Doctors laughed when I told them I had cervical cancer at 22 – I’d be dead if I hadn’t paid for a smear test


A MUM-OF-TWO who was diagnosed with cervical cancer at 24 says she’d already be dead if she hadn’t paid for her own smear test.

Jody Oxley, from Doncaster, was just 22 when she first noticed some irregular bleeding – but was told she was “too young” to get checked on the NHS.

Mum-of-two Jody Oxley says she’s already be dead if she hadn’t paid for a private smear test
Jody Oxley

After borrowing some money, the stay-at-home mum decided to go private – and was shocked to be told she not only had cervical cancer, but would be dead in nine months without treatment.

Speaking exclusively to Fabulous Digital, Jody, now 25, who’s mum to Marshall, seven, and Lilly, three, tells her story…

I first noticed the bleeding in August 2016. I didn’t think much of it, because I’d just had the contraceptive implant in my arm and assumed it was a side-effect of that.

I’d also given birth to my daughter Lilly 12 months earlier, so thought it might be my body still adjusting.

The mum-of-two was diagnosed in January last year, aged 24, and told she’d be dead with 9 months without treatment
Jody Oxley

But my symptoms continued to get worse – my mum told me to go to the doctor, but I kept putting it off, hoping it would sort itself out.

I didn’t think it could be cancer – there was no family history, and every woman has irregular periods from time to time, I told myself.

By Christmas I was in a bad way, with really heavy bleeding and discharge, so in the new year I finally booked to go and see my GP.

By this time I’d read something on Facebook about cervical cancer, Googled my own symptoms and told her I thought this is what I had.

If I hadn’t been diagnosed and treated I’d be dead within six to nine months, the doctor said

Jody Oxley

She laughed at me when I suggested this, and told me it’s “just the implant”.

I felt so angry and annoyed to be talked down to like that, like a child.

She couldn’t deny my bleeding and discharge, of course, so sent me for swabs and an ultrasound to check for infections or an STD.

The swab results came back clear, and the ultrasound report just said: “Could not be adequately assessed.”

I just couldn’t believe that – what couldn’t be “adequately assessed”? And why not?

I was in pain, I was bleeding massively and the discharge was getting worse, so something was obviously very wrong with me.

Pictured with her partner Andy, a security worker, and kids Marshall, seven, and Lilly, three
Jody Oxley

My GP simply said that nothing indicated she should refer me to see a specialist, and I was too young to have a smear test.

Even if one was done, the lab wouldn’t process it, she said.

By now I was bleeding so much that no amount of sanitary pads could absorb it. I decided I had to take this into my own hands.

I borrowed some money from my mum and rang the private Park Hill Hospital to pay for a smear.

A few days later I finally got to see a consultant gynaecologist, who rolled his eyes when I explained I wanted a smear – again I presume because he thought I was too young.

But the moment he got me on his table to examine me, he knew this was very, very serious.

Get social!

You can help us spread the message by joining in on social.

We’re asking women to share a photo with a pair of knickers and the hashtag #CheersForSmears tagging the women they love in their life, to remind them to get tested on time.

Cervical screenings save 5,000 lives every year – but let’s make that number higher!

Please make sure to also tag @fabulousmag and the charity Jo’s Trust (Twitter: @jotrust, Insta/FB: @joscervicalcancertrust)

He asked how I was getting home, so I told him my partner Andy, a security worker, was outside with our daughter Lilly, who was asleep in the car.

I called Andy, telling him to come in straight away. I asked the doctor “It’s cancer, isn’t it? Has it spread?”

His silence spoke a thousand words. The nurse in the room had started crying, as did I, and when Andy came in, he started crying too.

The consultant told me I’d need a biopsy and a CT scan, which were done in the next few days. Those confirmed my suspicions had been right all along.

I had stage 2B locally advanced cervical cancer and a 5.6cm tumour on my cervix.

If I hadn’t been diagnosed and treated I’d be dead within six to nine months, the doctor said. The biopsy came back clear, but the scan picked up the mass.

The doctor told me I was going to be treated under the NHS, because this should’ve been picked up by my GP.

I knew this would mean we couldn’t have any more children, but I’d been so close to dying and we had two lovely kids already

Jody Oxley

First, I had a blood transfusion, having lost pints and pints of blood by then.

Then I started a six-week course of intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy at Weston Park Hospital, Sheffield, to try to shrink and kill the tumour.

Sadly, that treatment didn’t work as well as hoped – the tumour shrank, but only down to 2cm, so I’d need a salvage hysterectomy, they told me.

Andy and I had been hoping and praying for a hysterectomy – I just wanted this cancer gone so I could be a healthy mum and wife again.

I knew this would mean we couldn’t have any more children, but I’d been so close to dying and we had two lovely kids already.

Why do the NHS-only test every three years?

If they have no prior concerns about a patient, the NHS only test for cervical cancer once every three years (or five years from the age of 50).
This is because yearly testing can pick up minor changes – which then go back to normal.
Over-testing leads to a risk of patients having invasive treatments for conditions which don’t need to be treated.
If you develop new symptoms which are worrying you in between tests, you should always see your GP.

Jody was determined to get better for her kids
Jody Oxley

I had that operation in January 2018, which removed my cervix, womb, ovaries and surrounding lymph nodes.

It also removed all the tumour but the margins on one side weren’t clear – so the surgeon told me there could still be cancer cells.

Petrified, I knew each check-up scan I’d have might throw up bad news, but so far I’m still cancer-free and just feel so lucky to be alive.

I still have constant pain in my hips and legs and frequent water infections, but I’m still here.

Cervical cancer: the stats

Each year here in the UK…

  • 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer.
  • 5,000 women’s lives are saved by cervical screening.
  • 870 women die from cervical cancer.
  • 99.8% of cervical cancer cases are preventable.
  • One in 142 British females will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in their lifetime.
  • 25-29 years peak rate of cervical cancer cases.

I want to share my story to encourage more women to attend screenings – and request one early if they have concerns.

If a young woman requests to have a smear and has symptoms, she should be able to get it.

Cancer pressed pause on my life – I felt stuck for a very long time. The whole experience has changed my perspective and made me realise how precious life is.

The one thing that really got me through this horrific journey was a saint-like CLIC Sargent social worker called Harriet, who was assigned to me when I was first diagnosed in April 2017.

I don’t know how we’d have coped without her.

Thanks to her and CLIC Sargent’s support, I feel like I can go on.

CLIC Sargent supports guidelines which state women aged 20 to 24 years old should be offered a pelvic examination if they experience symptoms such as irregular bleeding.

For more information about CLIC Sargent’s work, visit Clic Sargent or Jo’s Trust.

We previously spoke to a mum who’s never missed a smear test but got cervical cancer at 29 and had to have a hysterectomy.

While Fabulous writer Sophie got a smear test live on camera to show what it’s REALLY like.


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