A Battersea mother who spent years going to her doctor before being diagnosed with cervical cancer is backing an awareness campaign by Cancer Research UK.
The charity’s fundraising and awareness campaign, Together We Are Beating Cancer, aims to shine a light on the incalculable impact of such progress on people affected by the disease and their families.
Demi Forbes, 28, a single mother of two, spoke of her frustrations that it took so long for her cancer to be diagnosed despite years of feeling like something wasn’t right with her body.
She explained: “Between 2020 to 2023 there were a lot of things going on, I was suffering from irregular bleeding, and I’d lost a lot of weight, going from 70kg to 50kg.
“I kept telling the doctor that something was going on in the left side of my body, and I was experiencing severe back pain as well.”
A month before she was diagnosed with cancer, Demi was told that a CT scan revealed she had a kidney stone.
In April 2023 Demi was feeling more upbeat about life and had started to put on weight.
Recalling the lead up to her diagnosis, she said: “It was my birthday, and I went out for a lovely meal on April 15.
“Then on April 17, two days after my 28th birthday, I received a phone call from my doctor asking me to come to Kingston Hospital for the results of a cervical biopsy.”
Prior to the biopsy, Demi was given a LLETZ (large loop excision of the transformation zone) procedure, due to her cervical cells testing positive for HPV following a routine smear test.
Demi said: “While on the phone to the doctor, I screamed out of my window and told him I knew I had cancer.”
Upon arrival at the hospital, it was confirmed that she had cervical cancer.
The doctor also indicated that she would need to have an MRI scan within 48 hours to detect exactly where the cancer was.
It was not known at this point whether the cancer had spread.
The shock of hearing her cancer diagnosis made Demi instantly think of her daughter Taysia, 11 and son Roman, 9.
She explained: “It was my worst day, I walked out thinking I wouldn’t see Christmas, or my kids going to secondary school, it was just a blip, but it was mad.”
The cervical cancer was diagnosed at stage 1B1 and 1A2 and hadn’t spread outside of the cervix.
The next challenge that Demi faced was deciding what course of treatment to have.
She said: “The decision was the hardest part of the whole process for me, I changed it multiple times.
Demi was even contemplating not having surgery at one point, she told doctors: “Just give me chemo or radio therapy, I don’t want surgery.
“I was so stuck between a hysterectomy and a trachelectomy.
“The hysterectomy removes everything; I would never be able to have more children and it’s more likely that the cancer won’t come back.”
Demi decided to go with the trachelectomy, which is a surgery for early-stage cervical cancer where they remove the cervix but preserve the womb, allowing for a possibility of having more children.
She was advised that her choice of treatment would mean should the cancer return, it could come back as womb or ovarian cancer.
Demi recalls that her recovery was very quick following the surgery.
She explained that a few hours after the surgery she was up on her feet and went into the bathroom to shower and wash her hair without any assistance.
Demi suffered a mental health setback post-surgery.
She recalls having a panic attack in the hospital which lasted for three hours during the evening after her surgery.
When asked whether she would consider talking therapies to help her mental health, Demi said: “I need to go down that route, I might choose counselling or therapy.
“I do talk to friends and I’m quite open with them, I have got a network it’s just that my support is very limited.”
Demi decided to reach out to Cancer Research UK while she was at home recovering from surgery.
She is keen to raise awareness of cervical cancer by sharing her story and is supportive of the work that Cancer Research UK has done to raise funds for vital research and offer support for those who are affected by cancer.
Demi went back to her job, working with children who have special needs, at the beginning of January.
In a message to other women who might have been experiencing similar symptoms, Demi said: “You know your body, you know when something is not right.
“Please don’t fear the smear and make it your mission to get answers to find out what is causing your symptoms.”
Cancer Research UK spokesperson for London, Lynn Daly, said: “The fact that so many lives have been saved in the capital over the last 40 years is testament to the power of research.
“As a result, a huge number of people have been able to reach milestones in their life they didn’t think they’d live to see.”
Recent figures from Cancer Research UK highlighted around 1.2 million deaths have been avoided in the UK since the mid-1980s due to advances in cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
To find out more about the Together We Are Beating Cancer campaign and how to get involved, visit www.cancerresearchuk.org/get-involved/we-are
All images courtesy of Demi Forbes