A Nottinghamshire cancer survivor is sharing her story ahead of World Cancer Day (Sun 4 Feb) to encourage women to have their smear test.
At the end of last year, Carla Bradbury, a 46- year old professional dog walker from Staythorpe, celebrated five years clear from cancer and championed the treatment and care she received at Nottingham Hospitals.
Carla’s story began when she started experiencing stomach pains which she initially put down to drinking too much fizzy water, but her pains got progressively worse and in the summer of 2012 she was given the tough prognosis.
Carla said: “I didn’t go to my doctors straight away, as it just started off as stomach pains which at first I put down to the new Sodastream I had been given for my birthday.
“I also started experiencing some spotting between periods which I had put down to hormones and I naively thought it was to do with being at that time of life – but after seeing my GP I was referred to my local hospital in Newark for further investigations and I eventually found out it was cancer.”
An MRI scan confirmed that Carla had advanced cancer which had spread from the cervix through to the tissues at the side of the pelvic area.
She said: “I had a tumour the size of a large plum on my cervix and because of the way it was attached to my pelvic wall it was inoperable, I remember reading the report which said there was a 50% chance of long term control – meaning I was given a 50% chance of survival.
“I hadn’t kept up with my smear tests, which I regret massively now. The nurse gave me a box of tissues after delivering the news, but I didn’t cry – I just wanted to know what we were going to do to get rid of it.
Carla was referred onto the specialist oncology and radiotherapy service at Nottingham University Hospitals, where she received intensive rounds of weekly chemotherapy, daily radiotherapy and internal brachytherapy, a type of radiotherapy at Nottingham City Hospital in order to shrink the tumour on her cervix.
The treatment worked and Carla was given the all clear almost a year after her cancer discovery.
Carla said: “The care at City hospital was great, Dr Anand was supportive throughout my time in and out of treatment and appointments, she really saved my life. I remember her coming into the room, her face lit up, to tell me the treatment had worked, it was such a relief.”
In September 2017 Carla took part in the Stand Up To Cancer canoe challenge, with a team of cancer survivors and celebrities – including Judge Rinder and Emmerdale actress, Natalie Anderson and took on a 120 mile in five days water challenge raising funds for the cancer charity.
Starting in Chester and travelling through the canals and locks of Warrington and Manchester, before finishing in Liverpool Albert Docks, the team raised over £210,000 which will help to fund vital clinical research.
Carla said: “The opportunity to take part in this challenge came to me at the right point in my life. The day I heard about the challenge was the same day my friend who had been going through treatment with me, died from cancer. It was also just before my final five year appointment so it was really poignant and felt like my calling to be involved.”
Dr Anji Anand, Consultant Oncologist at Nottingham University Hospital, looked after Carla when she was in hospital: “Carla is a remarkable young woman and her partner Debs has been so supportive though out her treatment. I am extremely proud of how she has managed to turn this setback in her life into something so positive and has managed to raise such a massive amount of money for Stand Up to Cancer and also raised awareness of cervical cancer by talking about her experience.”
Cervical cancer is preventable or even curable if caught early. In the NHS Cervical screening programme, all women aged 25- 64 are invited by letter from their GP’s surgery for a smear test every 3 years. Screening picks up early changes in the cervix and precancerous cells which can be treated by surgery. Cancer and pre-cancerous conditions caught early have a high chance of cure.
Each year in the UK, 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, yet over one in four women still choose to avoid the smear test. Symptoms of cervix cancer are – bleeding after intercourse, irregular periods, vaginal discharge, pelvic pain.
For more information visit: www.jostrust.org.uk