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Speak Up Against Cancer: Jo’s story

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Every year in the UK around 3,000 people will be diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Jo, who volunteers with Albion in the Community’s (AITC) Speak Up Against Cancer awareness campaign, is among those people who survived cervical cancer and she now helps raise awareness of the early signs and symptoms of a range of different cancers.

At the age of 26 she was living in Germany working as a physical training instructor in the Army. She visited her doctor after experiencing pain in her lower abdomen but was told it was as a result of ovulation.

However, her symptoms persisted and, having moved back to the UK, she visited her GP.

She explained: “I remember then noticing a bit of bleeding outside of my period and then feeling unwell after giving blood on one occasion and visited my GP.

“After an examination, he said he was concerned by what he saw and referred me to the hospital. I was seen the next day and told by the hospital doctor that I had an advanced aggressive cervical cancer and needed six weeks of radiotherapy treatment.”

Unfortunately, Jo’s cancer experience did not finish there. In 2008 she was diagnosed with malignant melanoma – the most serious type of skin cancer. This had developed from a previously normal mole.

She continued: “In my youth, I had psoriasis (a skin condition marked by red, itchy, scaly patches) and the advice back then was to get some sunshine on it – so I went on sunbeds! Later, I also had light treatment on the psoriasis to lessen the symptoms.

“When I noticed a mole on my leg had become darker, I went to my doctor and was then sent off to the hospital to get it removed. Because it was caught early, it hadn’t spread to other parts of the body but was already ½ cm deep.”

Jo is glad she went to see her GP about the mole when she did and is scrupulous about taking care of her skin.  “I stay out of the sun,” she said, “and my tan now comes out of a bottle – much safer and far more convenient.

“I am always advising others to stay out of the sun and off the sunbeds – with other, safer tanning options now available, why risk it?”

Jo’s willingness to speak up and look after her health was tested again with the diagnosis of a benign brain tumour that needed surgery. The rehabilitation from treatment took nearly six years and was not just physical. Jo said: “I had to deal with the emotional effect as well as the changes to my body that came with the brain injury and it was not easy.”

But Jo is an incredibly positive person and has taken her experience and used it to now help others in her work as a health coach.

“Some people may say I have been unlucky,” she said, “but I have made a choice to embrace life and all it has to offer.

“By always seeking answers for my health I am here and able to enjoy my life to the full.”

For more information on the early signs and symptoms of cervical cancer and skin cancer, visit: