Womb cancer and endometrial cancer are massively ignored in the media - it's the fourth most common cancer in women in the UK - yet it is overlooked.
I was diagnosed with early stage 1 endometrial cancer last year in April. I was 33 at the time, and it was a complete shock. I’d noticed a dramatic change in my periods, and was in a fair bit of pain, so I went to see my GP. She referred me to the hospital for an ultrasound, which showed a thickening of the lining of my womb. I then went on to have a diagnostic hysteroscopy – a camera being put into my womb through my cervix; which showed a growth, which looked like a typical polyp (according to the doctor). I had the poly removed; but to my horror it was full of pre-cancerous cells and some stage one cancer cells.
My consultant decided the best way to treat it was hormone treatment – which was very difficult, as it put me in a medically induced menopause. Following the treatment, I had another hysteroscopy and biopsy, which showed abnormalities and pre-cancerous cells; which was devastating. I felt like the sky was coming in. I got the results the day before my 34th birthday.
Even though my husband and I had only been married for five months at the time of the second biopsy, and would dearly have loved to have children, we decided that having a hysterectomy would be the best course of action. My consultant agreed that it was a reasonable course of action, and I had a total hysterectomy (removal of womb and cervix only – I still have my ovaries) on 19th May this year.
As part of my recovery plan, I’ve taken up mindfulness meditation. A friend of mine is a practitioner of mindfulness meditation, and she took me through the basics, and I found it to be very calming and relaxing. Knowing that my recovery would be a long, slow, probably painful process, I thought that it would be a good thing to take up.
Mindfulness is all about experiencing what is happening at the moment – how you feel, what is going on around you etc. It helps you to stop worrying about the future, focussing on the past, and is very stilling and grounding. I have been using the audio tracks available on the internet, and found them to be very helpful. The tracks I listen to are from the UCLC Mindfulness Awareness Research Centre (http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=22). There are different tracks for different circumstances, basic breathing meditation, full meditation tracks, mindfulness for dealing with difficulties (which is very useful for helping deal with pain) and my personal favourite – a body scan to prepare you for sleep.
After major surgery, it is very important to be kind to yourself, and mindfulness helps a lot with that. Insomnia is common, so being able to relax and unwind to help with sleep is invaluable. Although it’s very early days for me, I know I will carry on with practicing mindfulness, meditating and giving myself the time and kindness required to recover fully.