After the initial pronouncement (more on that here), life became a whirlwind. In between obsessively buying lounge pants I also had to try and squeeze in various hospital appointments for further diagnosis and, if it was cancer, staging. In fact, I was such an NHS VIP that I had my first procedure just two days after I was seen in the colposcopy clinic.
I was booked in for a cone biopsy and Examination Under Anaesthetic (EUA) at St George’s Hospital, Tooting. The day before I got a last minute call to come in for some blood tests. Luckily, as the consultant had advised, I wasn’t at work and was therefore free to take a break from assembling my Cancer Chic wardrobe to pop down. As well as a preview of the ward, I also got to have blood taken in a selection of brightly coloured vials, and swabs for MRSA from various locations including up the nostril (very ticklish). So far, so good. Except for one thing. The ward I was going to be in was called ‘Champneys Ward’. Having grown up in Buckinghamshire I was well aware of Champneys Health Spa in Tring, although I’d never actually been. But you can imagine my excitement at being treated in Champneys Ward! Perhaps after the biopsy bit was over I could have a massage and a facial. Turns out that Champneys Ward Tooting isn’t quite like that. Never mind.
The next day, kind boyfriend took me back to Champneys at 7am. A lovely lady went through the pre-operative questions with me (the first in a VERY long line of name/date of birth/allergies/any caps or crowns questioning). She left us in the room so I could change into the gown, leaving a measuring tape ready to measure me for compression stockings. Obviously we used the measuring tape to compare the circumferences of our heads while we were waiting. I have a reputation for having rather broad shoulders, so my boyfriend took this opportunity to measure those too.
Once the stockings (only knee high – amateur stuff now!) were fitted, we waited in the ward for the surgical team to be ready. During this time I was asked the same questions by a LOT of different people. I can see why, but after what feels like the hundredth person has asked you “Any caps or crowns?” (as in dental work), you can’t help but wish you could pull a Christmas cracker paper crown out of your bag in reply.
Eventually they were ready and came to wheel me down to surgery. A name tag was attached to each of my wrists (“In case they cut off one of your arms by accident,” my boyfriend said reassuringly). And before I knew it, it was all over.
There’s proper NHS information about how they diagnose cervical cancer here. I had the biopsy and pelvic examination, which included a lot of different things ending in ‘oscopy’ but basically meant they checked whether the cancer had spread to my bladder, bowel, etc.
I really didn’t feel too bad after this – my boyfriend was waiting once I was wheeled back from recovery and I believe the procedure itself only took about 20 minutes, so that wasn’t too long under general anaesthetic. We spent the next few hours watching Game of Thrones and waiting for the surgical team to do their rounds.
The verdict at this point was that they had found what they expected to: it looked like a Stage 1B1 tumour. It didn’t look to have spread anywhere surrounding which was fantastic news. I now had to wait for the results to come back to confirm whether it was cancer, as well as having an MRI for further diagnosis. The consultant was an unpatronising mix of realistic and reassuring. He said that he was sure it was cancer, but that he had been wrong twice in his career so it was possible that he might be wrong again this time.
A phone call a few days later confirmed that he wasn’t wrong. But you already knew that!
Caroline Crimson x