by NICOLE MADIGAN EVEREST
You hear about it almost every day.
In the news, on television, statistics, sometimes even friends of friends.
Yet you never think it’s going to happen to you. Until it does.
I never contemplated being directly impacted by cancer.
I never even entertained the prospect that my friends or family would ever fall victim to it.
Yet they have.
Considering the statistics, it’s quite illogical to think cancer won’t touch your life, one way or another.
First two of my brother’s closest friends lost their lives to cancer.
Then my mother was diagnosed with cancer – a devastating reality check if ever I’ve had one.
Surgery and a benign tumour resulted in her survival. An outcome I am thankful for every day.
And then this happened.
My sister-in-law lost her life to Cervical Cancer.
My beautiful, fit, healthy, young sister-in-law.
Janelle was 34 when she lost her battle. Leaving behind her husband, Brett and two gorgeous children, Keirra, 5 and Ethan, 3.
And what a battle is was. Janelle fought harder and endured more than any person should have to. She did it because she loved life. And believed in miracles.
Her mantra throughout her journey was to “never never never give up”. And she never did.
And neither did her husband – my brother – who was by her side every step of the way. Her biggest supporter. Her biggest believer.
And although he’s now coping with the loss of his soulmate, he still hasn’t given up. Brett is dedicated to fulfilling Nelly’s dream – to help others fighting terminal illness and help raise awareness and funds for the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation.
Thirty-eight and a half Australian women out of every hundred don’t have a Pap test, or Pap smear, every two years as recommended.
Here’s why you should have them.
1. It prevents around 90% of cervical cancers.
2. Over 90% of women diagnosed with cervical cancer in Victoria either never had a Pap test, or had not had Pap tests regularly before being diagnosed. I’m no statistician, but we can assume that this percentage would roughly apply Australia-wide.
3. It’s one of the very few cancers that can be pretty much prevented. Pap tests allow women to take control of their bodies and say with a large degree of certainty that “cervical cancer will not happen to me”.
To help achieve their dreams, Brett is launching the Janelle’s Miracle Foundation to support those facing a similar situation and to promote cancer awareness, prevention, good health and wellbeing.
As part of the foundation, Brett has teamed up with Crocs Play Centres in Victoria, offering a free monthly event for children who have lost a parent to come and play with other kids facing the same confusion and isolation.
It’s also a great place for remaining parents to spend time with others who understand the pain, fear and loss they are experiencing.
Brett is also raising funds for the ACCF through the Melbourne Marathon. You can sponsor him by clicking here.
Although Nelly has left this Earth, Brett still believes in miracles. And in life. And most importantly in hope and in love.
Yes, cancer does exist, it’s common and it can happen to you – but in many cases can be cured if detected early enough.
So stop making excuses. There’s no better time than now to start looking after you.
In case you needed further prompting, here are some stats.
- All women aged between 18 and 70 who have ever been sexually active should have a Pap test every two years. This includes women who have had the HPV vaccine, which helps prevent around 70% of cervical cancers.
- A Pap test looks for changes to the cells on the cervix which if left undetected and untreated, could potentially develop into cervical cancer.
- Cervical cancer is quite slow-growing (10-15 years) so a Pap test every two years is usually enough time to detect and treat such changes before this happens.
- Cervical cancer in Australia is reasonably rare and this is because of the National Cervical Screening Program (Pap tests).
- In Australia Cervical Cancer is about the 13th most common cancer affecting women
- Each year there are around 150-200 deaths from the disease.
- 90% of women diagnosed with cervical cancer had either never had a Pap test or didn’t have them regularly in the 10 years before diagnosis. It is estimated that two-yearly Pap tests save around 1200 Australian women from being diagnosed with cervical cancer each year.
Nicole Madigan is a journalist, editor and communications specialist , an ambassador for the Miracle Babies Foundation and the full-time mother of two rambunctious toddlers. You can follow her on Twitter here.