A mum who had delayed going for her routine smear test after welcoming her second child said she was frightened her children would be left without a mother when she was diagnosed with pre-cancerous cells.
Esther Hope (36) and her husband Gareth were shocked when high-grade-three pre-cancerous cells were discovered following a biopsy and doctors told the couple that cervical cancer would have developed within six months, had the mum’s smear not picked up abnormalities.
"I had just welcomed my second baby in 2012 and I was so busy juggling the two kids," said Esther speaking to Independent.ie.
"I knew I was overdue my smear test but when you're so busy things just go out of your head. Luckily I had a friend who was harassing me to just go and get it over and done with. It was just a simple trip into my GP, an uncomfortable minute or two, and I forgot about it soon after that," said Esther from Gorey in Wexford.
"About six weeks after my smear, Cervical Check got in touch with me to say there had been some abnormalities, which was worrying. I was sent down to Wexford Hospital for a biopsy and a few weeks later I was given the news that I had high-grade-three pre-cancerous cells. It was a very scary thing to be told in just six months or a year I’d have had cancer, when I had two small kids at home relying on me."
Following the diagnosis, stay-at-home mum Esther, then 31, underwent LLETZ treatment to burn away the abnormal tissue. The mum-of-two said it was an intense time for her family, but her husband proved to be a huge support during the frightening process.
"The procedure I underwent involved burning away the cells that were there, which was quite unpleasant and a little bit invasive. Luckily I have such a good support in my husband Gareth, who came with me to my appointments along the way.
"It still frightens me to think that I could have developed cervical cancer because of a routine thing I had been putting off. My kids might have been left without their mum."
More than 300 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Ireland each year, and Esther says her experience has encouraged her to become a campaigner for Cervical Check. In Ireland, women over the age of 25 are entitled to a free smear test through the service.
"I have never thanked anyone as much as my friend, who kept reminding me to go for that smear. For women over the age of 25 it's a free service, and such an important one. Now I’ve become this strange person who is always telling women to just go and get it done. It’s two minutes of slight discomfort, but it could save your life."
The Pearl of Wisdom campaign was launched by broadcaster Maura Derrane this week to mark Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. It is supported by the national screening programme CervicalCheck, and the Irish Family Planning Association. For more information visit cervicalcheck.ie.
Irish medical experts have once again stressed the importance of regular smear tests in the prevention of cervical cancer and urged Irish women to avail of the free service available to them, which could save their lives.