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Ruth - Interview 32

Age at interview: 41
Age at diagnosis: 28
Brief Outline: Ruth was first diagnosed with CIN3 around 1994, aged 28, and then three more times over several years, as well as with VIN3. She would have liked more information from health professionals and felt disappointed in the lack of information.
Background: Ruth is a single education consultant with one child Ethnic background / nationality' White British

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Around 1994, Ruth was diagnosed with CIN3 after routine cervical screening and was treated by LLETZ under general anaesthetic. She then had regular follow-up examinations, firstly six-monthly and then annually. After one of these annual follow-up examinations, Ruth was, again, diagnosed with CIN3. She was treated again, this time under local anaesthetic, but said she was unsure what treatment she was given. Shortly after her second treatment, Ruth was diagnosed with CIN3 a third time, again after a follow-up examination.

Some time after her third treatment, Ruth had some abnormal bleeding. She also developed some worrying symptoms, including itching and sore spots around the vulva, and went to see her doctor. Ruth said she was given very little information from health professionals and felt disappointed and let down. She said she never felt reassured because she kept having problems. She wondered whether she might have cancer and if it could go undetected. Eventually, Ruth went to an STI clinic and, after tests, was diagnosed with CIN3 and vulval changes (VIN3). She was, again, treated and continues to attend regular follow-up appointments.

Ruth said she hadn’t told any of her friends or family because CIN3 and VIN3 affected such an intimate part of the body and because of HPV. However, it affected her daily life in several ways, especially in terms of having a relationship. Throughout her experience, she would have liked more information.

 

Ruth hasn't told anyone she's had CIN3 three times. She feels that it is very personal and, because it's caused by HPV, other people could be judgmental.

Ruth hasn't told anyone she's had CIN3 three times. She feels that it is very personal and, because it's caused by HPV, other people could be judgmental.

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It’s something that’s so personal. I haven’t spoken to anyone about it, not even my family, not even close friends. Some people are very judgemental about this type of thing and the more I found out, the more information there has been that it’s related to the HPV virus, so some people are quite judgmental about that. So it really feels like something I can’t talk to anyone about.

 

Living with abnormal cells was worrying and Ruth never felt reassured when she was told she was...

Living with abnormal cells was worrying and Ruth never felt reassured when she was told she was...

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Every time I thought I might just about get the all clear, again they’d fine CIN3 or severe changes. And there was always this, I never felt reassured. Even when I had the appointment they’d say, “Yes everything’s fine.” There was always this nagging doubt at the back of my mind that actually it wasn’t fine and that they’d missed something, because there was, it had kept coming back. And things that I’d mentioned, I didn’t really feel had been investigated enough. So that was just been a constant worry for the last few years really.

I then went onto develop some other symptoms which I found very embarrassing, and I ignored for a long time. Itching and sore spots around the vulva. I mentioned at one of my appointments with the consultant and he said he couldn’t see anything wrong. But of course the instrument they use when they’re doing the examination would have obscured it, in the particular area this occurred. So I buried my head in the sand and he said, “Well, it’s just like any area of skin, you can have dry itchy patches.” And so I ignored it and but it kept getting worse.

I went to a Well Woman Clinic and they said, “Oh we don’t deal with that kind of thing.” So in the end I had to swallow my pride and go to an STD clinic. Which I just felt, I shouldn’t but, you know, I just felt absolutely mortified. And again this had affected relationships. And I had to undergo an investigation there. And to cut a long story short, as well as CIN3 I had vaginal and vulval level 3 changes, which I had to have surgery on.

 

Ruth stopped smoking, including social smoking, because having CIN3 made her particularly aware...

Ruth stopped smoking, including social smoking, because having CIN3 made her particularly aware...

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You mentioned that one thing to have come out of all of this is that you’ve been looking yourself a lot more than perhaps if this hadn’t happened?

Yeah.

Have you been making changes to your lifestyle or diet or that kind of thing? Or generally just looking after yourself much more?

I think for many years I’ve actually, I’ve always been fairly interested in being quite healthy and having a healthy diet. But I think that interest has increased considerably since this.

I used to smoke. I gave up many years ago, but would sometimes have a few cigarettes socially, sometimes more than a few, especially if I was with a group of friends and we were drinking and they were smoking. Whereas since then, and I guess years ago I used to think “Oh, you know, a few cigarettes on a Saturday night, big deal. That can’t really make that big a difference.” And some people agree with that, and it’s better than smoking twenty a day.

But more recently, because I’ve become aware from the consultant that this condition is more common in smokers, I really avoid it now as much as I can. I try and avoid going out with the people that smoke because I know after a couple of glasses of wine, I may be tempted.

So I’ve really, and you know some people will have a few cigarettes and think oh it doesn’t matter, whereas I don’t now. If I do, if I’m foolish enough to have one or two, I really feel bad about it. And that really bugs me and it really worries me. So I’ve cut that out.

I try not to drink so much. I don’t, I’m not obsessive about it. I’ll have a few glasses of wine at the weekend. But otherwise a healthy, a very healthy diet and plenty of exercise. And also I’ve studied nutrition a bit, and I’m aware of certain foods that are sort of, anti, cancer fighting properties in particular for certain types of cancers. So I’ve just made sure I include plenty of those in my diet.

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