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Sunday 22 April 2018

'Have a smear test' - it means you are looking after your life, says cancer survivor Kim

Kim Hanly was diagnosed with cervical cancer, which led to a hysterectomy and removal of her ovaries.
Kim Hanly was diagnosed with cervical cancer, which led to a hysterectomy and removal of her ovaries.

At just 26 Kim Hanly was diagnosed with cervical cancer, which led to a hysterectomy and an operation to remove her ovaries, meaning she'd never become pregnant again.

Ahead of the Irish Cancer Society's Daffodil Day on March 23, Kim, from Tallaght, is highlighting her own story to encourage other women to never put off smear tests, or ignore concerning symptoms.

The IT management student is eternally grateful she became a young mum to Evan (7) and Shane (9) in her early 20s because now she could never carry a pregnancy. Cervical cancer led to her having a hysterectomy and eventually both ovaries removed, putting an end to having any more children in the future.

Lucky

"I used to get so upset being around pregnant women because I knew I could never have more children. I can't even watch One Born Every Minute on TV any more and I used to love that show," she said.

"But I am so lucky to have my children and I have no regrets because I'm doing all I can to help others. And I'm hoping someone might read this who could be helped by it."

When she was just 25, the busy mum ignored concerning symptoms and delayed going for her first ever smear test.

After her body was ravaged by the illness, Kim eventually went into premature menopause at just 31.

Se said: "Women put things off like a smear but they'll go to get their hair, nails and waxing done. I want the women who put off their smears to pop their PPS numbers online to cervicalcheck.ie to see if they are due a smear and if they are, I want to ask them to go to have one because you'll be finished within minutes and you're looking after your health, your life."

In 2011, Kim received a letter for her first smear test.

"I had other stuff going on, so I ignored it. I thought I'd get round to it," she said.

"I was only 25, I told myself, I'm fine. But a couple of months later I started getting symptoms."

After she finally went for a smear, her test results came back "abnormal".

Kim went to Tallaght Hospital where the news she'd been dreading was delivered to her.

"He said, 'I'm really sorry, you have cervical cancer'. I was 26. I had my mum and sister outside the room," she said.

Kim was transferred to St James's Hospital. "I was told it was stage 1B1. It normally starts at 1A," Kim said. "They said I'd need a radical hysterectomy. I was told at what stage the cancer was and the size it was, and then I heard the words, 'We need to take everything'.

"I asked, 'Can I keep my ovaries, I don't want to go into menopause?'

"I was told, 'We're going to take your womb, fallopian tube and the top of the vagina'. I'd gone to see the doctor first in May and by September I was having this major operation."

The procedure was a success and Kim later went into remission, but during that time she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia - a disorder characterised by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.

She had her left ovary removed in December 2014 and her right was removed in February 2016. "I went into menopause and was put on HRT and I will be until I'm 50," Kim said.

"I also have osteoarthritis in my hips because the menopause can cause havoc with your bones when you're young."

Despite this ongoing health struggle, the determined student completed her degree and is now sitting her honours degree.

She has also set up a Facebook awareness page to allow other women to talk through how they're feeling when they're going through their own fight.

The page, Cervical Cancer Awareness Ireland, has more than 400 members.

"When I was going through it, there was no one for me to talk to. I wanted to make sure other women didn't feel alone," Kim said.

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