Mum-to-be Rachel Latham has spent her pregnancy fearful for the little boy she is carrying. Indeed, that she is going to become a mum is in itself a dream Rachel never dared hope possible after coming through four traumatic years being treated for pre-cancerous cells in her cervix.
A former fitness model who now works as a technical sales manager, she lives in Lisburn with her husband Harry (33), an animator.
Rachel (30), who is 25 weeks pregnant, admits to having brushed aside all her invitations for a smear test until she was 25.
"I started getting letters when I was 20 and I ignored every single one of them. It is something you aren't really taught about and a lot of my friends were the same, we were young and didn't think it was a real danger."
When she was 25, however, she had to be treated in hospital for an issue with her kidney. The episode was a wake-up call about her health and as a result she decided to go for her first smear test.
But she was totally unprepared when a few weeks later she received a phone call from her GP's surgery asking her to come in and discuss the results.
"I had forgotten I had even had the test done when I got the phone call," she admits.
"The girl asked when could I come in to discuss the results and I asked her to please tell me over the phone as it was obvious it was not good. She told me they had found some abnormal cells.
"I just broke down. I didn't know how to take it.
"I started crying as I didn't know what was going to happen. I never thought that it would be me who would get news like that."
Rachel had grade three pre-cancerous cells, the highest grade, and was just a step away from developing cervical cancer.
She had to go through a procedure to have the cells removed and was devastated when just three months later a follow-up test revealed that the pre-cancerous cells had returned.
She had to be admitted to hospital again to have them removed - and this time there was a complicating factor.
"Every time you go through a procedure they have to cut away a bit of your cervix and I have had to go through it twice," she explains.
"The second time was heart-breaking. I hadn't met my husband at that point and I had to make the decision 'Do I have children or not?' as during the surgery they don't know how much of the cervix they will have to remove.
"The minimum amount which would leave it okay for pregnancy is 22mm and they had to take 25mm away from me. That left me not knowing if I could carry a baby or not."
In the meantime, Rachel fell in love, married and was thrilled to discover earlier this year that she was expecting her first child.
But with the joy came the terror of not knowing whether or not she could carry her baby full-term.
Being pregnant during the pandemic has added to the pressure as she has had to attend hospital every other week for check-ups.
"I was at a very high risk of miscarrying but thankfully we are doing really well although it has been a hard pregnancy," says Rachel.
"You do panic, especially with everything that is going on now with Covid and having to go to hospital so often because my pregnancy is high risk.
"Thankfully my baby is perfect and very healthy. The miscarriage risk has passed but now I am at risk of the baby coming before full term.
"I think people don't realise the long-term impact of it all. It has a domino effect which is what I am going through now with my pregnancy.
"I feel lucky that things are going okay and I am going to be a mum and I can't wait. I also feel fortunate that I was caught in time, but I've still suffered consequences and it is important for people to know that if they don't get their smear tests they are risking not just their life but their ability to have children too.
Secondary school teacher Tanya Byers, from Drumahoe, outside Londonderry, never missed a smear test. And it was thanks to her regular three-year test that cervical cancer was picked up three years ago.
Tanya (40) - who is married to Colin (47), a retail manager, and has three children, Bethany (15), Ethan (13) and Rhys (12) - has been through a traumatic time and today is grateful that screening saved her life.
She was diagnosed with cervical cancer in April 2016. Initially she was shocked to be told she had pre-cancerous cells and wasn't prepared when further tests revealed it had developed into cancer.
"I remember I was called for my smear test in November 2015 and I rang and put it off for a couple of weeks until school broke up for the Christmas holidays. When I went to the appointment, the nurse asked me if I had any spotting between periods. I had but never thought anything of it because it wasn't much. But because I answered yes she red flagged me.
"It was half-term in February when I got the letter to say they had found abnormal cells. It was such a shock and I burst into floods of tears. I was inconsolable. I cried for about two days."
Tanya was given an appointment to see a consultant in Whiteabbey Hospital who broke the news that she had grade three pre-cancerous cells which if left untreated would develop into cervical cancer.
She had biopsies taken and when the diagnosis was confirmed she was booked in for a procedure to remove the dangerous cells.
Afterwards, she was relieved to be told that she would receive a letter calling her for a check-up in six months. But just two weeks later she was invited to attend hospital to see the consultant again.
"I thought 'Happy days, that's me for six months'. However, I hadn't realised they also did a couple more biopsies when they were lasering the cells off.
"Yet even when I did get a letter asking me to go back to see the consultant I didn't suspect anything. I went in completely oblivious and when he told me he had found cervical cancer I was completely and utterly floored. Thankfully, though, it had been caught early and could be treated."
Tanya was told she would need a simple hysterectomy - womb and cervix - but as a precaution the consultant decided to carry out another biopsy under anaesthetic during which he discovered a second tumour in her cervix.
She says: "I was really lucky the doctor was so thorough because a tiny second tumour meant that I needed a radical hysterectomy which means they take everything away except for your ovaries. If I had just had a simply hysterectomy the cancer could have spread."
Tanya underwent keyhole surgery in July 2016 to remove the womb, cervix, two centimetres of the vagina and the Fallopian tubes. She also had lymph nodes removed which were thankfully clear. A consequence of the surgery was that her bladder stopped working properly and she now has to self-catheterise.
"I have to self-catheterise six times a day because I have no sensation in my bladder which to me is a small price to pay to be cancer-free.
"Having cancer has really made me value life. I was in the middle of a couch to 5km programme when I was diagnosed and I am back running and completed my first 5km and raised money for a local cancer charity. I've done the Belfast Half Marathon three times and last year I did my first full marathon."
Like Rachel, she too believes it's vital that women make time to have necessary health checks.
"I feel that nowadays women are so busy with their careers and making sure that everyone else is okay that we forget about ourselves," she says.
"We have a duty to take care of ourselves and make sure we are fit and well so that we can be there for our loved ones.
"We have to start putting ourselves first and even though a smear test is uncomfortable, it is only a few minutes of discomfort every three years, that's not much to ask. I went for my test, they caught the cancer early and I've been given a second chance of life. If I had left it maybe I would not be here today."
To find out more about cervical screening head to https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cervical-screening
The symptoms of cervical cancer aren't always obvious and it may not cause any symptoms at all until it's reached an advanced stage.
This is why it's crucial that you attend all of your cervical screening appointments. In most cases, vaginal bleeding is the first noticeable symptom of cervical cancer. It usually occurs after having sex.
Bleeding at any other time, other than your expected monthly period, is also considered unusual. This includes bleeding after the menopause (when a woman's monthly periods stop).
Visit your GP for advice if you experience any type of unusual vaginal bleeding. Other symptoms of cervical cancer may include pain and discomfort during sex and an unpleasant smelling vaginal discharge.
If the cancer spreads out of your cervix and into surrounding tissue and organs, it can trigger a range of other symptoms, including constipation, blood in your urine, loss of bladder control, bone pain, swelling of one of your legs and severe pain in your side or back caused by swelling in your kidneys, related to a condition called hydronephrosis
Look out for changes to bladder and bowel habits too, as well as loss of appetite, weight loss, tiredness and a lack of energy. Vaginal bleeding is very common and can have a wide range of causes, so it doesn't necessarily mean you have cervical cancer.
However, unusual vaginal bleeding is a symptom that needs to be investigated by your GP.