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WATCH: Inverness woman with cervical cancer 'lost herself' through early menopause

By Annabelle Gauntlett

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Cara was diagnosed with early menopause last year.
Cara was diagnosed with early menopause last year.

An Inverness woman 'lost herself' through early menopause after she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and had her 'life change forever'.

Primary school teacher Cara Ryan (34), from Inverness, was diagnosed with cervical cancer last year after cancerous cells were detected via her smear test.

Immediately after the appointment Cara spiralled with panic as the first thing that sprang to her mind was 'am I going to die?'.

She said: "I was initially hysterical and started asking all these questions that couldn't be answered right away. It was a truly terrible day."

After having a biopsy and MRI scan it was conclusive that Cara had cancer.

She said: "It was at that point my life changed forever."

While Cara had been experiencing numerous cervical cancer symptoms, she wasn't under the impression they were cancerous.

Cara and her partner Timmy.
Cara and her partner Timmy.

She said: "At the end of 2022 I started getting a really sore tummy, lower back pain and excessive bloating.

"I did go to my GP several times with it, and they thought I had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which was triggered by stress.

"I totally accepted this as I was going through a particularly stressful time both at work and at home.

"So, I just thought I was managing IBS, but it was actually the cervical cancer symptoms I was managing."

On the back of her cancer diagnosis, Cara was warned that she would most likely go into early menopause.

She said: "I was so lucky that I was given the opportunity to freeze my eggs before my cancer treatment as I know so many women aren't able to and it's a case of getting treatment straight away, so that was incredible."

However, throughout 2023 Cara endured gruelling cancer treatment and subsequently found herself calling the hospital her second home.

She said: "At the start of July I started my cancer treatment and had 25 radiotherapies, six chemotherapies and three doses of brachytherapy."

By the end of her cancer treatment Cara began to experience menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes that were more apparent in the evenings.

She said: "At the time I just put it down to treatment, I never thought menopause would be so imminent.

"But, after treatment I was still fatigued and really irritable.

"I remember I heard my mum drink her tea, and for no reason I was filled with pure rage.

"The anger came through my body and suddenly I felt so prickly and hot.

"I just got so angry at something so silly, which was so unlike me.

"It was in fact the menopause causing it."

After Cara's menopause diagnosis she felt 'lost' as the symptoms 'completely took control' of her life.

Cara Ryan (34), from Inverness.
Cara Ryan (34), from Inverness.

She said: "There were days where I was so low, even lower than what I felt during cancer treatment which was horrendous.

"When my menopause symptoms hit, I was on my knees and didn't know who I was.

"I was a fraction of my former self and my emotions were out of control.

"I felt as if something had sucked the soul out of my body and left me as an empty shell.

"It was the lowest point of my entire life."

While Cara had hit rock bottom during the beginning of her menopausal journey, she was 'grateful' to have received a quick and easy diagnosis after seeing so many women go undiagnosed with early menopause for years.

Cara was soon prescribed hormone replacement therapy (HRT) which she claimed to have 'saved who she was'.

Now Cara is keen for there to be more education about menopause in schools to help young girls recognise the absolute importance of their menstrual cycle.

She said: "We don't talk about women's health as openly as we should and while we are taught about our menstrual cycle, we aren't taught about what it means if it stops.

"As a young female there's all these feelings of embarrassment and shame about your body, so it is really difficult to take yourself to a GP or a parent to address it.

"I think that conversation really needs to start happening in order to bring it to the forefront of education as it impacts all of us – men and women alike."

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