I was originally diagnosed with early stage cervical cancer in 2016. It was a huge shock since I've always been on time with pap smears and never had an abnormal result. This time I'd actually gone to the GP 6 months early as we'd just returned from an extended caravan trip around Australia.
Initially I had extensive surgery to remove the tumour (known as a radical trachelectomy) but after my daughter was born in 2018 a routine MRI showed extensive recurrence. I underwent 6 weeks of chemoradiation followed by 12 weeks of adjuvant chemotherapy and had the wonderful news in April 2019 that my scans were all clear. Unfortunately, later that year follow-up scans showed metastases to lymph nodes in the chest. We tried chemotherapy again, this time with avastin added, but my cancer is now progressing and we need to try a different treatment.
Immunotherapy with a combination of two check point inhibitor antibodies, ipilimumab (Yervoy) and nivolumab (Opdivo), is TGA-approved and PBS-funded for advanced melanoma patients in Australia. Ongoing early studies show this combination is also promising for other solid tumours like cervix. Currently the only way for cervical cancer patients to access this treatment in Australia is to self-fund - starting at around $20,000 per dose. I hope that one day these types of treatments can be offered to all cancer patients.
I am very hopeful that this treatment works for me and extends the time I have left with my family and friends. My greatest wish is that I get to see my two kids Charlie (5) and Rosalie (2) grow up.
Thank you to the organisations like Rare Cancers Australia and the wonderful associated clinicians who advocate for optimal treatment and care for patients like me.