Marie's story

Marie Challenger, from Lancashire in the UK, was diagnosed with fairly late-stage cervical cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. but, following treatment, was told her cervixAny neck-like structure; most commonly refers to the neck of the uterus. was back to normal. Marie uses her own words to share her story.

It was Christmas day 2004, when I finally decided I had to do something about the pain. It had started as a dull ache in my lower back that February, and spread to my back and pelvis. I was bleeding between periods and now hurting so much I was scared I wouldn't see another Christmas.

In early January, my doctor referred me to a gynaecologist at my local hospital, who I saw on 4 March. I was so frightened, I told him not to tell me if he found anything.

When the results came back I was told I had stage 3 cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body., at which I panicked Marie

He took a biopsyThe removal of a small sample of cells or tissue so that it may be examined under a microscope. The term may also refer to the tissue sample itself. of the cervixAny neck-like structure; most commonly refers to the neck of the uterus. and I went back for the results on 11 March. That was when he said they had found cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. cells.

A couple of weeks later, I was sent for an MRIAn abbreviation for magnetic resonance imaging, a technique for imaging the body that uses electromagnetic waves and a strong magnetic field. scan. Further tests

When the results came back I was told I had stage 3 cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body., at which I panicked. Staging

I was passed on to an oncologist, who I saw on 15 April. He explained I would be having 20 doses of radiotherapy Monday to Friday for four weeks, and four doses of chemotherapyThe use of chemical substances to treat disease, particularly cancer., one each week. Then, after a further four weeks, I'd be sent for brachytherapyA type of radiotherapy where radioactive pellets or wires are inserted into the tumour..

Once I knew I was being treated, I convinced myself I would get better. I wouldn't acknowledge the tumour at all. I thought, if I don't make it welcome, it will go away. But my treatment didn't run smoothly.

After my first dose of chemotherapyThe use of chemical substances to treat disease, particularly cancer., the doctors took a bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. test and discovered my tumour was blocking my kidneys and I had to have an emergency procedure called a ureteric stentA tube placed inside a tubular structure in the body, to keep it patent, that is, open. insertion [an operation to drain the kidneys]. Then I was told my kidneys couldn't take the chemotherapyThe use of chemical substances to treat disease, particularly cancer. again, so had just one more lower dose, but carried on with the rest of my radiotherapy.

Finally, when I went to have the internal radiotherapy, I came round after the anaestheticA medication that reduces sensation. to be told it hadn't been done because the tumour had a hole in it. Instead I had to go through another ten days of intensive radiotherapy. Treatments

One evening afterwards I was sick. This carried on, week after week for five weeks, until another occasion when I fell asleep on the sofa and my friend Jack was unable to wake me.

On 2 September, I went back to the hospital and was told my tumour had shrunk, and my cervixAny neck-like structure; most commonly refers to the neck of the uterus. was back to normal. It was such a relief, all my friends and family were crying with joy.

He called an ambulance, and apparently at the hospital I had a massive fit. The doctor thought maybe the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. had spread to my brain and sent me for a brain scan. Fortunately, it came back clear although I don't remember any of this.

Back home I was at my lowest ebb. I had lost two stone in weight, and I thought I might not make it. I remember thinking I could just close my eyes now if I want and not wake up again. But a few days later, I don't know why, I woke up and decided to fight.

On 2 September, I went back to the hospital and was told my tumour had shrunk, and my cervixAny neck-like structure; most commonly refers to the neck of the uterus. was back to normal. It was such a relief, all my friends and family were crying with joy.

One thing I found very relaxing and soothing during this time, when I was well enough to attend, was Reiki [a Japanese alterative healing technique]. Living with