Woman, 24, describes shock of being diagnosed with cervical cancer despite being too young for smear test

"It felt like the floor was gone from underneath me"

A 24-year-old woman who was diagnosed with cervical cancer before she was eligible for a smear test has described how she “felt like the floor was gone from underneath” her when doctors told her the news.

Heather Keating made international news after she shared her story and her symptoms on Facebook to raise awarenss of the disease. The post was shared over 3,000 times, and sparked dozens of news stories. 

Writing for The Independent, Ms Keating, now 25, said “health-wise I was great. I ran every evening, did yoga, and was full of energy”.

But she became concerned about her health after she started bleeding between her periods and after sex.

However, her GP told her that she would have to wait until she was 25-years-old to undergo a smear test.

“With my worries put at ease, I went on with life. But as time went by my symptoms became worse,” wrote Ms Keating.

She soon began to bleed so much that doctors diagnosed her with anaemia, and she was referred to a gynaecologist. 

Ms Keating said she “began to worry” when her doctor lead her into a “nice, quiet little room" to reveal her test results. 

“I told myself: this is it. This is the room where people get bad news.”

“It felt like the floor was gone from underneath me. […] My heart was broken, and all I could think about was my family. They didn't deserve this, to have to care for me through this awful experience.”

“I couldn't eat or sit still. I just paced the floors, walking in circles.”

Ms Keating then underwent surgery to remove the tumour in a way that would preserve her fertility. Four weeks later she was told her cancer was gone. 

“Relief isn’t the word to describe how I felt. I suddenly had my life back, my future.”

Similarly to her original Facebook post, Ms Keating laid out the symptoms of cervical cancer in the piece, so women outside of the testing bracket are aware of the signs. 

Abnormal bleeding between periods, after sex, or after menopause; foul smelling discharge; and pain or discomfort in the pelvis or during sex are all signs of the disease. 

Women under the age of 25 are able to receive smear tests, but they must pay. 

“I hope my story will help others see the importance of going for smears and listening to your body and knowing when something isn’t right," said Ms Keating.