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Kirsten on recovery after cancer treatment

My journey began with a routine letter reminding me to book my cervical screening. The tests were par for the course and didn’t really phase me, just a bit inconvenient. However when the results letter arrived it said I needed a colposcopy due to abnormal cells. 

After my colposcopy appointment, I received another letter a couple of weeks later saying I had CIN3 and HPV and would need a LLETZ procedure under general anaesthetic. Within 7 weeks I was in hospital for this surgery – as it was COVID I had to attend my appointment alone. After the surgery I was uncomfortable, slightly painful, and to be honest just wanted to be back in my own bed! I knew it would be a couple weeks until the results, but I thought that would be it.

"She said “Kirsten, you have cervical cancer” and I don’t remember anything else"

Exactly 2 weeks later the nurse called inviting me to see the consultant. She said “we would advise you bring someone”. In that moment I felt sick. I thought those are the WORST words to hear, especially as I hadn’t been allowed to have anyone with me for any of the other appointments.

I went to the appointment alone, still with an element of hope. The nurse came to get me and said “Are you alone?” I said yes, then we talked about the weather.  When I entered the consultant’s room I saw there were 2 nurses with her. I knew it was cancer before she even said it. She said “Kirsten, you have cervical cancer” and I don’t remember anything else – I sat there in a daze. One of the nurses grabbed my hand and said “You are taking this very well”. I think I was just speechless.

"My youngest child stuck stickers all over my catheter"

I was sent for an MRI scan to check it hadn’t spread to my liver or lungs. Fortunately it hadn’t, and I was recommended a radical hysterectomy and a bilateral-oophorectomy, as well as having some lymph nodes removed. I spent 5 days in hospital during surgery and recovery, and now have my first big scar – 20cm from hip to hip! 

I found coming home with a catheter to be the worst bit. My youngest child stuck stickers all over it, while my middle child was scared to come near as they were worried about hurting me. Fortunately I was able to have it removed after 10 days. I was then on a strict 6 weeks of doing nothing, and a recommended 3 months off work. 

"I really needed to feel like I wasn’t going to be in bed forever"

The NHS were really helpful, and my oncology nurse rang me to chat about my needs. I initially struggled a lot with eating, and felt full immediately, so she recommended some nutritional shakes. I was eager to start doing more exerciser, so after 10 weeks I was referred to a cancer recovery programme with personal training at a local gym. They knew what was good and bad for the body when recovering from cancer and surgery – they knew how to avoid building up scar tissue, and about how I should massage my scar, and they gave me lots of tips and hints to feel comfortable. It was absolutely brilliant, because I really needed to feel like I wasn’t going to be in bed forever.

For anyone else in this situation, I’d recommend asking questions after your surgery. There’s loads of different aspects of support out there depending on your needs, like if you need financial support, need your house set up differently, or even someone to walk your dog. I’m glad I could focus on getting back to fitness and was given guidance to do this.

"I want to have the confidence to cartwheel along the beach again"

Because I had 16 lymph nodes removed, I’ve still got some numbness in my lower tummy and between my thighs. I’ve also got an issue with my left leg because of nerve damage – it always wants to go left! I’ve been told it will take up to 12 months to heal, and I’m learning how to move more consciously and adapt to what my body can do. Eventually I want to have the confidence to cartwheel along the beach again.

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Getting back into exercise really helped. Being outside and walking my dog
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Last Updated: 
12 Apr 2022