Madeline Groves Reveals Cervical Cancer Scare After Critical Op Goes Well

Madeline Groves in 2017 before her endometriosis diagnosis - Photo Courtesy: Steve Christo/Swimming Australia

There is much talk of us all “being in the same boat” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nothing could be further from the truth, experience hugely different far and wide the world over, from those on the healthcare frontlines and the farmers providing essential goods to those worrying about home-schooling and others worrying about whether they will have food to give their children this day. Even in the same households, difference can be stark, depending on the roles people must play and the choices they make and the circumstances they have no choice over.

Olympic silver medallist Madeline Groves knows it all too well. Not for her the learning curve of dryland exercises so many swimmers and coaches are on at a time of closed pools and a lack of uncertainty when it comes to prospects of an end to containments measures set to be with us for some time yet in one form or another.

Soon after the International Olympic Committee finally agreed with athletes and others at the end of last month that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games would have to be postponed, Groves was in hospital. Not for that big C but to fend off the threat of the other one that takes many lives every years: cancer.

Groves, who touched the end wall over 200m butterfly at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games a swipe of arm adrift Spain’s Mireia Belmonte, suffers from two debilitating conditions: adenomyosis, an excitingly painful disorder in which the inner lining of the uterus (endometrium) breaks through the muscle wall of the uterus; and endometriosis, a more common disorder where tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus.

Groves, 24, has spoken out about the conditions to raise awareness. Today, she tells Phil Lutton at the Sydney Morning Herald:

“The pain of adenomosis actually feels like you are being stabbed in the uterus and someone is very slowly twisting that knife. That’s literally what it feels like.”

There’s a mental challenge, too, one that stretches beyond pain to the prospect of cancer. Groves explains to Lutton:

“I had some scans and a pap smear, which then showed I had a pre-cancerous lesion on my cervix. The recommendation was to wait another year and check again, but my gynaecologist said ‘this needs to come out’. I’m so lucky because when he did, when they had a better look, it actually had cells of a CIN-3, which is a higher grade. If I had waited another year, I could have developed cervical cancer.”

Madeline Groves Smiling and Sitting Up After The Op That

Madeline Groves was diagnosed with endometriosis at the end of 2017. “So severe was the conditions that she was rushed to surgery on the very day of her diagnosis,” writes Lutton.

Back in 2018 when Groves emerged from her first operation, she resumed training on her own, not alongside her long-term coach Michael Bohl because she needed to “regain a bit of control and independence” after an experience that brought perspective. She told Lutton:

“It was difficult … I just kind of felt like I needed to regain a bit of control and independence, really remember why I swim and why I enjoy training. That’s why I’ve been doing it a little bit differently.I guess it gave me a lot of perspective which is why I’ve gone back to the basics a bit –  to remember why I train and what I love about swimming.”

Read Lutton’s latest report and the fuller story of Groves’ experience in full at the Sydney Morning Herald.