Wexford cancer survivor Leanne asks 'where's the accountability?'
A young woman who was diagnosed with and treated for cervical cancer when she was just 23-years-old has voiced her reaction to the ongoing Cervical Cancer scandal, saying that the situation is a nightmare for all women as the trust in the system had to be damaged.
Leanne Meyler (26), was diagnosed with cervical cancer in September 2014, but only after insisting that her doctor send her to the hospital, when various different antibiotics did not help to clear cramps she had been suffering from. At 23, Leanne was not old enough to avail of the free Cervical Check smear test.
Leanne spoke out, following chemotherapy and radiotherapy, encouraging women to book their smear tests and not to put them off. She also voiced her belief that the testing age should be lowered as women were becoming sexually active much earlier in life now.
Three years on and Leanne is brought back every six months for regular testing. She fears that the current scandal will greatly damage the trust women have in the programme, saying that many women already put off getting the tests done and this incident would not be encouraging.
'Women have died because of this. I can't even imagine what those families are going through and the anger that they must feel. When I was told I had cervical cancer I was petrified. To be told that everything is fine and then to find out later that, actually, it's not fine and that your previous test showed that, must make these women feel so angry and betrayed.'
She added: 'You put your trust in the system but then you hear about this mess and you have to go back wondering if your test was right or wrong. When I heard about it, my first thought was for those women whose lives have been flipped upside down and they don't know where they stand now. They could go back and be told that nothing can be done for them and all because of a mistake.
'Where's the accountability for those making these mistakes? Anyone else would be sacked and never get a job in that position again.'
Leanne said that in her case, if she hadn't gone to the doctor when she did she would have died. Referring to the age range for Cerivcal Check she pointed out that she had been diagnosed in October 2014 and her cancer was Stage 3B which is an advanced stage.
'Because I'd never had a smear test done, there was no way of knowing how long I'd had it. I first went to the doctor in August with cramps and pain, but I could have had it for any length of time before I started showing symptoms. Even at that, the symptoms are the same as other women's problems.'
Leanne said she had asked in the hospital if she might have cancer and was told that she was 'too young'.
'You never expect to be told, at the age of 23, that you have cancer,' she remarked.
For Leanne, one of the biggest blows was being told that she would never have children: 'I'll never get my head around that part. Every day, that comes into my mind. When you look at your friends having kids, you do feel like you've been left behind. It's what most women do want at some stage in their lives.'
When Leanne finished her treatment in early 2015, she used social media to encourage women to book their smear tests and to stand their ground if they felt something was wrong, pointing out that if she hadn't done that, she would be dead now. She hoped that, if nothing else, the current scandal would encourage women to do that.
She still believes that the age limit should be lowered or that smear tests should, at least, be covered by the medical card so that women under the age of 25 could get one done for free if they had concerns.
New Ross Standard