Young mum talks about her battle with cervical cancer
WHEN mum Amanda Calcutt was told she had cervical cancer, her immediate fear was leaving her son without a mother.
As a teenager, the 34-year-old had lost her own father, Stephen, to a heart attack and was only too familiar with the grief of losing a parent.
But with the support of her family — including her eight-year-old son William — Amanda, from Harwood, has made it through the gruelling treatment and wants to raise awareness of the disease.
The mum-of-one is also planning a glitzy masquerade ball in Bolton to boost funds for the Gynaecological Research Fund at the Christie where she was treated.
Mrs Calcutt’s ordeal started in July 2012 when gynaecologists suspected something was wrong during a routine medical check. When she was sent for a biopsy, doctors discovered a nine centimetre tumour on her cervix.
Mrs Calcutt said: “It was a massive shock when I found out. I went to see the gynaecologist last July and they said they needed to take a biopsy and told me there was a tumour.
“There had been no cancer in the family at all so it wasn’t like I was considered high risk.
“My dad was only 40 when he died and I was just 14.
“So when I found out I had got cancer, all I could think was that I didn’t want William to grow up with one parent. I had been there and I never wanted him to be in that position.
“That’s why my mum has always been such an inspiration to me. And even though dad died when I was young, he played a big part in getting through this.
“I suppose like anyone who has cancer, I just thought it would never be me. I just thought we were a normal family. I thought we would never have to experience what we have been through.”
An MRI scan also revealed that the tumour had spread to her vaginal wall. She was immediately put on a course of chemotherapy and radical pelvic radiotherapy at the Christie in Manchester.
Mrs Calcutt said: “It was not easy. It’s not just the treatment but what comes after. I think unless you’ve been through it or someone in your family has, I don’t think people realise what it’s like. It’s the other side-effects that are hard to deal with.
“For example, the radiotherapy damaged my bowels. It really was the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with in my life.”
One of the biggest blows for Amanda was being told she would not be able to conceive any more children.
“It was gruelling to have all of the treatment to get rid of the lump I had on my cervix but it’s the other life-changing stuff. It is the rest of your life,” added Amanda.
“That’s why when I got the all clear, it was absolutely brilliant. Of course, there’s always going to be something in the back of your mind that wonders whether it’ll come back, but right now it just feels amazing.”
With such huge physical and emotional obstacles to overcome during and after her treatment, Mrs Calcutt says she could not have done it without the support of her husband Alex, mum Elaine Higginson, aged 58 and sister Lynette.
One of their biggest challenges was what to tell William.
Mrs Calcutt said: “My mum has been absolutely brilliant throughout it. She really helped keep the consistency for William. I couldn’t tell him. I just didn’t know how to put it into words.
“We never used the word death throughout the whole thing. He understands that mum was having lasers going into her tummy and he actually quite liked that.
“When we explained that mummy might lose her hair he said he wanted it to grow back like an Afro. That kind of light hearted humour really helped us. We tried to keep everything really positive throughout the whole thing.
“It was hard because I still wanted to be a mum to William and there were times when I did just fall apart and went to bed. That’s where my husband and my mum stepped in. I really couldn’t have done it without them.
Mrs Calcutt says screening for young women is crucial and that she would like to see the cervical screening age lowered.
She added: “Screening is crucial and I would like to see the compulsory screening age for women lowered to 21.”
The masquerade ball will start at 7.30pm on Saturday, October 12 at the Holiday Inn in Bolton.
PANEL - Cervical cancer is still the most common cancer in women under 35 in the UK and the third most common gynaecological cancer after uterus (womb) and ovary.
- Overall, cervical cancer incidence in Great Britain decreased by nearly half between the late 1980’s until the early 2000s, but the last decade has seen an increase of about 15 per cent, mostly in women in their late 20s.
- Two thirds of women with cervical cancer survive their disease for ﬁve years or more.
- Cervical cancer survival is higher in women diagnosed at a younger age. Women under 40 years of age have survival rates of almost 90 per cent.
- Women with a sister or mother who has had cervical cancer are at increased risk of developing it themselves.
- Smoking increases risk of cervical cancer as does long term use of the oral contraceptive pill.
- Cervical screening can prevent about 45 per cent of cervical cancer cases in women in their 30s, rising with age to 75 per cent in women in their 50s and 60s, who attend regularly.
- Cervical screening is not a test for cancer; it is a test to check the health of the cells of the cervix. Most women's test results show that everything is normal, but for one in 20 women the test will show some abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix.
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