Angelica’s Story

In late 2015 I was a fit, active and busy mum of two. We had moved from Tasmania to the Gold Coast two years earlier and were really starting feel at home in Qld. I had been struggling with endometriosis pain every month for 5 years and I ended up in the emergency department of the Gold Coast University Hospital. After numerous tests, they sent me home with a referral to a gynaecologist in a few months.

I had the appointment with the gynaecologist where I had a Pap test and we discussed treatment options for the endometrioma she thought I had. In early January I received a letter from the hospital that I was required for a colposcopy at the clinic. I had no idea what it was so I googled it. I called my mum upset and she assured me that it was likely to just be part of the process and not to worry. It was Friday afternoon and I spent the whole weekend stressing about my Tuesday appointment.

Monday morning I was home with my two children when I received a call from the hospital. The doctor asked if I knew what the procedure entailed and what it was for. She informed me that my Pap test returned positive for cervical cancer. I felt like the floor had fallen out from under me as I tried to collect myself and ask if anything else could return those results. She told me not to worry as in most cases it’s a simple procedure followed by regular check ups and all will be fine, but I should bring someone with me instead of coming alone as I had intended.

I hung up from the call in a daze and went upstairs and shut the door to call my mum. I broke down and could hardly speak. I told her I need her to come and that it was cancer. With help from my brother, my mum and my sister were on a plane from Tasmania that afternoon. My fiancé was away for work and my father came to be with me while we waited for them to arrive.

The next day was my appointment. The gynaecologist who performed my procedure assured me that we couldn’t know for sure until the biopsy of the sample was done. I was booked in that Friday to receive my results. The waiting was horrible as a thousand scenarios ran through my mind.

My fiancé and I walked into my oncologists office and straight away he told me it was cervical cancer but we wouldn’t know the grade or stage until after some tests and a consultation with the cancer board.

The next few weeks were a blur of tests including a PET scan and CAT scan. The waiting for results was torture. Life around me went on as normal with getting organised for the start of the school year and entertaining my two little ones.

We found out my cancer was stage 1A2. A 4 mm round tumour with some precancerous cells in the margin. I also had an unknown mass on my ovary that showed up in my PET scan but was told that it could just be to do with ovulation and again told not to worry.

I was booked in for surgery on February 8th to have a full hysterectomy and my pelvic lymph glands removed. The day of surgery I was a nervous wreck. The surgery went well according to my surgeon. The mass on my ovary was a large tumour and had to be removed as well. Recovery was tough. I spent 3 nights in hospital and struggled a lot with the pain. Again the mental part was the hardest. Waiting on results was awful, not to mention the daily shots of blood thinner in my stomach for 14 days.

Finally I had the appointment with my oncologist and received the news that my results were clear. The cancer hadn’t spread and the tumour in my ovary was benign.

It is now 8 months post-op and after a few complications from infections, I’m starting to feel a bit better. I will need regular check ups and will be closely monitored for the next 5 years but I feel extremely lucky to be where I am at today. If it wasn’t for that Pap test, my story would be very different.

My tips for Australian women about cervical health

Please keep up to date with your Pap tests and encourage all your female relatives and friends to get theirs. Mine was over due as I had moved interstate and used the excuse that I was too busy and didn’t have time to find a new doctor. A Pap test literally saved my life.