A brave nurse living heartbreaking terminal cancer diagnosis is urging other women to keep up to date with smear tests, after being told she had stage three cervical cancer last year.
Brave nurse Charlotte Woodward is trying to raise awareness of her condition after she experienced abnormal bleeding in October last year.
Charl, 31, has had her life turned upside down by the diagnosis, after surgeons told her they could not operate on the cancer as it had already spread to her lymph nodes.
Instead, a treatment plan was put into place with an intent to cure the cancer and save Charl’s life.
Charl completed 25 gruelling sessions of radiotherapy, four sessions of chemotherapy and three sessions of brachytherapy (internal radiotherapy) and also had coronavirus.
She, along with her family and friends, were hoping to get the all clear in May this year.
But on April 16, Charl received some devastating news.
Her cancer had spread to her hip and the cancer was re-graded at stage 4B – the worst stage there is.
Three days later, Charl’s oncologist broke the news that, without treatment, she had less than 16 months to live.
One option is to undergo major surgery to replace her hip, plus 18 weeks of chemotherapy, which could mean her prognosis would be, on average 18 to 24 months.
Now Charl’s friend, Kirsty Brown, has set up a Go Fund Me Page, to try and raise £50,000 to pay for alternative therapies and life-extending treatment. And more than £20,000 has already been donated.
Charl, of Fenton, who works in private healthcare said: “I was having abnormal bleeding and I went for a smear test as normal and it came back as clear. But because I was having abnormal bleeding I was referred to the hospital and it was picked up. I discovered a smear test does not detect cancer. Even as a nurse I did not know. My main emphasis is to tell other people about what I discovered. My friends did not know.
“I was diagnosed with stage three cancer. It was quite advanced as there are only four stages. My consultant told me she was going to do everything she could to cure me. It was in my lymph nodes as well.”
Charl was forced to attend the majority of her hospital appointments completely alone, due to coronavirus restrictions.
She said: “I have had to do everything on my own. I was on my own when I was told I had cancer.
“I finished my treatment in February and was due to find out in May if it had worked. But in April I started getting pains in my hip. The consultant sent me for a scan and it was discovered the cancer had spread to my bones. On April 19 I was told I have 18 to 24 months to live.
“My friend Kirsty Brown set up a Go Fund Me page when I received the tragic news. It is overwhelming how much money has been donated. I can’t believe how kind and nice people are. It is amazing.
“On my Instagram page I am doing a lot of raising awareness and educating people. I have 6,000 followers and only had 200 before. My main concern is to try and raise awareness to young girls and women about abnormal signs and when to get things checked out. No-one is ever told this.
Cervical cancer is when abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix grow in an uncontrolled way.
The main symptom is unusual bleeding from the vagina.
Around 3,200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK each year. That’s around 9 cases diagnosed every day.
Finding changes in the cells through screening can help to prevent cancer developing.
Cervical cancer is more common in younger women. More than half of the cervical cancer cases in the UK each year are diagnosed in women under the age of 45.
Treatment depends on where in the cervix the cancer is, how big it is, whether it has spread anywhere else in the body and general health.
Usually surgery is needed or a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy (chemoradiotherapy).
A colposcopy is a simple procedure used to look at the cervix, the lower part of the womb at the top of the vagina.
It’s often done if cervical screening finds abnormal cells in your cervix.
“You leave school and when you hit 25 you get a letter on the doorstep saying you need to go for a smear. You are never told what it is. You do not know what signs to look for. So many people have messaged me saying they have been to their GP and if it wasn’t for me they would not have gone to get it checked out.
“The main thing for me is helping other people. As soon as you have the symptoms you need to get checked out straight away.
“I have a very supportive family and friends. I can’t thank them enough. They are all amazing. The money will help pay for treatment not available on the NHS and if there is any left I would like it to be used for educating women.”