Finding a New Normal
That day out with your best friend, the really important business meeting, the family holiday you were all looking forward to. A diagnosis of cervical cancer interrupts plans and puts life on pause. No matter when in your life you get the news, it brings stress and lots of questions as cancer always does.
Whatever age you are, cervical cancer hits your femininity like nothing else. Let's face it, the tests and treatment you have to have are invasive. Your medical team looked at and treated parts of your body that are usually private. This was not what you had next on your To Do list. This was not what you wanted to have happen.
But you got through it - the biopsies, the surgery, the chemotherapy, the radiotherapy. Somehow you clenched your teeth, took a deep breath and you have finished your treatment. But what happens now? How do you take on the challenge of everyday life again?
You will find information here on 'finding a new normal'. This will be different for everyone. The way you will respond to life after treatment for cervical cancer will be a personal one. However, there are certain issues that are helpful to know about and that women say they would have liked to have known. We have included that information on these pages.
It takes time to adjust to life after treatment. Whatever treatment you have had, you will need time to recover. You might feel tired. Your body has gone through a lot. Rest when you need to. It may be a cliché, but it is really important to listen to your body and take things one step at a time.
There will also be physical changes to your body that have been caused by your treatment. These may take time to adjust to. For some women there could be long term side effects that will have an impact on how their body works and feels.
While you're recovering try to let others help you. Having a friend around for a coffee whilst you are sprawled out on the sofa may actually be a welcome distraction.
After you have been diagnosed with cancer the standard follow up programme by your gynae-oncology team will be for a maximum of five years, with the intervals between appointments growing larger as time goes on. This is because after two years the risk of recurrence is reduced. Follow up programmes are individually tailored to the treatment received, for example, chemo-radiotherapy patients will have scans in some centres (others not), some are nurse led. Your medical team will let you know what your follow up programme is. If you’re feeling worried about any unusual symptoms please do contact your medical team. They will want to know if anything is wrong.
You may still be feeling like, “Will I ever wake up and not think about it?” For some women the emotional impact of cervical cancer is the hardest to heal. Yet, there are so many people out there who can help. So please do not think that hurting is the only way to be. You could start with a chat with your Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) at your hospital or your GP. If you are overwhelmed by your feelings, speaking to a professional trained in providing emotional support may help you through this difficult time.
Sex and intimacy
Many women's sex lives are interrupted by cervical cancer. You will need to put this part of your life back together slowly. Your sex life can alter as a result of physical changes caused by the treatment you have had. Physical problems that women report after cervical cancer treatment can include: loss of desire to have sex, pain during sex, having an orgasm can be difficult to achieve or different compared to before they had treatment. These changes can be caused by hormonal changes, damage from treatment, and psychological and emotional stresses brought on by your diagnosis and treatment.
Your relationship with your partner may have changed as a result of your diagnosis and this may be causing changes in your sex life. You may also now feel very differently about your body and your femininity.
If something has changed there are specialists that can help you. You can discuss the changes you have noticed with your CNS, they should be able to recommend some options to help.
"Finding a New Normal." Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust. N.p., 19 Aug. 2013. Web. 02 Mar. 2015.