Friday 13th October 2017
"I put off any calls for smear tests, I was always sent the reminders but never called to make an appointment. I was either too busy, forgot, felt embarrassed by going for the test or just didn't take it seriously I suppose. It's one of those things that you think won't happen to you.
I finally made an appointment for a smear after realising I was spotting sometimes after sex, I'd had yet another reminder and thought I'd better book it. Two days later got a letter back saying it showed severe dyskaryosis and the hospital wanted me to go in for laser treatment, they took a biopsy at the same time but the lady doing it said it looked fine and I'd get a letter within 6 weeks telling me so.
Within 48 hours I was called back into hospital and told I had cancer… That was 4 years ago. I had to wait several weeks for an MRI scan which would determine the stage my cancer. It was awful not knowing how advanced the cancer was and I tried to stay positive for my children, especially as all of this was happening throughout the Christmas period.
In the end, I was diagnosed with stage 1b cervical cancer and told I would have a radical hysterectomy and lymph node removal. It would be on the day of my eldest daughter’s birthday. It was also my eldest daughter who last year came home to tell me I had to sign this paper from school for her to have an injection. I asked her what it was for but she said she didn’t know and just handed me the piece of paper. It turned out to be the permission slip for her to have the HPV vaccine. I sat her down and asked again if she knew what the HPV vaccine was for and why it would be important for her to have it. Of course she didn’t, as she hadn’t learned anything about HPV and its connection to cervical cancer in school.
I explained it all to her and because she knows of my cancer diagnosis four years earlier she said ‘I’m definitely having it mum!’ I think it’s so important that children are taught in school about HPV and the vaccine. It’s fantastic that Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and Teenage Cancer Trust are launching lesson plans providing schools with the resources to enable so many more young girls, and boys, to better understand the connection between HPV and cervical cancer and how they can reduce their risk of this awful disease.
Kelly Scott, Education and Awareness Programme Manager for Teenage Cancer Trust, said: "These lessons are designed to not only educate students on HPV but also encourage them to discuss their feelings about the vaccine and help them understand the implications of having or not having it. We want teenagers to talk about cervical screening and to reassure them, whilst emphasising how important it is to attend the screenings to ensure any cancerous or pre-cancerous cells are found. We’re calling for teachers to download the lesson plans and implement them into Year 8 and Year 10+ curriculums."