Christa’s Story

March 21, 2018 was just an ordinary day. I headed to the doctor to get a regular Pap smear. During the Pap smear, the doctor asked a few questions, which began to make me wonder something was wrong. “Come back in 2 weeks for the results” she said. Two weeks, of stress, and worry that something was wrong.

The two weeks were finally up. Time to get results from the doctor. “Not results we were hoping for. Abnormalities have been found during the test. I want to refer you to a Gynecologist.” Not a sentence I wanted to hear. Immediately my mind was sent into overdrive. What is wrong, what aren’t they telling me, what have they found. I left with a referral, and a phone call to make.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and the results from the Gynecologist were in. Unfortunately, the results were not like I had hoped. I was diagnosed with invasive endocervical adneocarcinoma of the cervix. Yep. You guessed it. Cervical cancer, at the age of 33. Following this appointment, I had to tell my parents. That, I think, was the hardest part. Luckily for me, I have extremely supportive parents who will do anything and everything to get me through this journey.

On the 2nd of May mum, dad and myself got to meet the surgeon. “Great news. The cancer is only in your cervix. Come see me next week and we will determine the best course of treatment.” Before I left the surgeons office, she wanted to do an internal. “I can see the tumor sitting on the front of the cervix, but I want to get a more thorough image before I determine the best course of treatment. I want to do an MRI and an examination under anesthetisic.”

A couple of days later, the day of the operation had arrived. Armed at the hospital with mum and dad, after dropping my son at school. I said good bye to my parents and headed to be gowned up and waited for my name to be called. The nurses and doctors were amazing. I remember them talking to me and keeping me calm. Next thing I remember is waking up, with lovely nurses beside me. “It’s all over now” they said with a smile. Dad had headed home to get my son from school and come back to collect mum and I from hospital. The hardest part for us from here was what to tell my son. Do we tell him everything, do we tell him nothing or do we wait to see what the surgeon says. “I’ll call you tomorrow with the results and go from there” the surgeon said as she stopped by.

The surgeon calls the next day to tell me she has scheduled me in for a hysterectomy next Thursday. Ok. Surgery. I’ve got this. As scared as I was, I knew this is what had to be done to be cancer free.

The day of surgery had arrived. Nerves were very calm and I thought we were all handling it pretty well. I was checked in, and I was taken to be gowned up and waited for my name to be called. I said bye to my parents and my son. This day I remember holding it together until I was on the operating table. I could not hold it in any more. I was terrified. I remember waking up and finding it really hard to swallow from the oxygen drying my mouth out. I wanted a drink but was only allowed a mouthful in case it made me sick. I was hungry, but wasn’t allowed to eat. I eventually found my way to my room upstairs, and waited eagerly to see my family. It had been a very long day for everyone and I wanted them to get rest. I was moved into a single room for more privacy a few short minutes later. “We will see you on Saturday” my family said as they headed home.

The surgeon stopped by to tell me that they sent my cervix to pathology to check that the cancer has been removed and they are waiting for the results. Then she said that I could go home when my family came to see me. The best news I’ve had all day. Straight on the phone to mum, I can come home when you come to visit. I was so excited at the chance to go home.

The surgeon finally called and broke the news to me and my mum. Although the surgery was a success, pathology found a second cancer cell. A more aggressive cancer cell, that less than 1% of women with cervical cancer get. This cell heads straight for your lungs, then spreads like wildfire. This means there is little to no research about it. The only research that had been done has been on advanced stages of this cancer. The surgeon went back to the specialists to determine the best course of treatment. “I want you to come in on Wednesday with your parents and we will talk more about it in detail then”. I was just diagnosed with neuroendocrine carcinoma of the cervix. What. I thought it was over. I thought the surgery was it. I thought I was cancer free. Mum and dad did too.

Back to the surgeon’s office we go. “The best chance for survival is to have Chemotherapy.” Survival. That word is extremely terrifying when talking about cancer in the same sentence. How can I afford this? How do I tell my son? “I’ve been talking to top gynecologist surgeons around Australia and we all feel this is the best chance of survival. I’m waiting to hear back about radiation, but let’s start on Chemotherapy immediately. Although the tests and scans didn’t detect the cancer, it is still in your cells. Unfortunately, the scans will not detect anything smaller than 2mm. The chemo is a precaution to catch anything I’ve missed”. Holy crap. Something I have never in my life imagined I’d hear in reference to me, or need to do it on my own.Top of Form

My chemo plan is three days of chemo, in a row, over a 21-day cycle. (19 days actually from the end of treatment, to the start of the next round). I left the office with a blood referral and three dates booked for chemo.

Out of everything that has happened to me or is about to happen to me, controlling my hair falling out is something I had control over. So, one night, dad shaved my head. Good bye clumps of hair falling out, scaring and traumatizing all of us. What a way to have fun before the serious stuff begins.

I completed my chemotherapy, it was tough but I had really great support from my family and I was able to get through it.

October 2, 2018. The day is here. My first official day back at work. When I started chemo, I didn’t think I would be able to work with children again. But I was wrong. I have people who have faith in me, and regardless of being sick, still willing to give me a go. The day was amazing. The children are so settled, chatty and the educators are supportive. Can’t wait to see where this journey takes me. Just remember, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

To follow my journey join me here:

My tips for Australian women about cervical health

Don’t ignore any symptoms. If you feel something isn’t right, get it checked out.