I have officially completed my first full week of treatment! So, 1 chemo and 5 radiotherapy sessions done, 1/20 to go!
So far my symptoms have been minimal, the only thing I am suffering from is nausea. The best way I can describe it is like having a permanent hangover…feeling kind of sick and pathetic and craving only crap food! Obviously isn’t the most fun thing in the world but it could be worse. I’m eating my own weight in ice lollies because they are the only thing that doesn’t make me feel sick…I’m probably going to need new teeth by the end of my treatment!
Tomorrow my second week of treatment starts with chemo and radiotherapy and then on Thursday I will have a review as well as my radiotherapy. This will give me the opportunity to speak to a doctor about how I’m getting on and hopefully they will review my anti-sickness medication. It’s really important to keep them in the loop about side effects/problems because the sooner they know about it, the easier it is to get on top of it.
The treatment itself is pretty straight forward, the radiotherapy takes 10-20 mins depending on whether they do scans at the same time (for my first 3 they did but as the images showed everything lined up perfectly they will just do these once per week from now on). The chemotherapy takes about 3 hours. The worst bit is the travelling…at the moment there are a LOT of roadworks so it’s a 3 hour round trip every day in which I insist on blasting the air con (because I feel sick) so my poor ma is sat there freezing!
A few people have asked me about the name ‘All adventurous women do’, so I thought I would explain.
In the HBO show Girls (Season 1 Episode 3), by the incredibly talented Lena Dunham (if you haven’t seen it watch it immediately if not sooner), Hannah finds out she has Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). There is a scene where Shoshanna tells Hannah that Jessa says “all adventurous women do [have HPV]” (see video clips)!
HPV is an extremely common virus which most people will contract at one time or another. Worldwide, HPV is the most widespread sexually transmitted virus which 80% of the population will contract at some point in their life. Most of the time the body’s immune system is able to clear the infection easily and it is entirely possible to have the virus without any knowledge.
There are over 100 types of HPV. The majority of HPV types infect the skin on external areas of the body, for example verrucas and warts on feet and hands.
Around 40 types of HPV affect the genital areas and approximately 20 of these types are associated with the development of cancer. Around 13 of these 20 types are considered oncogenic (cancer causing), meaning there is credible evidence that they are directly associated with the development of cervical cancer, therefore are considered high risk. These high risk types of HPV are HPV 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59 and 68. High-risk genital HPV types show no symptoms, so a person infected may never even know they have it. Types 16 and 18 are the most prevalent, causing over 70% of cervical cancers (these are the types that the HPV vaccine protects against).
Additionally, there are nine HPV types that may be associated with the development of cervical cancer, but there is not enough evidence for these to be considered high risk types at present. These are HPV 26, 53, 64, 65, 66, 67, 69, 70, 73 and 82.
The remaining genital HPV types are considered low risk because they do not cause cancer. However, they can cause other problems, such as genital warts.
Whilst these types of HPV are predominantly associated with causing cervical cancer, anyone can contract and pass on HPV. Whilst barrier contraceptive methods do lessen the risk of contracting genital types of HPV, it is very easily spread and therefore cannot be prevented altogether.
In the UK HPV testing is carried out as part of cervical screening as it can only be tested from a sample of cells. So, ultimately the only way to monitor whether you have HPV or not and to prevent your risk of developing cervical cancer is through regular and timely screening (and of course through vaccination where appropriate). So go and get your cervix checked out, tell all your friends and family to go and support the vaccination programme for young girls, you might just save a life!