‘I was a skeletal shell covered in drips’: London mum recalls ‘dark days’ of cervical cancer experience

“I tried not to think the worst, but I really did think I was going to die and never get to see my two-year-old son grow up.”

This was the reality 41-year-old Sue Watts faced seven years ago when she was told she might have cancer.

“The waiting is the worst bit. That’s when you Google too much and find out about all the different stages and treatments available – and the horror stories.”

The London mum of one told South West Londoner that she didn’t realise the magnitude of the situation as she’d had abnormal smear results before and they’d turned out fine.

She said: “I always attended regular screenings because it was the sensible thing to do so when an abnormal result came up I never looked into it, I just took the doctor’s advice.

“But then life got in the way – I kept moving house and never got round to changing GPs as I didn’t put it high on the agenda.”

It was only when Sue fell pregnant that she ensured she attended prenatal appointments with the midwife.

Sue Watts Jo's Cancer Trust close-upHEALTHY AND HAPPY: Sue is now in remission

Two years on she attended her cervical screening as usual and after the results came back as abnormal she was invited for another check-up.

Sue said: “I knew nothing about cervical cancer. I had a couple of abnormal smears before, years ago, but when they re-did them, the results were fine.

“I also knew ladies who had had abnormal cells removed and that it was just day surgery, so when I got another abnormal smear, I wasn’t especially worried.”

Sue put off the follow-up appointment to go on a family holiday to the south of France and when she came back was fairly relaxed about her consultation.

Even when the consultant carried out the colposcopy and gently explained that he thought the cells were cancerous and wouldn’t be able to remove anything then, Sue didn’t think it was too serious.

“I still didn’t really think it was that bad, even though the nurse kept patting my arm and offered me a glass of water,” she explained.

“Although Google showed me some horror stories, it was through that that I found the Jo’s Trust forum which kept me sane.”

“Although Google showed me some horror stories, it was through that that I found the Jo’s Trust forum which kept me sane.”

Two weeks later Sue attended another consultant appointment with her partner Toby.

“He broke down when they told us it was cancer as he had lost his father to cancer the year before,” she revealed.

“I had already accepted the inevitable, so I just asked what stage it was.

“He wouldn’t commit and said that perhaps it was Stage 1.”

From that point on the NHS wheels started turning very quickly and Sue underwent all manner of scans and an examination under anaesthetic.

Sue read on her notes that her cancer was Stage 2b (it had begun to spread elsewhere) and was told that one of the lymph nodes in her chest looked ‘a bit hot’ on the scan.

She underwent a gruelling six-week cycle of chemotherapy and radiotherapy to battle the cancer.

“I know some ladies sail through treatment, but I found it truly awful,” she revealed.

“I reacted very badly indeed and ended up in a critical care ward, a skeletal shell, covered in drips.

“Those were dark days indeed, but I did it. I didn’t miss a single day of treatment, and it worked. I got the all clear.”

Five months after her diagnosis Sue returned to work full time and admitted she was lucky to avoid most of the unpleasant side effects of the treatment.

She said: “Now I am fit and healthy and very much glad to be alive.

“I know my cancer could come back at any time so I make the most of each day I get to spend with my friends and family.”

Sue continues to keep in touch with the women at Jo’s Trust and explained that being able to speak to other people who were going through the same harrowing journey as her helped her cope with the diagnosis and treatment.

She explained: “Talking to other women had been through the same situation was the best support that I could have had.”

This week marks Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (January 25-31). All this week Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has been urging people to take part in its #SmearForSmear social media campaign.


Cervical Cancer Campaign #smearforsmear @JoTrust I nominate @sukiwaterhouse @caradelevingne @jasminebydesign


A photo posted by Georgia May Jagger (@georgiamayjagger) on

For more information about the campaign and the charity visit

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