Doncaster mum with cervical cancer at 24 says she would be dead if she hadn't paid for her own smear test
A mum-of-two who was diagnosed with cervical cancer at 24 says she'd already be dead if she hadn't paid for her own smear test.
Jody Oxley, from Doncaster, was just 22 when she first noticed some irregular bleeding - but was told she was "too young" to get checked on the NHS, according to a report in The Sun newspaper.
After borrowing some money, the stay-at-home mum decided to go private - and was shocked to be told she not only had cervical cancer, but would be dead in nine months without treatment.
Jody, now 25, who's mum to Marshall, seven, and Lilly, three, said: “I first noticed the bleeding in August 2016. I didn’t think much of it, because I’d just had the contraceptive implant in my arm and assumed it was a side-effect of that.
“I’d also given birth to my daughter Lilly 12 months earlier, so thought it might be my body still adjusting.
“But my symptoms continued to get worse – my mum told me to go to the doctor, but I kept putting it off, hoping it would sort itself out.
“I didn’t think it could be cancer – there was no family history, and every woman has irregular periods from time to time, I told myself.
“By Christmas I was in a bad way, with really heavy bleeding and discharge, so in the new year I finally booked to go and see my GP.
“By this time I’d read something on Facebook about cervical cancer, Googled my own symptoms and told her I thought this is what I had.
“She laughed at me when I suggested this, and told me it’s “just the implant”.
“I felt so angry and annoyed to be talked down to like that, like a child.
“She couldn’t deny my bleeding and discharge, of course, so sent me for swabs and an ultrasound to check for infections or an STD.
“”I just couldn’t believe that – what couldn’t be "adequately assessed"? And why not?
“I was in pain, I was bleeding massively and the discharge was getting worse, so something was obviously very wrong with me.
“My GP simply said that nothing indicated she should refer me to see a specialist, and I was too young to have a smear test.
“Even if one was done, the lab wouldn’t process it, she said.
“By now I was bleeding so much that no amount of sanitary pads could absorb it. I decided I had to take this into my own hands.
“I borrowed some money from my mum and rang the private Park Hill Hospital to pay for a smear.
“A few days later I finally got to see a consultant gynaecologist, who rolled his eyes when I explained I wanted a smear – again I presume because he thought I was too young.
“But the moment he got me on his table to examine me, he knew this was very, very serious.
“He asked how I was getting home, so I told him my partner Andy, a security worker, was outside with our daughter Lilly, who was asleep in the car.
“I called Andy, telling him to come in straight away. I asked the doctor “It’s cancer, isn’t it? Has it spread?”
“His silence spoke a thousand words. The nurse in the room had started crying, as did I, and when Andy came in, he started crying too.
“The consultant told me I’d need a biopsy and a CT scan, which were done in the next few days. Those confirmed my suspicions had been right all along.
“I had stage 2B locally advanced cervical cancer and a 5.6cm tumour on my cervix.
“If I hadn’t been diagnosed and treated I’d be dead within six to nine months, the doctor said. The biopsy came back clear, but the scan picked up the mass.
“The doctor told me I was going to be treated under the NHS, because this should’ve been picked up by my GP.
“First, I had a blood transfusion, having lost pints and pints of blood by then.
"Then I started a six-week course of intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy at Weston Park Hospital, Sheffield, to try to shrink and kill the tumour.
“Sadly, that treatment didn’t work as well as hoped – the tumour shrank, but only down to 2cm, so I’d need a salvage hysterectomy, they told me.
“Andy and I had been hoping and praying for a hysterectomy – I just wanted this cancer gone so I could be a healthy mum and wife again.
“I knew this would mean we couldn’t have any more children, but I’d been so close to dying and we had two lovely kids already.
“I had that operation in January 2018, which removed my cervix, womb, ovaries and surrounding lymph nodes.
“It also removed all the tumour but the margins on one side weren’t clear – so the surgeon told me there could still be cancer cells.
“Petrified, I knew each check-up scan I’d have might throw up bad news, but so far I’m still cancer-free and just feel so lucky to be alive.
“I still have constant pain in my hips and legs and frequent water infections, but I’m still here.”
She added: “I want to share my story to encourage more women to attend screenings – and request one early if they have concerns.
If a young woman requests to have a smear and has symptoms, she should be able to get it.
“Cancer pressed pause on my life – I felt stuck for a very long time. The whole experience has changed my perspective and made me realise how precious life is.”
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