Mel’s Story

I didn’t fight; I learnt to let go

At the age of 31, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

In that time, I’ve gone from cervical cancer patient to volunteer and then manager at the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation. Today, I’m a health advocate and university tutor (in health promotion). Through my journey, I met countless women affected by cervical cancer, spoke on national TV, travelled to the Himalayas to raise funds for HPV vaccination, and completed a postgraduate research project on cervical screening. If there’s one thing I learnt about cervical cancer, it’s to let go of all my misconceptions, control, and fears.

Cervical cancer isn’t a fight: it’s a journey

Today, my teeth still grind when I hear a journalist say, “This woman lost her battle against cervical cancer”. To me this statement doesn’t just lack compassion; it’s ludicrous. You can’t fight against your own body. Cancer isn’t an invader: it’s our own cells misbehaving. For me it was a reminder to self-love and self-care. Although going through cervical cancer can feel like a battle at times, it’s a journey where I learnt (at least) one valuable lesson: to listen, love, nurture and work with my own body.

“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.” – Buddha

A Pap test isn’t just a test: it’s part of being a (healthy) woman

At the time of my diagnosis, I had hit rock bottom. Life as I knew it had vanished. I moved town to start afresh and had thrown myself into a corporate job. Although I always had regular Pap tests, I became somewhat blasé with abnormal results and “too busy” to follow-up. When I finally managed to see a gynaecologist four months later, I was rushed to an oncologist, and underwent a cone biopsy that same week. Today, I have no cervix. Don’t wait up and don’t gamble – it’s 2 minutes that can save your life (and your uterus).

Fears are overrated: focus on the now

“Fear is the anticipation of pain in the future.” – Deepak Chopra

This may explain why you, your friend, sister or colleague may be missing out on a regular Pap test (or get scared at the thought of cancer). Yet, 90% of women who die from cervical cancer haven’t had a regular Pap test.

Here’s another truth: doctors don’t care how your vagina looks – they’ve seen way too many. Don’t let your fears get in the way of your health – focus on the here and now. You owe it to yourself.

Mel X

My tips for Australian women about cervical health

Make sure you’re up-to-date and may you have a happy, healthy and fulfilling life.