Woman Joins Irwin Mitchell in Speaking Out To Support Others Affected By Disease
It may be grey, cold and the middle of winter but insect repellent is at the forefront of Kate Mason’s mind.
The mum-of-two ensures applying it throughout the day is top of her to do list – because not doing so can have far reaching consequences.
For Kate is living with the effects of having her lymph nodes removed as part of her treatment for cervical cancer. She is now at high risk of lymphedema in her legs. People with the chronic long-term condition struggle to drain fluid from their body, meaning any infection from something as small as a spot, bite or skin nick would see Kate’s legs balloon up, potentially leaving her immobile.
Kate, 42, was diagnosed with the disease in August last year. Kate had attended every smear test offered to her and had not had abnormal smear before 2018. However, she had lived with a strain of the HPV virus associated with cervical cancer since it was picked up during a test she had at the same time of a routine smear test in 2014. In the subsequent years she had attended a number of medical appointments at GP surgeries and Sheffield’s Jessop Wing hospital.
Kate of Dore, Sheffield, who has asked expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to help establish answers to the concerns she has about her care, is using Cervical Cancer Prevention Week to speak about her experience in the hope of raising awareness of the symptoms of the disease as well as the help available following diagnosis.
Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people diagnosed with cervical cancer
She says: “At first when I was told about the HPV virus I was not that concerned and I was attending medical appointments.
“Last year I had another smear which showed borderline changes. That is when I started to get really concerned.
“My friends and family were trying to tell me not to worry but nothing can prepare you for the news that you have cancer. When I heard those words my life was turned upside down.
“My head was in a spin and I was scared about what the future would hold, not only for me but my children.”
Kate, who runs a wedding business, has two daughters Isabella and Kitty, aged 11 and five.
After her smear in 2014 she attended a GP surgery the following year for another test as well as subsequent appointments at the Jessop Wing. Between 2015 and 2018 she started experiencing irregular periods – something that had not happened previously – and occasional bleeding.
From 2017 onwards Kate started to suffer with water infections for which she sought medical advice.
Last May tests revealed the HPV virus was still present. Following further tests she returned from a family holiday to Ibiza to be told she had cervical cancer.
Doctors told Kate that there was a five per cent chance that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, but she was told that if the cancer had spread, she would never know and it could kill her. Kate opted to have her lymph node removes, saying that her obligation to her two young children outweighed the devastation of potentially developing the lymphedema which would not kill her like the cancer would. She also underwent a full hysterectomy.
Kate is now clear of cancer. However, she attends regular hospital appointments as she is still at risk for next five years of it returning. In addition, Kate has recently found out that she has developed lymph cysts as a result of her surgery which may require draining regularly.
She says: “Although I no longer have cancer that’s not the end of it. One of the biggest effects it has had on me is now that I’m at risk of lymphedema. |I can’t shave my legs in the bath or the shower now. This is something most women take for granted but the slightest cut could be devastating. Instead I have to use an electric razor which is not as effective.
“I have to moisturise my legs every day, I’m constantly checking for marks or cracks on my skin, I can’t walk around in bare feet and have to wear insect repellent. You would hope the cold weather would have killed off insects but I can’t take the risk of getting bitten.”
Kate, who has surgical scars, lives with leg pains which makes exercising more difficult. Previously she enjoyed running with her partner Rob and had completed half marathons, including Sheffield Half Marathon in April 2017 and April 2018.
She adds: “There have been times when it has been a struggle, not only for me but for my family. At first we didn’t know what to do, but when the news of my diagnosis started to sink in I started to find out about the support that is available. Charities like Jo’s Trust have been amazing.
“Our family know that we face challenges ahead but we are determined to try and concentrate on the future. I just hope that by speaking out, other women and their families realise the help and support available to them.”
Expert Opinion“The last few months have been incredibly difficult for Kate and her family as they attempted to come to terms with her diagnosis and the effect it will have on her life.
“Kate has shown great bravery in speaking out about her experience, in a bid to help others affected by cancer.
“Early diagnosis is key to beating cervical cancer therefore it is vital that women fully participate in the NHS screening programme, are aware of the symptoms, and if needed, ensure they receive medical advice as soon as possible.
“It is important that women diagnosed with the disease do not feel alone as there is help and support available.” Rebecca Hall - Solicitor
Cervical Cancer Prevention Week is organised by charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and runs from 21-27 January. For more information visit www.jostrust.org.uk