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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

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Cumbria survivors helping others with cancer

THIS week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, and yes, cervical cancer can be prevented. Cervical screening saves 5,000 lives every year in the UK and yet more than 20 per cent of women invited fail to attend. JO DAVIES meets a support group helping people through the experience.

A SUPPORT group offering help and advice to local people diagnosed with cervical, ovarian, vulval, vaginal and endometrial (COVE) cancers welcomes new members.

Run by cancer survivors, COVE seeks to support people diagnosed with cancer, as well as their friends and relatives, who are welcome to attend the meetings.

The monthly meetings give people the chance to meet others who are going through a similar experience and have similar concerns.

Retired auxiliary nurse, Yvonne Bewley received her treatment five years ago and is living proof that a cancer diagnosis isn’t the death sentence it was in her working days.

“I used to be a nurse and I always said, if you ever find cancer you’re not opening me up, because back then, the majority of people didn’t survive,” said the 73-year-old from Barrow.

“I’m proud of the fact I was told there was nothing they could do and I’m still here.”

Yvonne’s motto is: “Cherish yesterday, dream tomorrow, live today” and she shares a positivity common among the group members.

When we met up with them they are chatting about holidays to exotic locations planned for later this year.

Reflecting on her illness, Joan Cole, the group’s treasurer said: “We were given a second chance and that’s the way I look at life. You do look at life differently.”

They established the support group 14 months ago because when they were diagnosed they found it therapeutic to talk about their experiences.

Discussing cancer with people who have first-hand experience isn’t the morbid conversation you imagine it would be.

They chat openly, honestly and often resort to gallows humour to lighten the atmosphere.

“The ‘big C’ is still very frightening to a lot of people,” said Yvonne.

“We talk openly about it.

“When I was first told I was stunned because there were no symptoms; there’s just a gut instinct that tells you something’s not right.

“When you hear that word, you think I’m going to die.

“It’s like somebody hits you over the head with the heaviest thing.”

She likens cancer to carrying a huge weight around her neck.

“Once you start talking that burden gets lighter and lighter and you feel so much better,” she said.

“People perhaps find it easier to talk to people who have been through it themselves.”

Last March the group found a new home at the Royal British Legion in Holker Street, Barrow, and now meet on the third Thursday of every month.

The next meeting will be held on Thursday February 20, between 2pm and 4pm.

People wanting to know more can contact Yvonne by email: b.bewley79@btinternet.com or call on 0750 109 2603 or 01229 812830.

Know the signs and symptoms

Key messages for women about cervical cancer

CERVICAL cancer is cancer of the cervix. The cervix connects a woman’s womb and her vagina. It is also known as the neck of the womb.
Cervical cancer can affect women of all ages but is most common in women between 30 to 45 years of age. It is very rare in women under 25.
Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by a common sexually transmitted infection called human papillomavirus (HPV). Most women have HPV at some time which usually clears up on its own.
If the infection does not clear up there is a risk of abnormal cells developing which could become cervical cancer over time.
A cervical screening – previously known as a smear test – can prevent cervical cancer and save thousands of lives each year.
The earlier cervical cancer is diagnosed, the better the outcome will be so it is important to know the signs and symptoms.

Early signs and symptoms of cervical cancer

Any unusual bleeding from the vagina particularly:
– after sex
– after the menopause when your periods have stopped.

Persistent vaginal discharge that is blood-stained or smells unpleasant

Find out more about cervical cancer at:
www.eveappeal.org.uk
www.nhs.uk/livewell/cancer
www.cancerscreening.nhs.uk/cervical

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