An Irish woman captured international attention after she wrote Feb. 18 about being diagnosed with cervical cancer at just 24 years old.
Heather Keating was diagnosed one year before the age Ireland’s National Cervical Screening Program usually allows women to be tested for free, the Daily Mail reports.
“Health-wise I was great. I ran every evening, did yoga and was always full of energy,” Keating wrote for The Independent.
But then she started noticing that she was bleeding between periods and after sex.
Although she complained to her doctor about her symptoms, she was advised to come back for testing when she was 25.
“Because I was 24 I was not entitled to a free smear and the early cell changes in my cervix were not picked up,” she explained on Facebook.
However, after her symptoms worsened, a specialist diagnosed her with the cancer.
“That was the most dramatic emotionally painful experience of my life and no one should ever have to go through it,” she said.
“It felt like the floor was gone from underneath me. I looked at my mum with her eyes beginning to fill with tears. My heart was broken and all I could think about was my family,” she added.
Fortunately the cancer was detected before it reached her cervix, which allowed the dangerous cells to be removed.
Now she is trying to help other young women notice their symptoms before it gets worse so that they, too, can successfully deal with the cancer.
“The cancer I had was preventable through a simple test called a PAP smear. It takes 10 minutes in your GP's surgery, where you can be told if you have pre-cancerous cells. These can easily be burnt away before anything even begins,” she wrote.
“These smear tests are free to all women between the ages of 25 and 60. I wasn't offered a smear as I was not in the age bracket, and so the pre-cancerous cell changes were never picked up. Which is why it's so important for everyone to know the symptoms of cervical cancer.”