Mum, 30 dying of cervical cancer after pregnancy scan found tumour – despite a CLEAR smear test
MUM Ellie Taylor did everything right.
She listened to the warnings and made sure she never missed a smear test – conscious they can help catch the earliest warning signs of cervical cancer.
Yet, the 30-year-old is now facing the very real reality she will die from the disease.
That's why Ellie is calling for yearly smear tests to be offered on the NHS – after her last routine test came back clear.
Ellie had gone for a smear in December 2014 after the birth of her first daughter, Olivia.
After being told that it was clear, was asked to return in three years, in line with NHS guidance on cervical screening.
But exactly three years after her clear results, Ellie, from Newbury, Berkshire, received the devastating news that she had cervical cancer.
It was during her 20-week scan, when she was pregnant with her second daughter, that doctors discovered a polyp on Ellie's cervix.
After her baby girl was induced, Ellie underwent a colposcopy and biopsy revealed the growth was actually a 3cm cancerous tumour.
She'd had no symptoms until the midwife felt a lump – believing that it might just be the baby's head breaking through the cervix.
Ellie said: “You hear cancer and you immediately think death – that’s where your brain goes – you are going to die.
“The first words that fell out of my mouth when she told me were ‘but I have two daughters, do I need to worry that it’s genetic?’ and she explained that it’s just horrendous, awful bad luck.
“Then I swore a lot because I just couldn’t comprehend it. I had my sister-in-law Sophie with me and she was my biggest support. I don’t know how I would have coped without her.
“The consultants had been so blasé about it because my last smear test was clear and I hadn’t had much time to think about it between looking after a toddler and a newborn."
Ellie had to undergo an eight-hour surgery to perform a radical hysterectomy to remove the top of Ellie’s vaginal wall, cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes as well as 28 lymph nodes to check if the cancer had spread.
“I was 29, I had just had my second baby and I wasn’t done adding to our family so to have that taken away felt particularly like adding insult to injury.
“As hard as it was to accept, I knew I had to do it because I have a family and I couldn’t leave my kids to grow up without a mum.”
Despite having such extensive surgery, in January 2018, Ellie’s cancer returned in her pelvic wall and stomach, after the mum started to experience sharp pains in her lower back and a dull ache around her pelvis similar to ‘period pains’.
She was given just five years to live.
SMEAR TEST VICTORY NHS to roll out DIY smear test kits in a pilot scheme as five million British women shun the clinic
Surgery is no longer an option for Ellie and since July 2018, she has undergone seven rounds of chemotherapy which have taken a huge toll on her quality of life.
Ellie relies on strong painkillers to manage the immense agony caused by her cancer, had to have a colostomy bag fitted and her immune system is destroyed.
But now she is dedicated to bravely sharing her journey so that women understand the reality of cervical cancer and how important it is to never miss a smear test.
Ellie said: “They didn’t need to tell me the cancer had come back. I knew. But when they told me how poor the prognosis was, I passed out."
Her husband Tom managed to get her home where she started to panic about all the things she'd miss out on with her two girls.
“That night Tom and I sat and sobbed and he said to me ‘I don’t want to be a single dad to two kids’. I told him I didn’t want that either," she recalled.
“The next morning, I woke up and said ‘it’s not happening, I’m not dying in five years’. I refuse to accept it.
“I’ve got two kids and Tom and our family. I have got so much to live for and so I’m going to do every single thing I can to beat this.
“There are days when the pain is too much and I want to give up. Sometimes I hurt so much, I feel like I can’t do this.
“But when I don’t believe I can do it, my family are there to believe for me. They’ll never know how much of a support they’ve been. I wouldn’t still be here if it wasn’t for them."
You can help us spread the message by joining in on social.
We're asking women to share a photo with a pair of knickers and the hashtag #CheersForSmears tagging the women they love in their life, to remind them to get tested on time.
Cervical screenings save 5,000 lives every year – but let's make that number higher!
Please make sure to also tag @fabulousmag and the charity Jo's Trust (Twitter: @jotrust, Insta/FB: @joscervicalcancertrust)
Ellie feels that the NHS is "failing" women with the current screening options, and that she's proof that you can do "everything right" and still end up with terminal cancer.
“If I get through this, apart from enjoying my family, I will be beating down the doors of Westminster for better care for women," the full-time mum siad.
“I feel like we as women in this country are being failed by our NHS. I don’t think cervical cancer is being taken seriously enough. Instead, the NHS is all about saving money.
“It’s not good enough. I think we need far more regular cervical screening and from a younger age."
She said that screenings should be every year and should start from the moment women become sexually active.
“It should be a yearly appointment with a gynaecologist, not just your GP.
“I remember getting my letter in the post telling me to book one within days of my diagnosis.
“I didn’t have any signs or symptoms. I had a perfectly average pregnancy.
“I’m lucky in a way that I had Isla when I did and they picked it up because otherwise my diagnosis could have been even later and I might have been given even less than five years to live.
“Maybe if we had a different system, my tumour would have been picked up earlier – before the cancer had a chance to spread. It makes me so angry.
“It’s just awful and it’s something, I hope, I can change. I’m not prepared to go through all of this and have it be for nothing. I’ll make it worth it somehow.”
How we can make a difference
In many surgeries, smear tests are only available at certain times or days, making it difficult for some women to book an appointment.
That’s why #CheersForSmears is calling on GPs to offer more flexible screening times and make testing available outside of office hours and at weekends.
We also want employers to play their part in helping to ensure that their female employees can attend potentially life-saving cervical screenings if they are unable to get an appointment outside of working hours.
Help get your employer involved by emailing [email protected]
A spokesman for Public Health England said: “Cervical screening is not a test for cancer itself but identifies abnormalities and by treating those can prevent cancer from developing.
“The UKNSC works closely with doctors, nurses and researchers and is kept up to date on new and changing evidence through a comprehensive network of people involved in caring for women with cervical cancer, as well as charities and women themselves.
“There is now solid evidence that almost all cervical cancer is caused by the HPV virus and the committee has now recommended that the first screening test should be for the presence of the virus rather than looking at cells gained from a smear test.
“Evidence shows that without the virus cervical cancer is very unlikely indeed to develop.
“The other important step in the evidence suggests that once a woman has HPV it takes 10 years to develop a cancer.
“This raises the possibility of extending the intervals between screening invitations and the UKNSC has been consulting on views about extending the screening intervals to five years for everyone.
“The cervical screening programme aims to do the best for all women aged between 25 and 65 and to deliver consistent and high quality testing and follow on programme.
“This means that women with rare cancers or the very small proportion not caused by HPV will not be picked up through screening.
“It is for this reason that the programme worked closely with women, charities, GPs and gynaecologists to make sure that the advice for women and doctors if they are concerned about a woman or she has symptoms of any kind is to care for her through the GP and hospital system rather than sending her for a screening test.”
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