My wife, Linda, was fifty-one when she was diagnosed with vaginal cancer after an exploratory operation in Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, West Yorkshire, England. In 2000, she had had a full hysterectomy for heavy bleeding caused by fibroids and all had seemed well until she noticed "spotting" in August 2002. She was prescribed antibiotics for a suspected infection, but when the spotting continued, she was booked in for an exploratory operation.
We were both shocked by the diagnosis of vaginal cancer, but Linda - always a strong character - was determined to beat it. In January 2003, she began the first of 35 radiotherapy treatments at St. James Hospital in Leeds. By March, things were looking up and she was advised that the treatment appeared to have worked. Intuitively though, Linda had doubts and pressed the medics for further tests. A scan, carried out in July, confirmed her fears. The tumour had come back. Plans were made for more surgery and on 2nd September, Linda had her vagina, bladder and bowel removed.
The surgery really took a lot out of her and her eight-week stay in St. James was a really miserable time for her. Her fighting spirit shone through, however, and she was soon taking control of cleansing herself and changing her two stoma bags. The medics stated that they had given her a clean margin with the surgery and the tests showed that she was clear, so she was discharged home into the care of her GP, visiting district nurses, and the local colo-rectal nursing team. Linda was coping really well with everything and was soon driving herself and getting back to the strong independent woman she was. Her 53rd birthday arrived on Christmas day and her daughter, Michelle, treated us to a lovely meal at her house and a truly happy Christmas was had by us all.
On 9th January 2004, Linda and I went to St James for a post-op check-up and our lives changed again. On examination she was found to have two solid lumps each side of her groin. The medics explained that these could be lymphedema, but could also be a recurrence of the cancer. They decided to remove the lumps completely and made plans to carry this out within two weeks. Both Linda and I were terrified at the prospect of more surgery after all she had gone through.
Sadly, in the same week that she was due to go in for the surgery, Linda collapsed at home as a result of a brain haemorrhage and never regained consciousness. My stepdaughter Michelle and I were both by her bedside in the Intensive Care Unit at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary for four and one-half days while Linda fought for life. She died on 24th January - peacefully at rest at last. Doctors believe that the likely cause was spread of the cancer to her brain.
Linda took a lot of comfort from the EyesOnThePrize.org web site. She was also inspired by Carol from Manchester, who had had vulvar cancer, and by Elaine from Halifax, who was undergoing the same procedures at St. James.
My sincere thanks to you all at EyesOnThePrize.org for the work you are doing to help women and their families through such traumatic times. Linda and I were both on our second marriage and had only been together for 11 years. This April would have been our tenth anniversary, but I am grateful that I had the chance to share in the life of a beautiful and caring woman.
Linda died on 24th January 2004, but she always intended to put her story on your site, which had given her so much hope during her illness. I hope that by submitting her story now I will be fulfilling her wish.
Linda's husband, Paul