‘Like Jade, I thought it wouldn’t happen to me’

We talk to Justine Maynard, one of thousands of women to go for a screening after reading about Jade Goody’s battle with cervical cancer…

You were part of a team at a publishing house working on the book Jade: Remember Me This Way. But despite being reminded of cervical cancer on a daily basis you didn’t get checked. Why?

“I’d always had these niggling pains in my lower abdomen. I didn’t think anything of it. But after working on the book I started reading about cervical cancer and discovered that there aren’t really any symptoms for it. There’s a little bit of pain or some bleeding, which are all things a woman would go through anyway.”

But you still didn’t get tested?

“It was a bit like when a new fashion hits the high street and everybody does it, and then it fades. I didn’t have a screening, I thought it was just hype. I thought it wasn’t going to happen to me.”

So what was it that eventually prompted you to get tested?

“What was critical for me was that Jade had ignored it and I was doing exactly the same thing. If she hadn’t ignored it, she might still be here today.”

So what happened when you were eventually tested?

“I was told: ‘You have an abnormality – we have made you an appointment to come back’, because my HPV cells could potentially cause cancer. But if I hadn’t had the HPV testing, I would have got a letter saying, ‘You need to come back, please give us a call in your own time.’ I’m one of the many women who, having got that letter, would have put it to one side. If I had ignored the first result, I don’t know what position I’d be in now.”

Did you seek similarities between you and Jade?

“Yes, what hit home making the book was the way Jade looked at her sons, knowing she wouldn’t see them again. And then when I read her last letter to them, it was traumatic. When I got my results, I reflected on my children. I’d been selfish to ignore this for nearly a year. It’s not about me, it’s about the people around me.”

And will you get your children tested?

“Emily-Rose had the vaccine last year, and I would urge anybody to make sure their daughters have it. With breast cancer, you can feel it and see it. With cervical cancer you can’t. Ask anybody what’s a common cancer in women and they’ll say breast cancer. But three people a day die from cervical cancer. If you have got those cancerous cells, it can happen so quickly, and that’s what happened to Jade.”

*Watch Jade Changed My Life on Sky Living on Tuesday, March 22

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