‘I was too busy to get a smear test – now I won’t get to see my kids grow up’
A mother who avoided cervical screening appointments for 13 years due to being “too busy” has shared her regret after being diagnosed with incurable cancer.
Esther Hodges who juggles two jobs as an accounts supervisor and cleaner, as well as being a mum-of-two, says her busy life got in the way of important health check ups.
Just over a year ago, the accounts supervisor from Barnet, London had no reason to suspect anything was wrong until she experienced a haemorrhage in a club toilet while on a night out.
Shortly after the incident, Esther’s earth shattered as she was diagnosed with stage two cervical cancer that is bordering on stage three.
As Esther makes the most out of her time left with her family, she has shared her story to highlight how crucial it is to attend the short, routine smear test.
“I hate myself for missing my appointments and have to live with that now – for however long I have left,” Esther, who is also a grandmother, told NeedToKnow.online.
“How I wish I took that 20 minutes out of my day to go to my appointment.
“It might have been picked up earlier and I wouldn’t be in this situation now.
“I had not had one since 2009 unfortunately – I just kept putting it off.
“I would get the odd letter from my GP and I would think about going soon but I just never did.
“It breaks my heart seeing so much hurt in my family and friends faces over this.
"I couldn't tell my children [at first] and my step-mum was with me when I got the original diagnosis.
"When we left the appointment, she phoned my family and children to tell them, they were completely numb.
"I wanted everybody to know, but I was in too much of a state to tell them.
“I feel like I’ve done it to myself and can’t help but think if I only I went to my appointment they might have spotted it sooner.”
Now, for the 49-year-old, she says it's "killing her" inside knowing she won't be able to see her children, Charlotte, 29 and Keyona, 19, as well as her grandchildren, grow up.
Esther says that when it came to booking the smear test, life got in the way.
But in November 2021, she began experiencing excruciating pain that she claims doctors dismissed as hormone problems after she stopped receiving her contraceptive injections.
Esther says that the pain could be so bad, she would visit A&E and soon after on her birthday night out, the mum-of-two haemorrhaged blood in a nightclub toilet.
Esther added: “I loved going out with friends I have a group of girls who are all very close.
“I was known as the life and soul of the party. I started to get really bad lower back pain. It got to the point where I would be rolling round the floor in agony.
“I went to my GP and was told that it can take about three months for your hormones to go back to normal after coming off the contraceptive injection.
“They just told me to take paracetamol but it got so bad I started to go to my local A&E who basically said the same thing.
“The only way I could describe it is like labour pains but all in your back.
“I went out with friends for my birthday last January and I felt fine at first.
“When we got to the club I said to my best friend when we get in, I need to go straight to the toilet because I had a little bit of a belly ache.
“I then found massive lumps of blood falling out of me.”
An ambulance was called and Esther was rushed to hospital, who arranged for her local oncologist to see her – and she was soon given the devastating news.
She said: “I felt so numb.”
Esther says that doctors have told her that her cancer is treatable but not curable and she has had to go through a range of treatments including 12 rounds of chemotherapy and 25 rounds of radiotherapy in total, as well as six rounds of a trial drug.
Sadly, in September 2022, Esther found out the cancer has also spread to her lungs.
She said: “I felt so horrible I just asked if they could take my lung out but that is not an option.
“I am having chemo and a trial drug. The chemo was only six sessions – I have my last one the end of this month.
“I will have the trial drug every three weeks for two years.
“I asked my consultant what the survival rate is and she said half her patients are still here within the two years and sadly half have passed. It’s all about how my body reacts to treatment.
“I know it’s never going to go and at some point, will kill me.
“But they are trying to contain it and stop it spreading anywhere else.”
Esther has been overwhelmed with the amount of support her friends and family have provided her in this time of need.
As she is unsure of how much time she has left, the mum plans on making every moment count with the people who mean most to her.
She said: “Everybody is devastated and just there for support.
“I don’t want to know how long I could have left so I am just trying to carry on being me. I will just let nature take its course.
“I want to make lots of special memories with my loved ones and do as much fund raising as I can for them to speak and remember me for the good I’ve done.”
Esther is also focusing her efforts on raising money and awareness for charities including Great Ormond Street Hospital.
She hopes to spread one very clear message: don’t miss your health appointments.
She said: “Please take the time out of your day to go for a cervical screening.
“You think it will not happen to you but it can – I’m a prime example.
“I am just trying to take each day as it comes and just enjoy however long I have left.”