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Interview CC05

Age at interview: 47
Age at diagnosis: 47
Brief Outline: Diagnosed with cervical cancer (adenocarcinoma) in 2001. After examination under anaesthetic (EUA) a hysterectomy was not possible. Radio-chemotherapy planned.
Background: Financial Assessor; divorced, 1 child.

More about me...

 

The insensitivity shown to her by a doctor on her first visit to the cancer clinic affected her...

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 I left the hospital to go straight to this other clinic and I felt very strong in my mind, in my head, I was very positive and I'd felt I came out of my disappointment well, and I felt quite you know positive about right, this is gonna be dealt with a different way.

But what happened was the doctor came in, it wasn't the doctor who I'd been told I'd be seeing, my card said one name, this person had another name. It wasn't explained to me why that was um, I was asked to tell my story from the beginning and the doctor was interrupted twice with bleeper messages and without even saying 'Excuse me,' sort of took the messages, so just cut off my story as if it was not that important.

So I was very vulnerable but I think, when I was thinking about it afterwards I thought they should have been aware of that. They didn't seem to be aware that I'd just come out of one hospital straight into another. If I'd been coming from home and hadn't had surgery I would have been feeling a lot different I think and I probably would have said 'Do you mind! Are you gonna listen to this or not?' But as it was I was just oh, oh, sort of um, felt awful. So of course I just felt so resentful that this particular clinic had just wiped out probably a good week of work that another hospital had just done. 

I block it out of my mind because I think that was one bad experience that I took very kind of badly. If I was to tell that person they probably would see what, what I meant but probably its just such an everyday occurrence for them that it becomes numb to them so they probably just wouldn't have realised that, how I felt. Um, so I do try to keep it under control because I don't want that particular place to become a kind of a, a phobia you know because it can happen. Um, you know that sticks in my mind.
 

Describes her initial feelings and explains that things got better once tests and plans for...

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When I was told that I had cervical cancer I actually, I can feel it even now, I can visualise the doctor, the registrar standing there, telling me, and I was making noises just like if you were giving me directions. I could hear myself saying 'Hmm, yes, hmm, hmm,' and I could hear myself doing this. The woman was telling me the most awful news and then as she kind of paused then the tears just spurted, but as she was telling me there was kind of nothing. I was just making the noises as though she was giving me some really normal information and I was just playing, playing along at listening. And then it suddenly hit me.

Were you there on your own?

I was at the time yes. One of the nurses was there and the first thing they said, which I would imagine they say to everyone is 'Do you want to tell someone?' or 'Do you want someone here?' But you see I know how I deal with things and as usual, no, I had to swamp myself, I had to have the curtains round me. I had to just lay there like a big wet sponge crying until it thoroughly sunk in and I suppose I had twenty-four hours like that. And it's the weirdest feeling and I'm sure anyone in that situation would describe it differently but I think shock, its shock, maybe we react in different ways but I cry. My initial thing was showing no shock. I was just making these strange noises, then I cried and cried. 

And all I know was that when I was told I had cancer I kind of cried for twenty-four hours, then I stopped for a few hours, then cried for another twenty-four hours, stopped for a few hours, and it dwindled. Then I was on this very practical roller coaster of doing things and people testing me and talking about it. Every single person I saw wanted to know the story from the beginning. And that really does help and it shows that, that one day you can't say it without crying, another day you can just about and then, then youcan say it and laugh. And you kind of see how different you've become.

 

Describes how her GP diagnosed the cause of her abnormal bleeding as the start of the menopause.

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I suppose it was last summer um, but I didn't think it was anything as serious as this, I went to my GP because in between two periods I had a lot of bleeding. I assumed that it could have been that my pill needed changing or, but to be honest I really expected him to say that it was my age. I mean I was 47, and I thought he's probably going to say it's the start of the menopause and its gonna get very erratic sort of this kind of thing. Which is exactly what was said to me. So I did, I did go to the GP straight away.

He did point out that there could be many other causes and that when the bleeding stopped, to go back have a proper examination. He changed my pill prescription and miraculously it kind of eased off. It wasn't particularly the periods that were heavy. It was just the bleeding that appeared in between. And it seemed to sort itself out. Now I believe I was probably stupid. I didn't go back for the check because it seemed to right itself. It never did go back to normal but with the conversation we had about my age and menopause, etc., I wasn't overly concerned. 

With hindsight I can now see that I was very tired at the time um, didn't really realise it, I kept eating sweets and buying bags of crisps and things, as if I craved energy. I think with hindsight that was because I was becoming anaemic and it wasn't until a later date that I realised that. So at first it didn't seem too, too bad. Um, until one Saturday, now this, this all started probably late Spring and this was oh, um, it was late October, everything had been normal, I got up in the morning and suddenly there was blood just gushing. Then it stopped and stupidly I didn't think too much of it. You know he said it would be erratic. I went out that evening, I felt fine and it did it again, but this time it was pretty much uncontrollable. Came home, just sorted myself out and realised that I really did need to do something about it.

 

Describes her feelings when she was told her cancer had been found to be more advanced than...

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So although in one breath they're telling me it is worse than they thought. It certainly hasn't got any worse than that at that point. So I look at it, I wasn't happy obviously and I was very upset because I'd learned to cope with the fact that I had the tumour and that no way could they ever say they could cure me. But then to be told 'Well it has movedon a step,' is bad news in anyone's book. No one can say they're pleased with that. 

So I was very upset when they said that and it took her a while to kind of bring me back down again to think about it logically. And as she explained the treatment I'm having is the perfect type of treatment and there's no guarantees obviously, and I knew that already. But when I sort of flew off the handle a bit and was upset and I said 'Oh well what's the point if its this bad?' And she said 'It's not that bad because its gotta be, we wouldn't give you treatment,' and believe me they are quite blunt aren't they when they talk about these things. She said 'You know you wouldn't be having this particular treatment if there was no chance whatsoever.' So therefore I kind of have to be hopeful but realistic, that's the only way I can describe how I feel.
 

Describes how she told people in stages about her illness and how she felt relieved when everyone...

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I've not kept it a secret from anyone but I told people at different times. For instance my employers, I gave them enough information for them to know that this wasn't just some little illness. Because at first I went into hospital and they knew I'd been in about a week but after all I could have been diagnosed with something very simple and been back at work. 

So they didn't think much of it. They didn't ask any questions. I didn't really need to tell them much. Of course then when it was diagnosed I just, at that point couldn't bring myself to tell them and I couldn't bring myself to ask anyone else to tell them. So at that point I left it that yes it was serious but it was still being looked into, just to get some time really. And I suppose it was hard. 

Its one thing telling family and friends, then it starts to move into other parts of your life. Work is such a big part of your life and to suddenly have to tell them, its like right now I'm in a truly different situation and I put it off for quite a while. And then one day I just woke up and I thought I'll write to them and I'll tell them. I kept in touch by phone but it was hard to talk because I knew the truth and I couldn't tell them but they would have guessed that it was not just any old illness. 

So in the end I suppose I became more organised and I sort of had my sort of organised head on and I thought right, I'll write to personnel, I won't pull any punches, I'll tell them the exact truth, exactly what I've been diagnosed with, all the hospital dates etc. I was very practical. And I told them I now want everyone to know and could they pass the information on to my manager and that I was quite happy for them to ring me. Because that's funny, its still a little bit of a sticking point picking up the phone and ringing people because its something I haven't done for a long time. 

So if people ring me I'm fine and I'm only just in the last couple of weeks been able to actually ring people. I can't quite grasp how I got into that sort of phase but I suppose it was because I cut myself off. And then at first I didn't even want anyone ringing me. Then I was open to that. So it was like a step on and a step on from that was me being able to ring out and I've kind of now conquered that. So I'm moving along. I've since spoken to my manager and I told him I was happy for my colleagues to know. In fact I said I wanted them to know whether they wanted to know or not, because I didn't want any misunderstandings. I was gonna be off work for a long time, if everything started to go well I will go back and I didn't want any misunderstandings, so I wanted them to know no matter what.  And I knew there were certain people who were more than work colleagues but I'd cut them out as well and they were so relieved when suddenly they had permission to ring and it was so much better for me. They were the last kind of stumbling block shall I say, because the friends and the family they were all done. And I still had these few people that I had to go through the awful truth with again and its like going back to square one, and they were the last stumbling block and I've got them all out of the way now. They all know and its amazing how much better I felt once all of that had been done. 

But I could only do it in stages. I couldn't rush it but I managed to get it all done in a relatively short time I think but I had to do it when I felt able to do it. Certain people I could only cope with at certain times. So I had a kind of deadline where I wanted this all sorted before I started the next lot of treatment. And now I feel much more at peace with it all shall we say, because there's no misunderstandings, everyone knows an
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