A young mum who survived cervical cancer has warned women putting off smears because of the pandemic to get checked out.
Vikki Ridler was just 27 when she had to undergo a hysterectomy and suffered a breakdown due to the trauma of the life-changing diagnosis.
The mother of two, from Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire, spoke of her recovery as campaigners warned that hundreds of thousands of women are missing smears because of Covid-19, prompting calls for home-screening kits.
Vikki, 31, said: “There’s no vaccination for cancer. Prevention is always the best cure. Get your smear.
“Don’t discount it because there are other things going on in the NHS – because I know that smear can save your life.”
Estate agent Vikki had been having smear tests every six months after getting an abnormal result shortly after the birth of her son in 2012.
But in 2017 doctors identified pre-cancerous cells and she had cold coagulation treatment in an attempt to burn them away.
About two weeks later, the mum to Freyah, 10, and Ashton, eight, received a phone call asking her to attend hospital to discuss the results of her biopsy.
She said: “I’ll never forget the phone call. They said, ‘Vicki, will you make sure you bring someone with you?’ I can’t explain how I felt in the moment they told me I had cancer.
“It was almost like, ‘Right, we know, now how do we fix it?’”
An MRI found the cancer was developing quickly so Vikki underwent a hysterectomy.
She said: “I thought it was an operation older women got and never realised the extent of what would be happening and the choices that would be taken from me at that point. I’m very lucky I had children young.”
Vikki took months to recover but said she regrets her decision to return to work after five weeks, which affected her mental health.
In her darkest moment, after the breakdown of her relationship, Vikki called 999 and attended hospital, where she was referred for counselling and diagnosed with PTSD.
She said: “Everything has changed for me. I’m not worrying about the small things any more and I don’t take anything for granted. Life is too short. I’ve got a fantastic career, two beautiful kids and my dog. That’s all I want.”
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust estimated 600,000 tests failed to go ahead in the UK in April and May.
Boss Rebecca Shoosmith said: “Cervical screening is really important. If you’ve been invited to make an appointment, that’s because your GP has put measures in place to make it safe to attend.”