Ali’s Story

Hi there,

My name is Ali.

I guess I’m writing this because I often see stories from survivors who are married or have children and when I found out I had cancer I was in my mid thirties and single. I think it’s important for other women to hear that and know it can still be ok.

A few years back I went for a regular Pap test at my GP & when the tests came back there were some abnormalities… I wasn’t too concerned at the time as I know this can be quite common.

I went to the Women’s Dysplasia clinic and had further tests, the result of which was a recommendation to have the abnormal cells lasered.

When the next test came back also showing some abnormal cells, the next step was to have the cone biopsy.

On New Year’s Day 2014, I was on my own when I received the call to say I had cervical cancer. I was 34 years old.
I was numb… My friends were mostly away as it was the festive season & my Mum lives in another state… All I could do was call and let them know.

Luckily I had my amazing Mum for support and a good friend Jane (who’d also had cancer (ovarian) and not only survived but has gone on to have a beautiful baby boy). They really rallied around me & helped me with Dr visits and questions. I also really want to mention the hard-working nurses and my oncologist at the Women’s who helped me get through this challenge… But what I also discovered was how strong I could be on my own & how positive I remained.

After the first surgery they found more cancer – I had them a little stumped, because they weren’t expecting to find it so far up. The doctor who called to let me know was amazing on the phone and I remember him saying “we’re going to get you through this… You’re a survivor”

I was faced with some options and choices which were super hard: hysterectomy or trachelectomy. Not being in a relationship meant I really had the daunting task of thinking about a future I couldn’t even be certain would eventuate- would I meet someone and fall in love and want children? My gut instinct was yes & I wanted desperately to keep the option of being able to have a baby one day. With some further tests including a MRI I was lucky enough to find out the margins were good enough for the trachelectomy to be an OK and safe choice. This is removal of the cervix; a much more conservative surgery which I was also lucky to be able to have without needing to be cut open abdominally.

The surgery went well and I had my beautiful mum taking care of me – she came and stayed in a hotel while I was in hospital then flew with me back to her farm for the weeks of recovery I needed afterwards. She was and is an amazing support.

After a nervous wait, we finally received the call with the results from surgery- all clear. We cried and called everyone and then went to have some champagne to celebrate.

The amazing team at the Royal Women’s Hospital have been really great and I have regular 6 month checks. My most recent test showed some slight abnormalities again, but I remain hopeful and positive and I know I’m in the best hands.

I urge you to always have your regular Pap tests and to encourage your sisters, mothers, daughters and work colleagues to do the same. What is a moment of discomfort meant we detected my cancer very early on. I’m one of the lucky ones!

I also wanted to say if you are single and facing cervical cancer…please know you are not alone. Whilst I was lucky to have family & friends around me, there are also support networks that are in place including the wonderful ACCF and there is also hope for the future no matter how it turns out. I’m still single and living everyday with a grateful heart.

Big love,

Ali x

My tips for Australian women about cervical health

Regular Pap tests are essential and could make a huge difference in catching abnormalities or cervical cancer early.