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Personal cancer story

Claire Williams

I'd always gone for regular Pap tests, whenever I got the reminder letter in the mail. I knew it was important that if anything was ever wrong, it was found early.

I went for a test in May 2007 and presumed everything was okay, as it had been every other time. My husband and I moved houses and changed phone numbers, which meant the GP was unable to contact me to tell me my results were abnormal. It was only when I went to see the GP again for something unrelated a few months later that I found out I needed further tests.

I was referred to a gynaecologist and on my first consultation I had a colposcopy, where they took a biopsy of my cells to analyse. Again, I just presumed everything was fine.

I called the gynaecologist's rooms from work a few days later to see if my results had come back. The receptionist started reading from a letter she had on file for me, something she should not have done, and my whole world stopped when I heard her say, "I'm sorry to inform you that you have stage 1 cervical cancer."

I sat in the office in total shock. I'd been married for just six months, we wanted to have children and now my whole future felt like it was threatened.

It's just a few minutes of embarrassment for something that could save your life."

Claire Williams

Thankfully, I was referred to an amazing gynaecological oncologist who was reassuring and brilliant. He told me we would take it just one day at a time and that he would try to preserve my cervix so that I could have children. I was immediately sent for a scan to check if the cancer had spread to my thyroid or any other part of my body; when we got the results I was relieved to hear that we had caught it early enough before it had spread from my cervix to other organs.

After I'd healed from the initial biopsy, I had a more thorough cone biopsy under general anaesthetic where they take a cone-shaped sample of cells from the cervix. Upon analysis of the biopsy, there was a clear margin of healthy tissue around the cancerous cells they had removed, meaning I didn't need any further treatment. My gynaecological oncologist also gave me the news I was secretly hoping for – I was given the all clear to try for a baby once I had healed sufficiently from the operation.

Our son Reuben was born in September the following year, and although I had to be monitored closely because of my compromised cervix, he was born healthy, three and a half weeks early.

Now, my husband and I are blessed to have both Reuben and our gorgeous daughter Esther (born in 2013), as well as a clean bill of health.

I still have regular Pap tests to check everything is okay. I can't stress enough how important it is that women go for their cervical cancer screening tests. If I hadn't, my cancer would not have been caught early. It may have spread to other organs, or I might have needed a hysterectomy or may not even have survived to tell this story.

Read more stories about people's personal experiences with cancer