It was the best, worst day of my life.

A few years ago, I went to my doctor’s for a pap test, which was 12 months overdue.

I was 23, and it wasn’t the first pap smear I’d had, it was my third, so I was pretty nonchalant about the whole thing.

A week later, I received a call from my doctor asking me to make an appointment to discuss the results. I assumed I needed to repeat the test, as the sample wasn’t adequate. But during the appointment I was told the pap test results showed ‘possible high grade glandular lesion’ and that I needed to see a gynaecologist for further testing.

The gyno’s biopsy results confirmed the pap test finding. I was referred to an oncologist for treatment. I freaked out! I knew oncologists specialized in the treatment of cancer.

According to my oncologist, there was an area of my cervix that “didn’t look right”. I became extremely nervous and felt sick.

I was told I had an 0.7 inch tumor growing inside me, and that it was cancer.

I was devastated and in complete shock.

I was hoping I’d wake up and realize it had all been a bad dream. But it wasn’t. I was diagnosed with stage 1b1 adenocarcinoma of the cervix (cervical cancer). I couldn’t believe it; I’d never even felt ill.

The treatment was by way of major surgery, which would involve one of two options.

Option one was to have a radical hysterectomy. I immediately burst into tears. I knew a hysterectomy meant I wouldn’t ever be able to have children. I was devastated. No words can describe how I felt at that moment.

My surgery was an incredibly surreal experience I’ll never forget.

I was then told about option two; which was to have a radical trachelectomy, meaning I could keep my uterus, but would also need to have my pelvic lymph nodes removed. Before the oncologist would decide what the best treatment was, I needed to have a PET/CT scan though, to ensure the cancer had not spread.

My first bit of good news was following the scan. The cancer hadn’t spread; it was confined to my cervix. So a few weeks later, I had the radical trachelectomy (removal of my cervix, upper vagina, surrounding tissue) and pelvic lymphadenectomy (removal of pelvic lymph nodes). It was a success.

Since then I’ve continued to have regular check-ups and pap tests with both my oncologist and gyno and there’s been no return of the dreaded ‘C’ word.

I honestly believe that pap test saved my life.

Chelsea is an ambassador for the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation, an organization that works in Australia and overseas in developing countries, to enhance and protect women’s health. Find our more here.

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