When Amanda developed symptoms such as night sweats, a persistent cough, tiredness, and weight loss, she never suspected that she had cervical cancer. Instead, she reasoned with herself and thought of every other possible cause, such as over-working, or contracting Covid 19 or a parasite whilst traveling abroad, and even tuberculosis. “Because I considered myself quite young and healthy, the cancer thing would never have even occurred to me.” Amanda admits that she had minimised the issue and says, “I probably wasn’t that bad.”
However, what prompted Amanda to visit her GP was when she noticed some of her lymph nodes (neck and groin) had swollen. She says, “I knew at that point there was a problem. In my head, it would make sense to think all the other things were a problem, but I could rationalize that. But my lymph nodes being up, I began researching loads of stuff, like tuberculosis, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, and other cancers, but even then, I hadn’t thought it was cervical cancer.”
After living with her symptoms for almost a year, Amanda had blood tests, scans, and a biopsy, and was diagnosed with cervical cancer, in January 2021. On hearing that she had cervical cancer, Amanda was shocked, and confused, as there had been no family history of cancer. She described this period as being a “cloudy time”.
Informing her friends and family was not easy and saw its own challenges. However, Amanda’s friends were very supportive, whether it be accompanying her to appointments, joining her in meditation, or writing poetry to raise her spirits; “The poem was debased and crass,” says Amanda, with a smile, “but it’s really good, and I appreciated it, because my friends know my sense of humour.” Friends and family were shocked and concerned and just wanted to see Amanda get through her treatment. Although at times avoiding those who were reaching out, so she could process her thoughts and get the much-needed rest and self-care was often unavoidable.
It can often be a lonely time for people with cancer, as friends, family and co-workers inadvertently push them away in their attempts to care and say the right thing. What seemed important to Amanda, and many others, is for other people to show understanding, non-judgment, and honesty. Simply saying, “I’m really struggling with this too — what do you need from me?” may be enough.
One challenge for Amanda was the change in her relational dynamics; to go from being a rock for others to needing others to be her rock. Amanda says, “I have always been more of the nurturer and carer…I have always been strong and independent and then suddenly I’m feeling weak and need people to do stuff for me.”
Accepting medical treatment was not easy for Amanda, who was worried about medical procedures. However, she really felt motivated by an inner voice to challenge her fears and beliefs and says, “It doesn’t matter what gets you there, as long as you get there…I’ve just got to trust it now, because I can’t control everything,” and “It isn’t as bad when you’re actually having chemotherapy because you go there, and the staff are really nice, and you see other people going through the same thing.” “My strength, when I was ill,…was I still had my personality. My personality will get me through anything.”
Amanda acknowledges that for some people, COVID-19 restrictions may cause some distress, however, during chemo, she says, “All I could do is get up, eat, go to hospital, come home and sleep.” When she felt ready, Amanda reached out to Big C and has been “well-supported”, accepting 1-2-1 support and reflexology with complimentary therapists.
Today, Amanda is learning to accept that she could have sought help much sooner, “I certainly learnt my lesson…it’s not a nice lesson to learn.” “After a while things do filter through, and you do change, and you’re not going to be stuck in that horrible place forever.”
For Big C to continue to provide support and information to those like Amanda we ask for donations from the public to help keep our services running, to donate please visit: https://fundraise.big-c.co.uk/donate/#donate