Chelsea’s Story

You know that dreaded Pap test us women know all to well? Well, that is where my story began. Towards the end of January 2012, I decided it was time for me to go and have my Pap test, which was 12 months overdue. I was 23 and it wasn’t the first Pap test I’d had either, it was my third.

A week later I received a call from my GP asking me to make an appointment to discuss the results. To be honest I just thought that I needed to repeat the test as the sample wasn’t adequate. During the appointment I was told the Pap test results showed ‘possible high grade glandular lesion’ and that I needed to see a gynaecologist for further testing.

I suddenly became concerned and wanted more answers. I was really nervous, but tried to remain positive. I remember my Mum telling me that lots of women have abnormal Pap test results and that I should not be worried about it. The gynaecologist performed a colposcopy (a type of test) and took a biopsy.

The following week it was time to get the results. I asked my Mum to come with me to the appointment for support. The biopsy results confirmed the Pap test. I was told I needed to have a cone biopsy to determine the diagnosis. The gynaecologist had already discussed my results with the oncologist and an appointment had been made for treatment. I freaked out! I knew that oncologists specialised in the treatment of cancer. I was horrified to think that I may have had cancer.

I saw the oncologist and he booked me in for a cone biopsy. There was an area of my cervix that he said ‘didn’t look right’. Following the cone biopsy surgery I saw the oncologist to get the results. I was extremely nervous and felt sick.

I was told I had a 1.8cm tumour and that it was cancer. I was devastated and in complete shock. I was hoping I would wake up and realise it had all been a bad dream. I was diagnosed with stage 1b1 adenocarcinoma of the cervix (cervical cancer). I couldn’t believe it, as I had not felt sick. I never anticipated having a tumour growing inside me.
The treatment was by way of major surgery and I was told the options. Option 1 was to have a radical hysterectomy. I immediately burst into tears. I knew that a hysterectomy meant that I would not be able to have children. I was devastated and no words can describe how I felt at that moment.

I was then told about Option 2, which was to have a radical trachelectomy, meaning I could keep my uterus, but would also need to have my pelvic lymph nodes removed. Before the oncologist would decide what the best treatment was, I needed to have a PET/CT scan to ensure the cancer had not spread.

My first bit of good news was following the PET/CT scan. The cancer had not spread and was confined to the cervix.

On 23 May 2012, I had the radical trachelectomy (removal of my cervix, upper vagina, surrounding tissue) and pelvic lymphadenectomy (removal of pelvic lymph nodes). It was a SUCCESS!

Since then I have continued to have regular check ups and Pap tests with both my oncologist and gynaecologist and there has been no return of the dreaded ‘C’ word.

I believe the Pap test back in January 2012 saved my life!

If you want to read more about my story check out a blog I wrote shortly following my diagnosis:

My tips for Australian women about cervical health

I share my story so that people value the importance of Pap tests and so I can hopefully prevent someone from experiencing what I have. If the tumour had had been greater than 2cm (2 millimetres bigger) I would not have been able to preserve my fertility and would have needed a hysterectomy …. or worse.

I ask you to encourage the women in your life to have regular Pap tests. No one is invincible to cervical cancer… don’t think it won’t happen to you, like I did.