It was 2007 to 2010 when I had my first brush with cancer.
Throughout my adult life until the age of 33, I thought I could and would never get cancer, so I just never did any of the pap smears or self-examinations. I was naïve about cancer and how it could show up in the body at any time.
I used to get reminders from my doctors all the time to get a pap smear, but I used to ignore it. I thought because I was healthy and living a healthy lifestyle that I would never be affected by it.
I recall one time just for the sake of it in 2007 going into my doctors to get a pap smear. I thought everything would be ok. I was incredibly wrong. When the results came back, the doctor told me I had an infection in the cervix and that my cervix was inflamed. He said it was CIN1 and that we would have to monitor it and that it would more than likely clear up on its own.
So, I thought it will clear itself up on its own and that it was nothing to worry about so I would just continue to live my life the way I had been previously. And I did not go back to get another pap smear for 3 years, even though the doctor recommended I go yearly and get a pap smear done.
So, for three years I carried on with my life thinking it wasn’t there. When the time came in 2010 to get the three yearly pap-smear, I went and that was when they told me CIN1 had progressed to CIN2 and they weren’t sure from the pap smear if it had progressed to be cancerous as the pap smear couldn’t show a conclusive result and that concerned my doctor.
CIN2 is where they find some abnormal cells on the surface of the Cervix and, if not monitored, would turn into CIN3. The doctor referred me on to a specialist that had a very long waiting list, but they were the only specialist of that type in my area. I booked in to get the specialized test done in three months’ time, which was the only time they could fit me in.
A year before, I booked in a six-week Contiki a holiday touring around the UK and Ireland for the month after I got the news from my doctor not realizing at the time that I would get this sort of news before going overseas on holiday. I was a little concerned and as much as I tried to enjoy my holiday, I could not fully enjoy it as CIN2 and cervical cancer and all the what ifs plagued my mind for the entire time I was on my holiday. I kept wondering if I had it and it was far more advanced that the pap spear was showing what would happen and how my life would be.
When I returned home from my holiday and had the specialist appointment, they told me it had gone away but they wanted to see me to get pap smears every 6 months in case it came back and that they wanted to see me adding in 2 years’ time.
I felt a sense of relief when they told me it had gone away and thought great, I can carry on with my life as per normal. My life got extremely busy for the next 2 years after that. I forgot to get the pap smears done, but I remembered to see the specialist in 2010 where they gave me the bad news that I had CIN3 which is where they find many abnormal cells on the surface of the cervix which may or may not be cancerous. They told me it was from an infection I didn’t even know I had in the cervix.
The specialist told me it was partially cancerous, and that I had to have an operation to get it cut out before it spreads any further. My jaw dropped, my heart was pounding, and my pulse was racing from hearing the news. I literally felt like my life was over. I was devastated from hearing the news.
They gave me a referral to the royal Women’s hospital to get the operation done. They told me to book in for day surgery as soon as possible, as the hospital gets booked up really fast without patience.
When I got home, I cried about it as it was very upsetting news. I just wanted to crawl in a corner somewhere and isolate myself from the rest of the world. I also had other not so pleasant things happening in my life at the time as well as I was in a narcissistic verbally abusive relationship that I needed to get out of but the man I was with just would not leave my place no matter how many times I asked him to as he had months earlier invited himself and his 12-year-old daughter to live at my place.
Every 2 days he and his daughter would fight and slam doors and he treated me like a slave. I thought it could give me the support I needed by taking me to and from day surgery that maybe we could work things out.
He drove me to the hospital that day but never came to pick me up, even though he promised me he would. I waited for two hours for him to turn up, but he didn’t. So, I caught a taxi home from the hospital. That was when I knew I had to get him out of my life.
The surgeon had given me strict instructions not to even lift a finger over the next 2 weeks so that the stitches would heal in my cervix where the cancerous cells were cut out.
He rocked up home 2 hours after I got home in a bad start as his ex-wife had called the police on him as he was meant to collect his daughter from her place before picking me up from the hospital. He told me about all his dramas without even asking me how I was feeling and if I needed anything. I manager to tell him what the surgeon had told me about resting so that I could heal and not to lift a finger for two weeks, but he insisted I cook him dinner that night. So, I did because I felt I had no choice.
The next day he collected his daughter, who told me why her parents were fighting, which gave me the extra push I needed to get him out of my home and my life. So, when he went off to work two days later, I moved all of his heavy furniture into the lounger room towards the front door and told him to come and collect it. While doing this, I tore my stitches out and started to get bad cramps in the stomach. He came and collected his thing but made so much drama that he really scared me. You can read about the relationship I had with him and how I got him out of my life in my book “Dare To Be You: Break free from the shackles of the past to become yourself, outstanding and unstoppable”.
The next day, I went to the doctors to find out why I was getting these stomach cramps and the doctor told me I had torn the stitches from moving all the heavy furniture around my unit on my own. The doctor said the cramping was because the area where I had the surgery and where I had torn the stitches open had gotten infected. He gave me some very heavy antibiotics and pain killers and demanded I not do anything for a month so that the infection would clear up and they could replace the stitches.
From this experience, I learnt that when you are told by a surgeon to rest, you must rest no matter what.
I also learnt not to let life get that busy that I forget to get to my regular check-ups with my doctor and that even though you may not have any symptoms that you still must go regularly to get pap smears and other check ups for cancer as cancer can affect anyone no matter how healthy you are.
My urge to every woman out there is to get your pap smears regularly, no matter how busy you are. You don’t want to leave it until it is too late, and you have advanced stages of cervical cancer.
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