I was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer when I was pregnant - and almost died before I got a chance to hold my newborn baby girl.
The nightmare began when doctors discovered a tumour the size of a tennis ball blocking little Aaron's arrival. They immediately delivered Aaron by C-Sect - but I haemorrhaged. My bed sheets were soaked in blood and doctors couldn't get the bleeding to stop. As my life slipped away, docs warned my partner, to expect the worst as he stood helpless with our baby in his arms.
He was left praying for a miracle - and fortunately for us, those prayers were answered.
My instincts told me all was not well. There is Cancer in my Dad's side of the family and that’s what kept nagging away in my mind.
But what choices did I have?
Treatment at that time would have damaged my baby. I didn't want to face that, so I just retreated into myself and kept my fears secret.
After months of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a last chance 24 hour bombardment of radiation directly onto the tumour (brachytherapy), I was eventually in remission.
I had sailed through a trouble free pregnancy with my first daughter, Jordan who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at the age of 3, just at the same time I was diagnosed with cancer.
But I have to admit, the minute I fell pregnant with Aaron, I felt very ill. I was sick all the time, I was in pain, I couldn't eat, and nothing could convince me that this was a normal pregnancy. When I was expecting Jordan, my partner and I backpacked across India and the pregnancy was wonderful.
I felt so well throughout the pregnancy - I was fit and healthy having just spent almost 7 years as a Military Policewoman in Her Majesty's Services.
This time I thought, well no 2 pregnancies are the same.
I remember my partner and I agreeing that there would be no more babies for us. I was dragging myself through the pregnancy. I couldn't wait for it to be over.
Every now and then I'd start bleeding and end up in hospital. But I think because of the position of the tumour, it simply didn't show up. When I was 8 months pregnant, I was back at hospital for the umpteenth time after bleeding. I've got a rare blood group 'O' negative, so whenever I would take a bleed I'd have injections to stop the baby's blood being poisoned.
This time the doctor said she was concerned because I'd been in so often, that she'd like to examine me further. Nothing was showing on scans so she examined internally. The pain was unbearable. Then she told me there was a growth the size of a man's fist in my cervix.
I had a biopsy and had to stay in hospital for the results. That night was awful. I lay awake wondering what was going to happen to us. Next day they told me. I had Cervical Cancer, and because of the tumour, I wouldn't be able to deliver my baby normally, I was in shock.
I was rushed into theatre for an emergency c-sect. The baby was perfect I was so relieved. But when I was in the recovery ward, my partner noticed that my bed was suddenly saturated in blood. The room was suddenly filled with nurses, but by then I was slipping in and out of consciousness.
I vaguely remember nurses wrapping me up in silver foil. They were wrapping themselves around me too, trying to raise my body temp. I was rushed back into theatre, and, after about 2 - 3 hours, the doctor came out and told my partner he was sorry but he couldn't stop the bleeding.
He asked my partner to sign a form permitting them to give me a hysterectomy or else I’d die on the table. My partner said, "My partner is dying in there - just do what you have to do to save her".
I spent a while in hospital as Kes looked after the girls.
When I eventually did go home I was really worried about all the time I’d been apart from my girls, I hadn't had a proper chance to bond with my newborn baby girl Aaron.
A bed was made up for me in the living room, where I remained breastfeeding Aaron for a few weeks before starting my chemotherapy and radiation treatment just after New Year.
Sadly despite an intensive course of 20 treatments the tumour was still there and I was gravely ill.
I couldn't believe it, after all that the cancer was still there.
During this time my partner was giving me intensive Healing through Crystals, (Kes is a fully qualified Holistic Crystal healer) and this helped immensly, his Sister Al would visit me (she is a qualified Reflexologist) and heal my body through healing to my feet and a friend from Cancer Care came along weekly and gave me some hands on healing, all in which played a big part in my recovery, that I am positive of.
I was then offered a 24 hour intensive course where they would bombard me with radiation non stop using long metal rods directly onto the tumour, it’s called Brachytherapy, it was my last hope. It was ghastly. I couldn't move for 24 hours but in the end, the tumour had shrunk.
To be honest I think it was the nurses and doctors who kept me sane, I will be thankful to Ayrshire Central Hospital for eternity.
When the tumour shrunk, I was still ill, but very happy. But along with the tumour, other organs had also shrunk and I needed more surgeries to repair the damage.
I had ignored the little voice in my head which told me I had Cancer. Like many people, I didn't want to hear that because I knew that any treatment would seriously damage or kill my unborn baby.
Today though, I have 2 beautiful daughters, a wonderful husband and a future.
My daughter Aaron will celebrate her 18th birthday at Christmas which will be an amazing milestone for us all. I've since had to cope with more operations, skin grafts, scars, reconstructive surgery, early menopause at 26, arthritis, osteoporosis, and am continuing ongoing surgeries but with my family by my side.........
I married Kes on the 10th anniversary of the day we met. In a romantic ceremony at the Blacksmiths cottage in Gretna Green, Scotland accompanied by our two girls and friends, we tied the knot - & were overcome with emotion. We were not the only ones.
It was the happiest day of my life, after all we had been through. Everyone was crying at the ceremony, it was a very emotional service. It was a beautiful day and very romantic. We all went onto enjoy a wedding celebration in Annan in beautiful quant cottages overlooking the Solway Firth, with the memories of darker days well behind us. We have come through a lot since we met in Blairgowrie in jun 95, when I had just left the military police to start work as a private investigator and met my portugese beau Kes. We all enjoyed the day especially our girls Jordan and Aaron and will be a day we will never forget.
I've since continued to raise awareness, fundraise, make presentations at various clubs/organisations and have my own online cervical cancer support group with over 36,000 members to date. Ideally I’d love the opportunity to open up a drop in centre for women and their families dealing with cervical issues but that costs money of which I do not have. My daughters often join me at various events, they are as dedicated and passionate about cervical cancer as I am. They have a fantastic time knowing how much we could be helping to save someone's life.
I had the pleasure of being invited by an MP Katy Clark to the 'International Women's Day' & meeting The Prime Minister at No.10 to discuss new policies on Cervical Screening and raising cervical awareness. I took part in the official launch of the HPV Immunisation, have been recognised in Parliament a few times for my voluntary work throughout the years and along with my beautiful autistic daughter Jordan was a baton bearer in the Queen baton relay 2014.
You can call me a cancer survivor, but I'd rather be known as a cancer “thriver.” These days I love nothing more than helping others who are dealing with the disease to thrive as well.
“With the help of my wonderful family I took good care of myself with diet, exercise and positive thinking to get myself through it,”
“I am happy to say that this year marks my 18th year as a cancer thriver.”
“When I went through cervical cancer almost 18 years ago, it was very important to me to do other things besides the chemotherapy, radiotherapy, brachytherapy and surgery,” I underwent various operations followed by reconstructive surgery to my cervix and a partial mastectomy.
“I did meditation, crystal healing and many other alternative therapies to help heal my mind, body and spirit. I’ve spent many years raising awareness of cervical cancer and fundraising for various cancer charities. Throughout the cancer and with a young family to look after I tried as often as possible to laugh a lot, I know that sounds strange but I always find that laughter helps me through very uncomfortable and awkward situations, but helped everyone around me at the time too. My doctors were shocked that I took it all in with humour. But in reality I was very scared after the diagnosis because of course you wonder: Has it spread anywhere else?
For now am concentrating on celebrating both my daughters 18th & 21’st this year and very much looking forward to my voluntary work with The Scottish Military Vehicle Group and my local Veteran Legion groups too. My autistic daughter Jordan is now back at college studying childcare while Aaron is focusing on volunteering in the community before heading off to college. She also has the longest hair in the UK so really need to get round to submitting her into the Guinness book of records!
I wouldn't believe the disease would claim my life — notwithstanding the cancer-related death of my own grandparents, as having such a positive family by my side kept me focused and strong.
Being with my husband and daughters always makes me smile, and being out in the Scottish countryside, enjoying the beauty that is all around us just makes my life complete.