At 23 years old, Chelsea was diagnosed with cervical cancer – stage 1B1 adenocarcinoma of the cervix. Chelsea was the first in Queensland and second in Australia to have laparoscopic surgery by way of radical trachelectomy and pelvic lymphadenectomy performed.
After four months of emotional and physical turmoil, during the prime of her life, Chelsea’s results came back all clear. She is now on three monthly check-ups for the next two years. The surgeon who performed the surgery told Chelsea she had made ‘history’.
Now a lawyer in Brisbane, Chelsea is a passionate advocate for the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation (ACCF), helping to drive awareness of the importance of having regular pap tests.
My story began almost two years ago with an experience I had always dreaded: the Pap test.
In January 2012, at 23 years old, I went to my GP for a Pap test – something I was six months overdue for. This wasn’t my ‘first time’; I knew what to expect and was dreading it.
A week after the Pap test, I received a call from my GP asking me to make an appointment to discuss the results.
I psyched myself up for the appointment, fully expecting to have to repeat the test. I thought perhaps the sample wasn’t adequate.
My GP said the results revealed ‘possible high grade glandular lesion’ and I needed to see a gynaecologist for further testing.
While I was nervous about seeing the specialist, I tried to remain positive. I remember my Mum telling me lots of women have abnormal Pap test results and I shouldn’t be worried.
The gynaecologist performed a test called a colposcopy and took a biopsy – both very unpleasant experiences. I had always felt nervous and uncomfortable having my nether regions inspected, and this time was no different.
The following week I had every scenario running through my head. It was so hard to try and block everything out and get on with life. My Mum came with me to see the gynaecologist and get the results, I wanted her there for support and to understand what was happening to me. The results confirmed the Pap test. I needed to have a cone biopsy to determine the diagnosis.
The gynaecologist had discussed my results with an oncologist and an appointment had been made for treatment. I freaked out! I knew that oncologists specialised in the treatment of cancer. I was horrified to think that I may have had cancer. I was only 23.