It seems very fitting that I am writing this blog post on World Cancer Day. It is also a strange coincidence that it was today that I had my smear test done. I’ve titled this blog post after something I say to so many women both in my friendship groups and on social media where I try and help spread the word about the importance of cervical screening.
For anyone that didn’t know, last month was Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.
FACT: 8 people every day are diagnosed with cervical cancer.
FACT: In 2012 I was one of them.
FACT: Because it was picked up early, I was able to have it removed with no need for chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
FACT: Cervical cancer screening can save lives. I’m proof.
So yes, it seems rather apt that I booked my smear test for today.
I keep hearing and reading so many statistics about the number of women that put off their smear tests. Yes it can be embarrassing – particularly if you’ve not had kids and you aren’t used to getting your foof out for all to see. Yes it can hurt – I wont lie (more in that in a minute), but so do tattoos, piercing and a whole host of other things people choose to do to their body. I love tattoos as much as the next ink freak, but they don’t save lives and they take a hell of a lot longer.
So back to me. I had a routine smear test in 2012 which came back with Cin3 changes. This is pretty much the next level of “abnormality” before cervical cancer. I had no clue anything was wrong other than cramps and some irregular bleeding, which I later found out *could* be symptoms of cervical-related problems. I was referred for a LLETZ treatment during which the cells are removed, and they are then sent for biopsy. A few days later I had a phone call telling me to go back and see the consultant who told me that they had found a very small amount of cancerous cells. As you can imagine my jaw hit the floor. However, the consultant was positive that they had removed it all, although they chose to take further biopsies to be sure. That is, as they say, a whole ‘nother story, but the upshot is that there was no more cancer and they had caught it before it had grown or spread.
I was incredibly lucky. I didn’t need any chemotherapy, any radiotherapy, any drugs or further treatment at all. All I had was a follow up colposcopy 6 and 12 months later, and now I have to have annual smear tests until 2022 – 10 years after the diagnosis.
Going for a smear test is emotionally and physically painful for me. It brings back bad memories, I suffer from anxiety in the weeks before and after whilst waiting for the results as I am statistically more likely to develop it again than someone who hasn’t had cancerous cells. And the actual procedure – for me – is something akin to a nurse shoving a red hot poker up my foof and wiggling it around for 30 seconds. I need to stress though – this ISN’T the norm. Most women don’t find it nearly as painful and some don’t really feel a thing. The reason that I do is because I had the majority of my cervix removed after my diagnosis, making what is left extremely difficult to reach. I’ve also had 2 children, 2 episiotomies and as such I affectionately refer to my lady bits as “frankenfanny”.
My nurse at my doctors, Caroline, is amazing. She lets me holler, swear, cry, whatever I need to do and always gives me a big hug after. She totally gets how difficult it is for me, and supports me throughout. I’m dropping in some flowers for her next week, as I really don’t know how I would get through it without her and she is the only reason I stay with my, quite frankly crappy, surgery.
But the point of this blog post it this: if I can go through the intense pain and stress it causes me on an annual basis then you can woman the hell up and have your 3-yearly smear test. You’ll be in there 10 minutes, less time than it takes you to blow dry your hair or apply your nail varnish. It could save your life and as such, it could be the most worthwhile 10 minutes of your life.
If you choose not to get your smear test done I would love to say you’ll live to regret it, but statistically many of you wont.
Please, for the sakes of your parents, your partners, your kids…. book your f**cking smear test!!!