On June 6th 2017 the world fell out of my arsehole.
Well, that’s what it felt like when I was told I had stage 2B cervical cancer. It wasn’t a shock really. I knew it was coming. Despite my GP’s best efforts to convince me I was just having a really heavy 6-month long period, I knew it was something bad.
So there I was, at the grand old age of 29 being told I had a tumor bigger than a golf ball growing inside my vagina. A golf ball. In my vagina. Shudder.
The tumor had reached a size where it couldn’t effectively be treated with surgery so I was told I would need to have chemo-radiotherapy (5 and a half weeks of daily external radiotherapy and weekly chemotherapy) followed by three courses of brachytherapy, which is a fancy term for internal radiotherapy, or as I like to call it – torture.
Treatment began in early August and went on until early October. It felt like a lifetime. Every day meant a trip to the hospital. External radiotherapy involved lying half naked on a bed (sounds quite exciting up to this point doesn’t it?) whilst a team of radiographers pushed and pulled at my hips and legs to get me into the right position for the machine. This still sounds mildly erotic. It wasn’t.
The treatment itself, though very undignified, was painless and quick but the side effects have been long lasting and I can still feel them now. Chemotherapy sessions happened every Tuesday and lasted 6 hours. I would have to arrive early in the morning, be hooked up to a machine and have multiple drugs pumped into my veins and pee in a jug so the nurses could measure how much fluid was going in and out. It was boring and the anti-sickness drugs made me feel dizzy and out of sorts but hey, at least lunch was provided.
The first week of treatment was tough. I felt tired, weak and nauseous all the time and couldn’t concentrate on anything, not even watching TV. As the weeks went on I was sick more times than I can remember and my days were spent in some sort of limbo between my bed and the toilet. I went weeks without even going into my own kitchen as the association with food made me feel so unwell. I mean, it’s a great, if not slightly dramatic, way of getting out of washing up. I managed to rinse that one for months. Score.
Whilst chemo-radiotherapy seemed like the world’s worst episode of some awful reality TV show, brachytherapy was TOWIE on repeat. As in, really, really bad. If you don’t know what brachytherapy is you could Google it but it ain’t pretty. I will sum it up briefly for you. First of all, I had to have a spinal anesthetic so that I was numb from the waist down. Great for a needle-phobe like me.
My doctor then inserted a rod into my vajayjay as well as a catheter and a load of padding to stop anything from moving around and then he went off to plan my treatment, have some lunch, scratch his balls etc, whilst I had to lie still for hours on end having scans and not being able to do much else. This was so doc could plan exactly where the radiation had to target.
Eventually, many hours later, I was hooked up to the radiation machine that was actually fighting the cancer for a grand total of about 6 minutes. Then the rod, catheter and padding had to come out. But my anesthetic had worn off. Cue gas and air, delirious whining and fainting, followed by more vomiting and having to be pushed around in a wheelchair.
As horrendous as this was – and I had to endure it three times – the sedative I was given was awesome. I don’t remember any of this but am reliably informed by the nurses that I was signing Despacito but replacing all the words with ‘burrito’, bragging about being a vegetarian that still eats meat and asking my oncologist if he likes my vagina. Just a good night out really.
At times, my world was a little bit dark. Occasionally I would think death was a better option. It was hard. Two things got me through. One was having my friends and family support and love me and the second was humour. My first chemo session I was on Snapchat singing my own version of Culture Club’s classic ‘Chemo Chameleon’. Geddit?
Every time my doctor had to examine me I would tell him Christmas had come early and ask if we could cuddle after. Cancer jokes are great. If you can’t laugh about cancer what can you laugh about?
On December 15th I was given an early Christmas present and it was the best present ever. Even better than the karaoke machine I got when I was 14. I was told that all the suffering was worth it. The cancer was gone. The golf ball that had taken residence inside my vagina had vacated and I was allowed to have my life back. My normal, boring life that I had missed so much was coming back.
I won. Cancer lost. It didn’t stand a chance.
Sure, I don’t think I can ever eat cheesy mash again after an unfortunate episode of sickness, I can’t ever have children and I will always have three dots tattooed on me (they mark where the radiation has to go) but I’m alive, healthy and can look back on 2017 with pride.
I did it and I value my life, my family, my friends and my job more than I ever could have done before.
My vaj is destroyed but I beat cancer.