A woman still can’t look at the “funny” picture her sister left her before she died from cervical cancer last year.
Mum-of-one Alexandra Hodson, 28, died in August 2020 following a two-year battle with the “cruel disease”.
The cancer is the most common form found in young women under 34 and doctors diagnose thousands of cases each year.
Nicola Hodson, 37, Alexandra’s big sister, has now spoken out to warn others of the dangers of not attending smear tests when invited, the Liverpool Echo reports.
Nicola says she still can’t look at a “daft” photo her sister took to help her when feeling down.
Nicola, told the Echo: “Really early on, not long after she’d been diagnosed, we’d gone out just with my eldest daughter and my niece.
“We’d gone for the day at Blackpool, we’d had afternoon tea, and we took them up the Tower. Then we went down to the beach near the Comedy Carpet.
“We were taking pictures with the Tower in the background and being daft and silly.
“She took this really funny picture of herself, and later that night when I was at home, she sent it to me, and she was like, ‘If you’re ever sad and down, just look at this picture and it will make you laugh and smile’.”
Nicola Hodson/Liverpool Echo)
However, the mum-of-two has only taken the photo out to look at a couple of times after her sister’s death.
Nicola said : “As much as I know that’s what she wanted me to do, sometimes I think if I look at it, I’m just going to get really upset.
“I think I need to do it when I’ve got some time and I’m on my own, and if I need a big cry, I can have a big cry and I’m not going to upset anybody else because nobody is here to see it.”
Nicola says she misses her fun-loving little sister Alexandra, who was an aspiring hairdresser with hopes of getting back to work in her dream job after her recovery.
Alexandra was being treated at Clatterbridge Hospital in Wirral.
The family tried to raise additional funds for her to undergo immunotherapy, but the treatment didn’t work.
After admission to the hospital in summer last year, Nicola hoped her younger sibling would have gained some strength and continued battling the disease.
Tragically, Alexandra fell asleep and died a week later.
Nicola, of Preston, wants Alexandra’s death to help raise awareness of the importance of women taking their smear tests.
She said “don’t ignore the symptoms” and “push, push, push” to get doctors to take concerns seriously.
She said: “Don’t ignore the symptoms. And if you don’t ignore the symptoms and you go to your GP and see a nurse or a doctor, just push, push, push.”
Alexandra tried repeatedly to tell doctors about her symptoms, Nicola said.
She was “told it could be normal because of the contraception she was on”.
“It turned out that all that time it was in there and growing,” Nicola said.
She added: “So if you don’t get the answer you’re happy with at the surgery, see a different nurse, see a different doctor. If you’ve got the symptoms of it, you must must, must push to get a smear.
“It gets me really, really angry and sad because she knew she had it.
“When she got the leaflet through for her first screening, and she saw the list of things, she said she knew because she had every one of them.”
Cervical cancer can manifest as abnormal bleeding from the vagina during or after sex, between menstrual cycles, or after menopause. Pain and discomfort during intercourse, lower back and pelvis pain, or odd vaginal discharge are also symptoms you should share with your GP.
Women between the ages of 25 and 64 are regularly invited for cervical screening, otherwise known as a smear test.
One in four women skip smear tests, but there is less rate of attendance among Alexandra’s age group, 25 to 29 year olds.
Nicola, heartbroken by the loss of her sister, is urging women to attend even if anxious about the invasive test, or if they feel uncomfortable.
The mum-of-two said she swerved her test for several weeks this summer, fearing her results close to the anniversary of her sister’s death.
She told the ECHO : “It’s the thought of, ‘Oh what if something comes back? What if I have to go for more tests?’. And I think because it was coinciding with the anniversary, it was just a bit much.”
But that fear went away once she had the test six weeks later. Nicola wants people to plough on through their concerns.
She said: “At the end of the day, it could save your life. And for all of a minute.
“It’s really not a long thing to have done at all. And there really is no need to be embarrassed. I mean, they see plenty and do plenty daily.”