My first baby was 4 months old when I was diagnosed with cervical cancer and I had just turned 31.
A follow up pap to a low-grade abnormality showed some possible high grade changes. A colposcopy by the same obstetrician who delivered my baby showed adenocarcinoma in situ.
I was sent off for a cone biopsy. My obstetrician called to tell me this was cancer and I would need another cone biopsy as the first one did not get clearance around the cancer. She referred me on to a Gynaecologist. After the second cone biopsy, my doctor told me the Tumour Board had met to look at my cancer (who knew that was even a thing). They measured the cancer and found it to ba a stage 1a1 adenocarcinoma. This meant I had two options, have a hysterectomy or have an operation called a radical trachelectomy. The latter leaves a small but not insignificant chance of having another baby, while a hysterectomy had zero chance.
At the time, I thought it was a no brainer and opted for the trachelectomy, six months after my baby was delivered by c section.
I thought because I had had a c section that I knew what I was getting myself in to. How wrong I was. How naive. I must have still had hormones still coursing through my veins, I asked no questions and booked it in. I thought it wasn’t serious because it was a small cancer and I didn’t even need radio therapy or chemo.
My abdominal scar extended 30 cms across my abdomen over THE top of my 20 cm c section scar. The pain was a whole other level. I was in hospital for a week unable to walk or get out of bed. When they removed my catheter, I couldn’t pass urine. This made my pain levels uncontrollable. Morphine, endone, nothing worked. I checked out of hospital against advice because I thought if I could self administer my pain medication, I would be okay.
I learned to “self catheterize” and for a month that was how I went to the bathroom.
I couldn’t pick up my baby and had to have her placed on my lap for cuddles.
Recovery took over 12 months before the serious inflammation died down. 18 months down the track I still suffer from chronic pelvic pain daily, but it is manageable and I am no longer taking pain medication.
This surgery has also taken a huge toll on my marriage due to the depression that set in along with the pain. I went to work and played with my baby, but really wasn’t functioning or contributing to my marriage. The fact that I couldn’t face the pain of having sex didn’t help. I put on weight due to too many comfort foods and too little activity and generally just lost myself for a good year.
My cancer was small. The toll it took on me was huge.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to have another baby in my battered womb, but I hope I get the opportunity because if I do, I know I won’t regret a thing.