A heartbroken husband is sharing pictures of his wife’s cancer struggle in a bid to warn women.
Elliott Lowe is calling on women to get smear tests after seeing his wife Donna die in August this year.
Tragically, she was diagnosed on December 22, 2016 – but she would not see another Christmas.
She was diagnosed with cervical cancer – and scans showed the cancer had already spread to the lymph nodes in Donna’s pelvic region.
The mum-of-four fought a brave fight against the disease, reports the Mirror, undergoing chemotherapy as well as daily radiotherapy for six weeks.
But she lost her battle on August 5, 2017, aged just 32, at Willens Hospice in Milton Keynes.
One year after Donna’s diagnosis, Elliott admits the children – with ages ranging from five to 11 – are finding it difficult to come to terms with their loss.
He told Mirror Online: “The children are struggling beyond words.
“My eldest is angry with everything, my disabled son still thinks she is coming home and my eldest daughter shuts herself away.
“My youngest daughter is very matter of fact and tells everyone that her mummy is in her heart and her head.
“I’m dreading Christmas.
“I have no idea what to expect or how the kids will react, I’m just going to have to play it by ear.”
In spite of all he has to contend with, Elliott is selflessly trying to raise awareness of cervical cancer and encourage women not to put off going for smear tests.
The 42-year-old shared two heartbreaking photos on Facebook to show how the cancer ravaged his wife’s body.
In one image, a happy and healthy looking Donna smiles happily.
In the other, she lies in a hospital bed, her face sallow and sunken, with an empty and haunting look in her eyes and bones protruding from her chest.
Elliott wants people to share the images and admits Donna postponed her last smear test before her diagnosis.
He wrote: “A year ago to date (22/12/2016) my beautiful wife, my best friend, the mother to our four beautiful children, my world, my soul mate, in fact my everything, was given a diagnosis by Milton Keynes Hospital that would devastate our lives and change it forever.
“I am sharing this with you today to encourage everyone reading this to make sure that we take it upon ourselves to ensure that the special women in our lives – in fact all women in our lives, be they relatives or friends – attend their Cervical Screening (once called smears) and not to either miss them or forget to re-arrange.
“My wonderful wife postponed her last smear for reasons I can’t even remember – believe me, I’ve tried to remember and there’s not a day goes by I wish I could swap places with her or wish I’d dragged her to the appointment and re-arranged it for her.
“Having already spoken to some of you here I know that some haven’t had a smear in a number of years, I think the longest was 20 years.
“Cervical screening (smear) takes only minutes. I am aware it’s not the most comfortable or dignified of experiences for women to go through but the consequences of missing one devastates lives for everyone connected – and will do for generations to come.
“I wake up every morning alone, bring my kids up alone.. yes I have family around me supporting me, and I’m truly thankful for that, but it’s never the same nor will it be.
“I know it’s Christmas and some of the pictures may distress you, I apologise if they do, but I needed to demonstrate how devastating cancer is.
“Please share this post with your friends and ask them to do the same. Together we can beat cancer and save lives.
“Don’t let another family go through the pain we go through every day. Thank you.”
Elliott’s wish is certainly coming true. His Facebook post has already had more than 13,000 shares and 17,000 ‘reactions’ since the morning of December 22.
What would he say if Donna could see him now?
“If Donna was here I hope she is proud of what I’m trying to achieve,” Elliott says.
She most certainly would be.
Smear tests – what you need to know
The NHS offers a cervical screening programme to all women from the age of 25. During cervical screening (previously known as a “smear test”), a small sample of cells is taken from the cervix and checked under a microscope for abnormalities.
An abnormal cervical screening test doesn’t mean you definitely have cancer. Most abnormal results are caused by an infection or the presence of treatable precancerous cells, rather than cancer itself.
Women aged 25 to 49 years of age are offered screening every three years, and women aged 50 to 64 are offered screening every five years. For women who are 65 or older, only those who haven’t been screened since they were 50, or those who have had recent abnormal tests, are offered screening.
You should be sent a letter confirming when your screening appointment is due. Contact your GP if you think you may be overdue for a screening appointment.
What causes cervical cancer?
Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is a very common virus that can be passed on through any type of sexual contact with a man or a woman.
There are more than 100 different types of HPV, many of which are harmless. However, some types of HPV can cause abnormal changes to the cells of the cervix, which can eventually lead to cervical cancer.
Two strains of the HPV virus (HPV 16 and HPV 18) are known to be responsible for 70% of all cases of cervical cancer. These types of HPV infection don’t have any symptoms, so many women won’t realise they have the infection.
However, it’s important to be aware that these infections are relatively common and most women who have them don’t develop cervical cancer.
Using condoms during sex offers some protection against HPV, but it can’t always prevent infection, because the virus is also spread through skin-to-skin contact of the wider genital area.
Since 2008, a HPV vaccine has been routinely offered to girls aged 12 and 13.
In the UK, just under 1,000 women die from cervical cancer every year.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of cervical cancer aren’t always obvious, and it may not cause any symptoms at all until it’s reached an advanced stage.
This is why it’s very important that you attend all of your cervical screening appointments.
In most cases, vaginal bleeding is the first noticeable symptom of cervical cancer. It usually occurs after having sex.
Bleeding at any other time, other than your expected monthly period, is also considered unusual.
Other symptoms of cervical cancer may include pain and discomfort during sex and an unpleasant smelling vaginal discharge.
If the cancer spreads out of your cervix and into surrounding tissue and organs, it can trigger a range of other symptoms, including:
- blood in your urine (haematuria)
- loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence)
- bone pain
- swelling of one of your legs
- severe pain in your side or back caused by swelling in your kidneys, related to a condition called hydronephrosis
- changes to your bladder and bowel habits
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- tiredness and a lack of energy