A STUDENT who was told by doctors her bleeding was “hormonal” turned out to have a deadly condition.
Jaelle Goddard, 24, was passing blood clots the size of a fist for three months, claiming docs also said she was probably having a miscarriage.
But Jaelle, who was living in Barbados at the time, knew something was wrong.
Eventually, she went to A&E because she was so worried and medics took a look at her cervix.
Jaelle was told that she had cervical cancer at the age of 23 and it had already spread around her body.
The disease is diagnosed 3,200 times a year in the UK, causing 850 deaths.
Although it is more common in younger women, there are no more than 60 cases in women under the age of 25, according to Cancer Research UK.
Jaelle, who is married, had never even had a smear test – the screening tool used to prevent cervical cancer.
In England, the NHS invites are sent to women once they hit their 25th birthday.
Jaelle said: “To people having symptoms – I’d say get them checked out.
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“It’s never a waste of time, it can potentially save your life and if the diagnosis feels dismissive, don’t shy away from getting a second opinion.
“I think that had my symptoms been taken more seriously, we could have possibly caught my cancer earlier.
“Pap smears should be offered from an earlier age, because cancer clearly does not wait on you to turn 25.”
Cervical cancer is nicknamed the "silent killer" because it often shows no or little signs in the early stages.
Jaelle recalls experiencing vaginal bleeding in between menstrual cycles in March 2021.
On her first visit to the doctor about the issue, she was advised that it was likely hormonal and not to worry.
Vaginal bleeding is a key sign of cervical cancer. It can also be caused by an STI, a miscarriage, PCOS or contraception.
Jaelle’s bleeding got worse and when she returned the the doctors, she was told she may have been having a miscarriage.
She was sent for an ultrasound after insisting again to her GP that something was wrong.
The young woman was then told that she had fibroids and hydrosalpinx, a condition in which the fallopian tube is filled with blood.
She was given antibiotics as doctors suspected she may have had an infection – but nothing stopped the bleeding.
“The bleeding got worse to the point of constant pouring blood and palm sized blood clots,” said Jaelle.
“I went to accident and emergency because I was terrified by that point.
“There, they ran blood tests, STD screens and did a pelvic exam which is where the first concerns of cancer were mentioned and I was referred urgently to an obstetrician-gynecologist.
“He then did a pap smear – which was my first ever – and told me that it most likely would come back abnormal as my cervix looked ‘angry’.
“It did, so we did a biopsy, and I was told I had high grade dysplasia.”
Dysplasia is an indication of abnormal cells on the cervix.
The NHS says when abnormal cells are found in a smear test, a colonoscopy may be needed. Abnormal cells sometimes go away on their own, but could turn into cancer if not treated.
Jaelle had treatment – large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ) – to remove the abnormal cells.
Advanced cancer diagnosis
But a biopsy from the cells came back showing cancer. It was June, three months after Jaelle’s symptoms started.
“I was called in and everything was explained to me,” Jaelle said.
Jaelle was told her cancer was too advanced for them to treat on the island. At stage 3C, the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes in her stomach and pelvis.
At this stage, around 40 per cent of patients will survive their cancer for five years or more.
I think that had my symptoms been taken more seriously, we could have possibly caught my cancer earlier.
“I didn’t really process the diagnosis as everything happened so quickly,” said Jaelle.
“It has made me very paranoid and upset that I was misdiagnosed.”
Jaelle returned to London, where she lived as a child, for treatment.
She was told she would never be able to have children and she would experience early menopause.
With such an advanced stage of cancer, Jaelle says she was offered a spot on a clinical trial, which would offer her the best chance of survival.
However, it was only offered privately, meaning that she had to raise £100,000 for the entire treatment, which includes chemotherapy.
Jaelle said: “I was fortunate with how responsive people were to my fundraiser. We managed to raise about £22k.
“This left me just short and we ended up having to delay treatment until August because of lack of funding."
Jaelle pulled funds together from health insurance, loans and family but says she did not finish the trial.
She said: “I finished treatment in November and am currently awaiting tests to see if my cancer is in remission but while fighting it I’ve had to take a break from work and from school.
“It’s taken a toll on everything I do as my energy is super low and my body feels tired and sore.
“I lost about 11lbs during treatment – which on top of the weight I already lost from the onset of symptoms to the beginning of treatment made me drop three dress sizes, from a size 14 to a size 8.
“All in all, between the stress of fundraising, delaying treatment and just dealing with the cancer, it has been so hard both physically and mentally.
“But it has really made me realize I need to look after myself more and make more effort in doing things that make life more worthwhile and make me happy.
“It has also made me more aware of how important preventive care really is so I’ve been ensuring I have checkups regarding everything else during this time.”
See Jaelle's fundraiser by clicking here.
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