Saturday 20 January 2018

'Me and my dad joked about going through therapy together... he passed away six weeks later' - a young Irish woman's harrowing story

Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

THE weeks generally pass by without major incident. But not always.

For Ania Sherlock one week was the difference between life as a normal 22-year-old to facing the toughest battle of her life.

After weeks of pain and irregular bleeding which she attributed to her contraception, it was just seven days after a gynaecologist appointment that Ania found herself hooked up  to an IV undergoing aggressive chemotherapy in St Vincent’s Hospital. She had been diagnosed with cervical cancer at the age of 22.

“I got my first round of chemotherapy on the day before Christmas Eve 2013. It all happened very, very fast. It was a whirlwind. One week you’re a fine, normal 22-year-old and the next week you’re on chemotherapy battling cervical cancer,” said Ania.

“Basically it started with irregular bleeding. My periods were just not going the right way. It was quite painful at times and I obviously didn’t jump to the conclusion that it could be the worst thing it could be. I thought it was due to different things like perhaps the contraception I was using. As soon as I mentioned it to my mum she more or less urged me to go to the gynaecologist straight away.

“The examination lasted about five minutes. She took one look at me and she sent me straight to the hospital. Within one week I was on chemo,” she said.

Ania Sherlock pictured before she was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer at the age of 22. Photo Credit Ania Sherlock

Ania Sherlock pictured before she was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer at the age of 22.

It was a particularly difficult Christmas for the Sherlock family as Ania’s dad John (65) was diagnosed with cancer within one week of her, a battle which he would tragically lose six weeks later.

Read more:  Revealed: The biggest influence on a woman's decision to have a smear test

“Me and my dad joked about going through therapy together, losing our hair together and then coming out of it the other side. I had this idea that we were going to get through this together and have this support system.

“Obviously when he passed away six weeks later it was shattered. But he gave me some really great advice. There’s things he said to me that gave me that strength to keep going and the positivity I think I had the whole way through treatment,” said Ania

ania and dad 2012.JPG
Ania Sherlock pictured with her dad John, who died six weeks after her diagnosis. Photo Credit Ania Sherlock

Ania Sherlock pictured with her dad John, who died six weeks after her diagnosis.

Coping with the grief of losing her father along with the hardship of intensive chemotherapy made it all the more difficult three months later when Ania’s oncologists told her that her treatment was not shrinking her tumour as expected. An invasive course of radiation was the only option left, but the targeted course of treatment meant that Ania’s fertility would be affected and her ability to have biological children would be taken away.

“It was tough going through it and realising that I would never have kids naturally. I’m adopted so it was always something I wanted. To have a child that half looked like me was a big deal. It was a big blow to hear that I would never be able to have children so I suppose after that my goal in the long term was to adopt. When you’re told you’re not allowed to have kids, you want what you can’t have and I felt that pressure. Two years into remission I feel like I’ve kind of turned a corner and I’ve realised I’m not going to put that pressure on myself anymore,” she said.

Ania pictured at her first Chemotherary session. Ania was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer at the age of 22. Photo Credit Ania Sherlock

Ania pictured at her first Chemotherary session

After radiation, the content creator admitted she was keen to get back to normal life after the most difficult ten months of her life.

Read more: What happens when you get a smear test? A step-by-step guide to cervical screening

“I don’t feel like I grieved for my dad properly until my treatment was completely done and everything went back to normal. But then it hit me like a train. Even though I probably wasn’t physically ready, I knew I wanted to go back to work as soon as I could. I felt like I had spent ten months sitting around being sick and I just wanted to feel worth. I’m lucky to work with such a great company that have supported me throughout my illness.”

Ania Sherlock was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer at the age of 22. Photo Credit Ania Sherlock

Ania Sherlock was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer at the age of 22

Ania has been in remission for two years and she admitted that life, for the most part, has returned to normal. The content creator recently became engaged to her long-term boyfriend Sean (27), who was by her side through everything she went through.

“It was tough on our relationship but Sean is great. He never faltered and there was never even a moment of doubt with him. He was with me by my side from day one. We met when I was 19 and he was 21 we’ll be six years together this year. He proposed to me on my birthday in February, in our apartment. It had such significance to me because it was where I got through everything and it’s our home we’ve made together. So we now have a wedding to plan and look forward to. We’ve been through a lot from a young age but I think it’s made us stronger.”

Read more: Cervical cancer: All you need to know

When it comes to the smear test, available to Irish women after their 25th birthday, Ania urged young women to take the exam seriously, as it could save their lives.

“You need to weigh out the options. To go for a smear test that literally takes ten minutes or to spend a year or two fighting for your life. It’s just common sense. Take advantage of it, do it. The reason why a lot of people don’t do it is because it’s embarrassing and invasive. But you just have to remember these people are doctors doing their jobs. You are no different than any other woman that passes through. If we could shed the embarrassment and go look, this is your life and it’s important.”

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Anna Sherlock pictured with her Fiancé Sean.

Anna Sherlock pictured with her Fiancé Sean

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