JOSIE Walker has twice had her life turned upside down by cervical cancer and believes she owes her survival to catching the disease early.
Now the mother-of-three from Dirac Place, Didcot, who also has a step-daughter, is determined to raise awareness of the need for women to get tested as early as possible and discover the illness before it’s too late.
After undergoing major surgery in April 2011 at Oxford’s Churchill Hospital to have a tumour removed, the 40 year-old thought she had the illness beaten when doctors gave her a clean bill of health.
But just days after a family holiday in Barbados to celebrate a year without cancer, Miss Walker fell ill and was diagnosed again with cervical cancer in August last year.
She is now recovering from seven weeks of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but said she is hoping to return part-time to her job in marketing in the coming weeks.
“The first time it was all over within a month,” she said. “I was devastated but everything happened so quickly and I had no control over it.
“Even my consultant didn’t expect it to come back – and when it did I was just in a state of shock. The seven weeks of chemo hit me really hard. Now I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks and struggle every day.
“I have four children aged between 12 and 22, used to be a regular gym-goer and I’ve never drunk much or smoked.
“I just want to raise awareness that one small test every three years for women can make all the difference. If I hadn’t gone for a smear test in 2011 they wouldn’t have discovered the tumour and it would have grown and grown.
“It means a lot to me because two of my children are girls and I would hate them to go through what I have.”
With Cervical Cancer Awareness Week approaching at the end of January, Miss Walker is also joining women campaigning to have the age you can be tested reduced from 25 to 20.
She said: “People have died from cervical cancer before they’ve even turned 25.
“There was a young woman who died at 23 and one of my friends is terminally ill and she’s only 28.
“There are around 1,700 women who have joined a Facebook group and are campaigning to bring the age down.”
Miss Walker said she is supporting Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, a national charity which is also trying to spread awareness.