A woman has spoken of her heartbreak after discovering her “irregular period” was actually terminal cancer.
Katrina Cunnane, a 34-year-old business manager from Brisbane, Australia, was driving down the Pacific Highway towards Sydney when she felt blood seeping through her underwear.
As she had recently stopped her contraceptive injection, she assumed it was an irregular period, but her mum, a retired nurse, insisted she go to the emergency room immediately.
Katrina didn’t know then, but her symptoms were the first warning sign that a massive tumour had grown across her cervix and was steadily spreading into her womb.
Less than two years later, the fit and healthy power-lifter is undergoing palliative chemotherapy to prolong her life as she prays for a miracle.
After a hospital examination on December 23, doctors put Katrina back on a contraceptive pill to regulate what they diagnosed as a hormonal imbalance triggered by coming off her injection.
But when bleeding resumed, accompanied by lower back pain, she saw her GP who referred her for a pap smear, detecting a mass of abnormal cells.
She told Daily Mail Australia: “We all knew that I had cancer, but no one wanted to say it out loud.”
Women are advised to have cervical screening tests to check for both cancerous and pre-cancerous cells every five years, provided the most recent test showed no abnormalities.
Katrina’s last test was six year’s ago before her diagnosis and returned a clean bill of cervical health.
In a second devastating blow, Katrina was told with her diagnosis that her cervix had been so badly damaged she would never be a mum.
“I was inconsolable. Being a mum is all I’ve ever wanted,” she said.
Katrina is now urging other women to come forward and get tested, as well as encouraging them to speak more openly about their vaginal health.
“It’s time for women to look out for other women – ask each other if you’re up to date with your pap smears,” she said.
“There’s so much embarrassment about these conversations but it’s about time we started having them.
“Too many women are dying, let’s have each other’s backs.”
Other symptoms of cervical cancer include vaginal bleeding between periods, menstrual bleeding longer or heavier than usual, bleeding after sex, pain during sex, unusual vaginal discharge, and vaginal bleeding after menopause.