Making a stand against cervical cancer

By Liam Nash

After the birth of his baby brother, four-year-old Sebastian Mancini could not understand why his mother Amanda was constantly in tears, completely unaware that her life had been tipped on its head.

He was too young to understand that after two perfect pregnancies, a growth found during the delivery of Mrs Mancini’s third child had been identified as cervical cancer.

Now, more than a year on from being declared cancer-free, the Katamatite resident is helping others.

The mother of three travelled to Bondi Beach on Sunday to be a part of human artwork installation made up of 35 women, for Cervical Cancer Awareness Week — representing the year — 2035 — that Australia aims to be the first country in the world to eradicate the disease.

On receiving the invitation to take part in the event, Mrs Mancini leapt at the chance to show her support and stand alongside women who have shared a similar struggle.

“Now that I have got the all-clear I want to try and raise any awareness and share my story,” she said.

“Before I was diagnosed, I didn’t know anything about cervical cancer at all. I was so naïve and had no knowledge of it.

“I think we need to normalise it because I don’t think we talk about it enough.”

Mrs Mancini is just one of the brave faces who donned the trademark orange of the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation in an attempt to encourage women to get their cervical screening test, but behind that strength is a story.

Despite bleeding all throughout her pregnancy with baby Frankie, Mrs Mancini had no inkling that anything suspicious was at hand right up until her baby's delivery.

Even when the doctors ordered an emergency caesarean section, cancer never crossed her mind.

But as she lay in recovery after delivering her precious baby boy, a knot started to form in the pit of her stomach as a team of white coats funnelled into the room and said the words that no-one ever wishes to hear.

“All the doctors came in and said that they had found a growth in my cervix,” she said.

“Straight away my husband asked if it was cancer, but they said they couldn’t determine what it was.”

What followed was four weeks of uncertainty and torment, with worry eating into her as each anxious day dragged on before it could be determined what the growth was.

After being referred to Melbourne, a series of PET scans confirmed Mrs Mancini’s worst fears — she had been diagnosed with stage two B cervical cancer.

“Everyone was saying to me it’s not going to be cancer, it’s most likely a polyp and it is going to be an easy fix, but deep down I knew it was going to be cancer,” she said.

“I had myself dead and buried, I honestly didn’t think I was going to be there to watch my kids grow up.”

At 8cm, the growth was deemed too large to perform a hysterectomy operation, which left the alternative method of radical radiation — six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation and three brachytherapies.

With no choice but to grit her teeth and endure, Mrs Mancini never stopped fighting.

By the second round of brachytherapy, the growth had shrunk to half its size, but due to swelling Mrs Mancini was denied clarity until October last year where a final PET scan revealed the result of the treatment.

A flood of tears followed — but this time they sprang not from anguish and gut-wrenching uncertainty, but from a sense of what can only be described as absolute relief.

“I cried that much, getting the all-clear made everything worthwhile,” she said.

Now cancer-free for more than a year, Mrs Mancini’s decision to help educate the nation and normalise that conversation for women is fuelled by having the next generation in mind.

“To know my daughter Talia won’t have to go through what I have, that is what it is all about.”