Renee’s Story

I have always hated cancer and what it meant. It was something that I never imagined happening to me. I’ll never forget hearing: “You’ve got cancer”. I’m only 36, I can’t have cancer. It was in that moment that my life would change forever. The world kept moving forward as time stood still for me.

My journey began with an abnormal cervical screening test. I am one who has suffered abnormal results before and never followed up because I didn’t want to be seen in that compromising position again. I felt insecure with someone being so close to my body. I decided to follow this one up because my husband and I were thinking of starting our family.

I had my first procedure, a LLETZ performed under anaesthetic. It returned without clear margins and signs of cancer which meant another surgery. I was given four weeks for my cervix to heal. But in my mind I was thinking it gives the cancer time to grow and get bigger. The four weeks came around and yet another reminder that I had cancer. The cone biopsy wasn’t successful. My body still had cancer. I won’t ever forget hearing my gyno say, “You’re a tricky patient. You’ve got both HPV strains 16 and 18 and margins are not clear. You need a hysterectomy”. At the time of my first procedure my best friend was in her early days of pregnancy. I found this hard knowing that I will never fall pregnant. My hysterectomy was performed exactly four months from my abnormal cervical screening. My hysterectomy wasn’t by choice. I cried going under and cried waking up and am crying now.

My hysterectomy was successful in removing the cancer. My oncologist shared the news with me. He was ecstatic however I wasn’t. My one dream of carrying my own baby gone forever. The following two paragraphs I wrote the night of August 6 2018, the day my life changed forever:

My hysterectomy has tugged on my heart strings and is playing havoc with my mind because it involved an organ that is deeply connected to my sense of womanhood. My womb betrayed me by not allowing me to conceive. All in all, I am feeling confused and emotional after my hysterectomy.

While I am healing physically, I need to heal emotionally, too. My uterus refused to hold a child for whom I had been longing, so its removal is affecting my heart and emotions along with my physical being. My uterus is one of the organs that helped me identify as a woman, so I’m now feeling like less of a woman. Having my uterus removed has created a swirl of emotions which has left my heart sad and hurting. I’m not okay I feel sad, angry, and confused.

Today as I write this I’m three months post op, still to return to teaching. I’m still living in a swirl of emotions but slowly I’m healing my heart. I hate looking at by body as those five little scars are a reminder of what I can’t have.

My tips for Australian women about cervical health

If I had my time over I would have been more proactive in keeping up to date with my cervical screening.