A 30-year-old woman is closer to her “dream job” again after a local charity helped her when she received a cervical cancer diagnosis last year.
Hazel Pittwood from Corfe Mullen had recently handed in her notice as a Heathland Warden for the Borough of Poole to start a thrilling new role as a marine wildlife guide on cruise ships in January, when she was told she had Stage II cervical cancer on November 21, 2018.
Hazel said that when the oncologist at Poole Hospital told her the news it was “like a tonne of bricks had been dropped on me.”
It was a long journey to get diagnosed. She said: “Six months before, in May, I had gone to my GP after having a massive bleed
“I was told it was probably endometriosis and that it was normal to bleed between periods, but it wasn’t normal for me and I knew something wasn’t right.
“A few months later I went back again to say I was still concerned. I was referred to Poole Hospital for blood tests and an internal examination after which I was told it was probably nothing to worry about, but they could see “something”.”
From there Hazel was sent for a series of scans, starting with a CT, which lead to an MRI and then quickly a PET scan, for which she was told to take someone with her.
She feels at this point she was “being prepared for the worst”.
Gruelling, daily treatment
At the time Hazel was living with her elderly grandfather and helping to care for him, but moved back in with her parents and younger siblings during her gruelling, daily treatment.
Between December and the end of January, including sessions on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, she underwent 25 sessions of external pelvic radiotherapy, three brachytherapy sessions (internal radiotherapy) and four lots of chemotherapy.
She said: “While I was having the treatment I felt strangely driven – something was being done to get rid of the cancer which brought me relief. But when treatment stopped and I was told I’d have a follow up appointment in nine weeks I felt left in a sort of anxious limbo.
“The raft of support and wave of activity that carries you along ends and then reality of what you’ve been through sinks in. It was at this point I began to worry how I was going to cope with no job.
“The cancer thankfully hasn’t spread and I am extremely thankful for that. I’m also very lucky I didn’t lose my waist length hair, but I am now going through early onset menopause.
“Because I had handed in my notice and was unable to take up my new position, I had no money and no sick pay – I started to feel very concerned.”
A helping hand
Whilst receiving her treatment Hazel learned about Dorset Cancer Care Foundation (DCCF).
DCCF helps Dorset-based cancer patients through financial struggles resulting from their illness.
Its grants can pay for household bills, equipment and even short breaks following treatment.
“I contacted DCCF and was so grateful when they gave me a grant,” said Hazel.
“It really made such a huge difference to me.
“Just being able to put some fuel in my car to travel to local nature reserves for walks is wonderful.
“I am desperate to get back to the work I love; I am doing everything I can to aid my recovery so I can get well and realise my dreams,” she continued.
“The side effects have been hard at times, but I am grateful to have received this life-saving treatment.
“I have committed to wildlife guiding on my first cruise in June.
“I am determined to be out at sea helping passengers to spot whales and dolphins this summer!”
DCCF are currently running the High Five Appeal, which asks people to donate a fiver by texting DCCF00 £5 to 70070. You can also donate online on JustGiving.
For more information please visit the charity’s website here.