Rebecca's story

After receiving an abnormal smear test result, Rebecca McCreath was told she had cervical cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. and faced having a hysterectomyThe surgical removal of the uterus (womb). at the age of just 25. In her own words she tells of her experience.

I remember driving home from hospital after they first found the tumour, turning to my mum and asking her, 'Do you think this is going to stop me from having kids?' This was the first thing for me because I have always loved kids.

I was diagnosed with cervical cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. in December 2008. It was picked up on a routine smear test and I was told to go for a colposcopyClose examination of the cervix of the uterus using a magnifying instrument with attached light source, known as a colposcope. (a detailed examination of the cervixAny neck-like structure; most commonly refers to the neck of the uterus.). They said there was nothing to worry about, that I would be out in 10 minutes. When I was still there an hour later I realised that something was wrong.

The defining moment for me was overhearing my mum on the phone to my brother saying, 'Bec's got cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..' That was the first time I got upset.

Although they found a tumour during the colposcopyClose examination of the cervix of the uterus using a magnifying instrument with attached light source, known as a colposcope., they said it was unlikely to be cancerousMalignant, a tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. in someone of my age but that they would do the test - the results of which would be known in a couple of weeks. I tried not to overthink it, especially because if you went with the statistics my odds were good. It was obvious it was bad news because I got a phone call a week later asking me to come in the next day.

Being told I had cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. at that appointment was certainly a shock, but it only hits home when you start telling people. Many people didn't know what to say, but I didn't know what to say either. The defining moment for me was overhearing my mum on the phone to my brother saying, 'Bec's got cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..' That was the first time I got upset.

Following keyhole surgeryA type of minimally invasive surgery., they said, 'Good news, it hasn't spread, you're having a hysterectomyThe surgical removal of the uterus (womb)..' How could those two statements ever go together when I was 25 and hadn't even begun to have the family I had always presumed I would have?

The support I got from friends and family was more than I could have hoped for and without doubt it helped me come to terms with everything. I was fortunate that I also received brilliant support from work; it was one less thing to worry about.

I had keyhole surgeryA type of minimally invasive surgery. to determine if 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. Had it spread, I was to have chemotherapyThe use of chemical substances to treat disease, particularly cancer.; if not then I would need further surgery. Following keyhole surgeryA type of minimally invasive surgery., they said, 'Good news, it hasn't spread, you're having a hysterectomyThe surgical removal of the uterus (womb)..' How could those two statements ever go together when I was 25 and hadn't even begun to have the family I had always presumed I would have? I was devastated and it was compounded by the fact that people around me were happy about it, thrilled that it hadn't spread. It was definitely a double-edged sword. I got quite angry that week.

Meeting the family-planning doctor was another emotional hurdle. I was given the options of freezing eggs or having eggs fertilised by donor sperm. I just couldn't get my head around it all. I had to make very complicated decisions about what I might want for my future. I chose not to freeze anything. If I had been in a relationship I might have done it because we could have fertilised an egg as a couple.

I still have my ovaries and hopefully they should continue to work. Surrogacy is an option, but it's expensive and I can't imagine what it would be like emotionally to go through it. If not that, then there are a lot of kids out there who need adopting and I'll go down that path. There will be difficult decisions to make in the future, but I hope I'll be ready then and will have someone to make them with.

I've found that I enjoy every experience for what it is and I've actually had the best time of my life since. I had my first check-up at the end of July 2009 and I got the all-clear. I am probably the happiest I have ever been.

For me there are different physical and emotional consequences to having cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. The surgery was painful but you get on with it; there is no choice. Subsequent rehabilitationThe treatment of a person with an illness or disability to improve their function and health. stops you from doing anything for several weeks while you recover, which gives you too much time to overthink things. Then there are all the appointments, perhaps none as distressing as the one for an ultrasound to check on post-surgery cysts, when I found myself in a waiting room full of expectant mothers. The check-ups you require for the next few years affect all future plans and even taking a short holiday is complex, raising various questions for insurance purposes.

Emotionally, it has been hard facing such a disease at a relatively young age. I was hung up on the fact that I was single, and nervous about meeting a guy and telling him. I was concerned that men might not want to be with someone who couldn't have children. I am still single but I have since realised that people do just take you for what you are.

Despite all that, it might sound strange but there are positives that come out of having cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. You appreciate life more and you don't dwell on the small things. I've found that I enjoy every experience for what it is and I've actually had the best time of my life since. I had my first check-up at the end of July 2009 and I got the all-clear. I am probably the happiest I have ever been.