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Interview CC13

Age at interview: 41
Age at diagnosis: 39
Brief Outline: Diagnosed with cervical cancer (Stage 1B) in 2000. Wertheim's hysterectomy. Both ovaries and some lymph nodes removed. External Radiotherapy (30 sessions), six weeks after her hysterectomy because cancer cells were found in one lymph node.
Background: Civil Servant; seperated, 2 children.

More about me...

 

She describes her radiotherapy planning.

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Yeah that initial appointment is, you go in what they call a simulator, this pretend machine and they use like a camera thing to see exactly where your, where my cervix would have been because that's the centre they were trying to aim for and so they did that. And they took some images I believe and then marked me, it's like very, one little pin prick of a tattoo. So I've got three ink marks, permanent marks. One's right on the top, if you're lying down, like sort of on top of your pelvis and then the other two are at the side. Because what would happen is the machine will do, give you one, one boost from overhead and then it would be turned round to the side and going from one to the other side, through. And so I have three marks, one on the front of me and one on either side on my thigh. And the idea of that is when you actually go for the treatment then you're lined up in exactly the same position every time you have your treatment and the lasers on the camera line up with the little tattoos on your body.
 

Explains that her radiotherapy and hysterectomy had caused little difference to her sex life.

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That hasn't been a problem, it's not been a problem. We've, me and my husband, we sort of resumed our sex life as soon as we could, and it was a bit frightening, it was a bit frightening because you don't know quite what its going to feel like. Especially because you know you're not quite the same as you used to be but it really, I mean for him, he said it didn't, it wasn't any different at all, other than a different sensation at the end, but it wasn't anything that was worse or better, it was different. And for me it didn't really make, it didn't make much difference, no. 
 

Explains how she relied on her consultant to help her decide whether to have her ovaries removed...

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That was one of the other things he sort of left in my court, he said 'Now,' I was 40 at the time and he said 'Now if you were a couple of years younger I would recommend you kept your ovaries because there's not a direct threat because the blood line to the ovaries isn't the same as it is to the cervix, so there isn't that connection there.' He said 'And if you were a couple of years older I'd say definitely take them out because you're not gonna have many more years worth of your own hormones.' But he said 'You're sort of a funny age where you're in the middle so I must leave it up to you, you know, to whether you want me to take them out or not.' I didn't have a clue you know, I didn't know. I said 'I know you was leaving it with me but what would you do?' He said 'Well,' I said 'Well, if I was your wife what would you say?' you know, he said 'Well I would take them out,' he said 'if it was if that was the case.' So I went again, I went along with what he said and had them taken out. 

 

She explains that the diarrhoea she suffered during external radiotherapy was worth it if it...

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Yes I mean I'd been warned of this one as well, they said 'You will probably get diarrhoea with it because again the area that's being treated, you know although its getting in there and if there's any cancerous cells it will do them good and get rid of those. Its also gonna go to the bowel because that's also in the same area. So,' he said 'I'll be very surprised if you didn't you know suffer from diarrhoea.' But again the medication sorted it out, it wasn't bad. It doesn't matter really in the end, if its gonna do you good You know if its getting rid of cancer, six weeks of diarrhoea is nothing.

 

She questions whether she had contracted the human papilloma virus many years before she...

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Well yeah, I mean I went through all this again from the information that I read at the beginning and my consultant. And the most common I've been told is the HP virus, the wart virus and being told, well I've asked, I said 'Do you know what caused my cancer? Now you know you've seen it and now I've been operated on, can you tell the cause?' And I've been told 'No.' Which, from what I've read about it I was really surprised because I'd only been with one man, I only had one sexual partner in years and I said 'Well why has this happened now? If that was the cause of it then why didn't it happen fifteen years ago when I met my current partner you know, what's happened?' And he did tell me it can lay dormant and then anything can have an effect on cells that might make them transform from quite an innocent virus into something more aggressive. But I mean whether it was that, I don't know and he didn't really dwell on any other causes.
 

She decided to go privately when her symptoms persisted and she was told there would be a long...

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So I eventually got to the GP in April I believe it was, April and by now I was quite heavily bleeding for most of the month really. And she took some blood tests. Saw that my smear would have been due in about three months time from then so she said she'd examine me and do me a smear but because I was still bleeding that day she said 'We won't do it today, I'll take these blood tests and we'll sort them out and come back next week.' So I went back the next week and everything was fine, everything she tested for was OK and she said 'I'll do that internal,' because I was still bleeding this day, if I'd had a clear day by then it was good, I was bleeding most of the time. 

And she thought I had a polyp actually, this wasn't my regular GP, this was another lady, and she thought I had a polyp and referred me to gynaecologist at the hospital. I had a little bit of sort of messing about then because two weeks had went past and I was bleeding, nearly continuously and everything she was giving me weren't doing any good and then I phoned up the hospital to see when I might get this appointment through and they didn't even have a record of my letter from the GP. So I was kind of then in the middle, phoning the doctors surgery and phoning the hospital and trying to get something arranged. 

And on one of these phone calls I said 'Just out of interest when, when will I be seen?' It was still about the end of April, beginning of May and they said 'Oh, we're booking for November, but we haven't got your letter so it will probably be December.' And I thought oh my God. I mean I wasn't worried because this GP had said 'I think you've got a polyp, its nothing to worry about.' But I just thought I can't bleed until December. You know, its ridiculous. But fortunately I went private, I mean God knows what would happen if I hadn't gone private. And I got an appointment through fairly quickly with the same consultant who it would have been still under the NHS.
 

Describes the bladder problems she had for one month after her hysterectomy.

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The catheter came out and that was after about six days, five or six days and from then on you have to monitor how much you're passing, obviously to make sure that everything's working OK. And it was OK at first but after the first day they said I wasn't actually passing enough and, compared to what was, my intake. And so I started to have these bladder scans and that revealed that I had a lot more liquid left in my bladder than I really should have done, so they were going to put another catheter in which was a bit of a nuisance because that was the day I was supposed to go home and that's when they said to me 'Oh you can go home with it'. I don't want to and I didn't want to so I stayed in yet another night and they still wouldn't do it so that's when they came up with this valve. And so I went home, I think it was for three days when they asked me to go back then, so I was actually going back to the ward. I was still under the ward and then they'd be monitoring me. It was four, I had four catheters in and out altogether over a few weeks. But I mean it did settle down and I didn't really have any inkling that there was that much of a problem by the way I was feeling because I did go to the toilet on my own and I did think I was doing it all, but this scan was showing up something obviously not the same.

And when did that all sort itself out?

Probably about a month after the operation so a few weeks, yeah.

 

She wanted to start treatment as quickly as possible and it wasn't until after her operation that...

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I'm one of these people that's 'Right, OK what are we going to do then?' I didn't, I didn't fall apart at all, I thought right OK what have we got to do. Do I, can I go to work, silly things go through you head, can I go to work, I've got to do this and I've got to do that and lets just get on with what, what's got to be done. I just wanted to get over it, I just wanted to sort it out and get rid of it. And because he told me that we caught it fairly early I just wanted to get on with it really. 

The whole cancer thing didn't really settle in till, coming to terms with such a big thing until after, way after my operation. I just wanted to get everything out of the way and then I kind of thought about the type of disease I had. Until I sat down and had time when I was recovering to really dwell on things I didn't worry about it. I didn't worry, I just wanted to get what needed to be done, done and out of the way.

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