The results showed she had precancerous cells.
In 2003, she had laser treatment which went well but she and her partner were advised by her consultant that if she wanted to start a family, to think about it very soon. She and her partner agreed it was what they both wanted, so fast forward to May 2004, and their beautiful baby daughter – my niece – arrived.
This is when it started to get really serious because eight weeks after having her baby, my sister was still bleeding. She was told to give her body some time to see if it settled. After 16 weeks, she was still bleeding. In October 2004, she had some more tests, including another smear and scans, which showed what we were dreading. She had cervical cancer and the worst year of our lives was ahead of us.
The consultant advised her to have a hysterectomy but after seeing the oncologist, she was told the tumour was too big to remove, so they planned to give her chemotherapy and radiotherapy. We were all so shocked that this had happened so quickly. The consultant then told her that the tumour probably grew so quickly because she was pregnant. She’d only got pregnant so soon in case the cancer came back and now it seemed as though getting pregnant had actually made it worse.
Very soon, five weeks of chemo and radiotherapy started, with a 90 mile round trip to the hospital every day. We all helped to look after her daughter whilst she was having treatment because it made her very sick and weak. She was determined to fight the cancer for her daughter and forced herself to eat and get stronger. All she’d ever wanted was to be a Mum and she was determined not to have that taken away from her. It was so upsetting to watch her go through this but we had to be strong for her.
All treatment finished in February 2005 and in April 2005, she was given the all clear! We were thrilled and felt so very lucky that she had survived the cancer!
But in June 2005, that luck got taken away because on the day my three sisters, including Michelle, our niece, our Mum and I were due to do the Race for Life for Cancer Research UK, we got a call to say Michelle had started to bleed again and she was on her way to hospital. We carried on and completed the Race for Life, hopeful she was going to be fine, but then we got the news that she had haemorrhaged and was having a blood transfusion.
Once she was stable, they did a scan which revealed the cancer was back and worse than we could ever have imagined. It was all over her body and in her organs. The cancer was terminal. That day was one of the worst days of our lives. We were upset, angry, stunned and shocked that it had come back so aggressively in such a short time.
Michelle wanted to be at home, so we arranged for a hospital bed to be delivered to her house and got everything she needed to make her comfortable.
One thing she was desperate to do was to be married to her partner so, in August 2005, they got married in our local registry office with their daughter by their side. It was such an emotional day because she was so very poorly and barely had the strength to sit up in her wheelchair and we knew what was ahead of us.
She went home that day, got in bed and stayed there until she passed away peacefully at home on 12th September 2005, aged 31 and leaving behind her beautiful 16 month old daughter.
I was very close to Michelle, even though we had a 13 year age gap. She was the oldest sibling and I am the youngest. We did a lot together and the pain of her leaving still hurts today and I still struggle to deal with what’s happened, but I live each day to the fullest for her.
One of my other sisters also had abnormal cells at the age of 31 and we were all devastated again at the thought of losing another family member to the same disease, but she had laser treatment and got the all clear and has been fine ever since, thank goodness.
My advice is that cervical cancer is very real so please, ladies, don’t ignore your smears or any abnormal bleeding, please get checked out because it could save your life.
By Freya Pell – Bloss Expert