Samantha Hickling's story (Part Two): How 26-year-old found out she had cancer
Until Sunday, we will be featuring the story of 26-year-old cervical cancer sufferer Samantha Hickling, who has been told she has just months to live. She hopes that sharing her tale will encourage other women to attend routine smear tests and get any symptoms they are concerned about check out. Today, the former finance manager, explains how her cancer was diagnosed…
Born in Worksop, Sam moved to Alvingham at the age of seven and attended North Cockrington Primary and King Edward Grammar.
Following a short stint as a healthcare assistant at Boots, she continued her studies and took her Association of Accounting Technician's qualification.
She joined North East Lincolnshire Care Trust Plus and later became finance manager for NAViGO, the organisation dealing with mental health in the region.
Throughout her late teens and early twenties, she had suffered from heavy periods, back pain and bleeding between periods and after intercourse, but she never imagined it could be cancer.
She had four smear tests, all of which gave different results. The first, in 2009, showed some minor cell abnormalities, but the second, a year later, was clear.
It wasn't until 2011 that Level 3 abnormalities were discovered and further tests carried out.
Sam explained: “My biggest concern at that stage was that I wouldn’t be able to have children because I’ve always wanted them so much.
“I knew there must be something seriously wrong because I was called in two days after having a coloscopy and I’d seen on the monitor when I was having it that something didn’t look right.
“When they told me they had found cancerous cells, it didn’t sink in. I had to ask them whether that meant I had cancer; I couldn’t comprehend it.
“I remember that the world seemed to stop and I couldn’t think about anything else. The consultant was telling me how my treatment would progress but I didn’t hear him.
“Luckily, they are prepared for that reaction and I was taken to meet my nurse who gave us time to cry and information to take away with us.”
Sam was told she had a rare form of cervical cancer, Adenosquamous carcinoma, and that it had spread in such a way that surgery was not an option.
She began a combination of chemotheraphy and radiotherapy, followed by internal radiotherapy, known as brachytherapy, and was told she had a 60 per cent chance of survival at that stage.
She added: “I responded well to treatment and the consultant told me he would put me in remission.
“I knew I wouldn’t be able to believe it until I’d had another MRI scan to double check.
“I’d started to think about going back to work and we were on our way to the airport for a family holiday in Cyprus when they called and said the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes.
“I had just a few hours before take-off to inform the insurance company that the cancer had spread but we did manage to get away and I’m so glad we did because I have amazing memories of that holiday.”
Samantha would like to thank all of her family and friends for their care and support and Jo’s Trust – which is dedicated to promoting awareness of cervical cancer and providing support for sufferers – for their help.
To find out more, visit www.jostrust.org.uk