'Don't put off your smear' warns mum, 27, after cancer battle
- Credit: Jasmine Carter
A mum-of-two who was diagnosed with cervical cancer at the age of 26 is encouraging young women not to delay getting a smear test like she did.
Jasmine Carter, 27, beat the illness after undergoing months of intense treatment last year and said being cancer-free is the "best news to come out of 2020".
Ms Carter, who lives in Hadleigh with her fiancé Grant Salisbury, daughter Poppy, 11, and son Freddie, aged two, started to show symptoms back in February 2019.
She experienced spotting after sex but put it to the back of her mind as she had recently given birth.
A couple of months later she began to suffer bleeding between periods, which was often uncontrollable and painful with large blood clots.
The former support worker said she knew something was wrong, adding: "deep down I knew I had cancer".
She was reluctant to go to the doctors as she didn't want to be examined while bleeding; a decision she now regrets.
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Weeks went by before she finally got round to having her smear test, and when she did she was given an urgent cancer referral.
Ms Carter said this was a scary time, but it was also a relief her symptoms were being taken seriously.
"All of a sudden it felt very real," she said. "My results showed severe pre-cancerous cells and I was HPV positive."
The following day Ms Carter had a colposcopy, which gives doctors a close-up look at the cervix.
Her results were very suspicious, so she was given a biopsy to determine a diagnosis as well as an MRI and PET scan to see if the cancerous cells had spread.
She was diagnosed with stage 2b cervical cancer and had 25 radiotherapy sessions, five doses of chemotherapy and three sessions of brachytherapy.
"I was very relieved it was still at a treatable stage," said Ms Carter. "The amount I was bleeding I was convinced it was going to be untreatable."
Ms Carter chose not to freeze her eggs when given the chance, as she was concerned it would slow down her treatment and she wanted to be here for her kids.
"My kids were my motivation to get through it all," she explained.
In April she was given the all clear and "burst into tears" when she was told.
Ms Carter wishes she had gone to see someone sooner and is now focussed on helping young girls to understand the severities of cervical cancer and what symptoms to look out for.
She said: "They should be talking about it in schools and in sex education.
"It definitely needs to be spoken about more as I put mine off for various reasons, but it is such a quick and simple thing. You are in and out within 15 minutes.
"I wish I had gone with my gut and got checked straight away. I regret not going sooner."
Ms Carter now suffers from bowel and bladder damage from radiotherapy, as well as bone damage and going through menopause.
She said she feels extremely lucky to still be here and is looking forward to tying the knot in October.
You can donate to Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust here.