Determined to raise awareness of gynaecological cancers
By Kathy on 14th March 2022
In December 2020, Kathy was diagnosed with Stage 3 Vaginal Cancer, which is exceedingly rare.
I was not shocked about the cancer diagnosis as I felt something was wrong but I was surprised to learn it was vaginal cancer. I began to feel dizzy initially approx 18 months ago. I went to my doctors where they ruled out vertigo and blood pressure issues, but every time I sat up straight I felt dizzy. I now know this was pressure on my tumour.
I went back to my doctors during lockdown and insisted on a referral as I could then feel a lump inside my vagina. I had a hysterectomy 13 years ago so my Doctor said she thought it was scar tissue from that, but I disagreed. A surgical biopsy was done November 2020 followed by diagnosis 4th December of stage 3 vaginal cancer which is very rare with only 250 cases diagnosed each year in the UK.
I had never heard of it! I was 53 at diagnosis, so I was young to have it and only had one symptom of this type of cancer.
I had a 6 hour complex operation to remove the tumour at Christie’s hospital as well as groin lymph node removal and vaginal reconstruction. I then had chemoradiation treatment as the cancer was in my lymph nodes. This news wasn’t great but I gave it my all and got through 25 sessions of radiotherapy and 5 cycles of chemo in the space of 5 weeks.
I had severe radiotherapy burn, could barely walk, then had Covid and lost my job. I also had an infection in my groin resulting in 12 day hospitalisation where I hallucinated terribly because of infection. Cancer doesn’t scare me, but I try to remember on the days where it’s challenged me to the max, that there is always someone worse off than me and I am very lucky to have 2 healthy adult children and a huge support network.
Despite my support, it is isolating to have a very rare cancer, but after going through the above it’s made me a tougher person.
Once my treatment had finished, I took part in a fashion show for Maggies Centre in Manchester to help raise money for the valuable work they do, supporting people with cancer and their families. They were magnificent in helping me during my treatment.
I think I found out about RareCan by chance on the internet. I am hoping they can support me to feel less isolated. I also want to increase awareness of gynaecological cancers and tell my story, as I may not be alive if I had not gone to my doctors. I know this is a lot of detailed information, but it is important to know it.
I just want to prove that rare or otherwise you can get through a cancer diagnosis and recover from physical trauma.