Cervical Cancer Awareness Week: Meet the girls diagnosed in their 20’s

This Cervical Cancer Awareness Week we’re speaking with two friends, Laura and Carly, who were both diagnosed at a young age. 

Laura (left) on her wedding day with friend Carly.
I knew something wasn’t right before I had a smear test

Laura and Carly actually met through using Big C’s services and Centres. They instantly hit it off, before coincidentally going on to study on the same degree course. 

At age 30, Laura was diagnosed with cervical cancer. While she was undergoing treatment she didn’t encounter anyone her own age and often felt isolated. Then she discovered Big C – Laura would often pop into our Support and Information Centre at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and described it as a great respite. 

Years on, and Laura is free from cancer but it changed her life in more ways than one. Laura now works part-time for Big C as one of our Support and Information Officers, while she study’s for a degree in Person-Centred Counselling. 

This Cervical Cancer Awareness Week Laura says: “I always went to smear tests but my friends didn’t, even when I got diagnosed a lot of those close to me still didn’t attend their smear tests. People just don’t take it seriously, I still don’t know why people don’t go. 

“We all have the same anatomy and it’s usually a women that will do the test, it’s a couple of uncomfortable seconds that could save your life. 

“As well as always going for smear tests, I would urge everyone to be aware of the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer. 

“I knew something wasn’t right before I had a smear test, and when my first two tests were inconclusive, I pushed to have a third followed by further scans.

“I was experiencing severe back pain, irregular bleeding, unexplained tiredness and poor health overall – I’d had tonsillitis multiple times and kept getting spots on the same area of my face, I just knew something wasn’t right.”

Laura wants to promote early education, and is an advocate for listening to your own body – if something’s not right don’t let it go. 

On the other side of the coin, when Carly was invited for her first smear test aged 25, she wasn’t in a hurry to book an appointment. 

Unlike Laura, she had no symptoms, and while she wasn’t scared to go, she kept putting it off. A combination of having to book for a certain time within your cycle, forgetting and a busy life meant that it was months before Carly made an appointment. 

It was good that she did, because on Valentine’s Day 2017, Carly was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Fortunately, the cancer hadn’t spread and chemotherapy wasn’t required. Instead she faced surgery to remove her cervix and pubic lymph nodes.

Looking back Carly says: “I would say to anyone that has just received a diagnosis or is worried in anyway about cervical cancer to take all the support they can get. 

“I was given all the leaflets of Big C’s services when I was diagnosed but didn’t take any of it up, I thought i’d just focus on treatment. It wasn’t until after my treatment finished and I felt very low that I finally went to Big C. It made the world of difference to know I wasn’t alone and have someone to chat to, I wish I’d gone and got help earlier.”

But much like Laura, Carly is turning her cancer diagnosis into something positive and training to become a counsellor. She says: “I’d always been interested in training to be a counsellor but never pushed to do it, when I was diagnosed it really put things into perspective. It was fate that Laura was there too.”

Inspired by her own experience of feeling alone and meeting firm friends like Carly, Laura has recently started a Women’s Group across all of our Centres. These informal group sessions help women affected by cancer to get together and share their experiences and feelings in an open and safe environment. 

Big C are always here to talk and support you. If you are scared to go to a smear test, or worried about results to pop into a Centre or ring our telephone support line.