“Don’t settle, stand your ground and tell them you need to be seen”
A young mum from Leyland says she feels “let down by the system” and faces an agonising results wait following a devastating diagnosis.
Courtney Gibbons, who has two small children, has undergone extensive surgery in recent weeks and now faces an agonizing wait for results to find out whether she is all clear of cancer. The brave 24-year-old has had her womb, uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, appendix and lymph nodes removed in a bid to rid herself of the disease.
The activity coordinator at Lostock Grove Rest Home in Leyland was given the terrifying news on August 2 and said doctors at Royal Preston Hospital where she was treated told her she was one of the youngest, if not the youngest, patient to have had cervical cancer at the hospital. Courtney has a four-year-old son, Kamiy and a five-year-old daughter, Ariah, and is campaigning to reduce the age women begin to have their smears from 25 to 21, having been advised a cervical screening may have stopped the spread.
She told the M.E.N: “I am only 24 so didn’t qualify for a smear which is why I am so passionate about the age being reduced. As soon as you are sexually active you are at risk.”
Courtney said she began to worry last year when she started having irregular bleeding between her periods and so made an appointment with her doctor. When attending the surgery she says she was told by her GP not to worry and it was probably something of nothing.
She said she went back multiple times because she knew something wasn’t right, and says: “Every time I picked my son up, coughed or went to the toilet I would spot some blood.” Courtney says she was given Norethisterone pills that stop bleeding but she wanted to know why she was bleeding in the first place.
Courtney said she was referred to a gynaecologist and then referred to colposcopy where it was discovered she had CIN stage 3. This means she had severely abnormal cells on the cervix, which after a biopsy was identified as cervical cancer.
She said: “I went with my son to get the results as I just wasn’t expecting to be told it was cancer. But they said ‘I am sorry to tell you but you have cervical cancer.’
“I was numb. I then went for a PET scan which showed me that the cancer had spread to my fallopian tubes, appendix and pelvic lymph nodes.”
But Courtney said she refused to get upset as she “needed to be strong” for her children. She said: “I knew I was powerless to do anything but turn up for my appointments.
“There was no point in getting upset – it wouldn’t change anything.”
After extensive open abdominal surgery on September 5, brave Courtney who said surgeons were shocked at her pragmatic, no nonsense approach to what she was going through, is now awaiting results in the next two to four weeks to find out whether she is cancer free. If not, then she says she will have to start radio or chemo therapy.
Refusing to let it hold her back, Courtney said since being discharged from hospital on the 10th, she is back doing the school run, hoovering and getting on with the housework. And she said she will be writing to her local MP to discuss a petition to lower the age women have smears from 25 to 21.
She added: “I want to raise awareness that no matter how old you are, if you know something is not right then you know your body better than anyone else. And to tell women if you are spotting make sure you go and get checked.
“Don’t settle, stand your ground and tell them you need to be seen. The sad thing is I was told by a cancer specialist that if I had qualified for a cervical screening the cancer may not have spread.
“I feel let down by the system.”
Courtney also said life has never felt so precious. She said: “You have to live life while you can, because you never know which second is going to be your last. Life feels so precious. It’s made me realise you have to live for each day.”
A spokesperson for the NHS said: “The NHS cervical screening programme remains an important way of protecting people developing cervical cancer, and we encourage those eligible to come forward when invited.
“In 2012, the UK National Screening Committee reviewed the age which cervical screening is first offered and concluded that the evidence did not support reducing the age of screening to women under the age of 25. As such, there are currently no plans to reduce the age for the cervical screening programme in England.”
- 10:12, 21 SEP 2022