About 6 months ago I was called in for my routine smear test. My first one, at the age of 25.
Despite knowing all I knew about cervical cancer and how delaying the test can end up killing you (Jade Goody? The young 26yr old recently?) I did just that. I delayed it, always thinking I had something more important and better to be doing. The first time was meeting Jacqueline Gold. The second time, napping. Napping? What the actual eff? And then weird things started happening.
I was permanently bloated, I looked like I was six months pregnant! I was bleeding after sex. I was getting random pain. I was constantly lethargic. Couldn’t pass water properly.
I went to the doctor, she sent me for a scan. “Oh it’s fine, it’s just your coil isn’t working and is in the wrong place. Lets remove that.”
Three weeks after that none of my symptoms had changed. I went back to the doctor. She took swabs. “Oh it’s fine you’ve just got Bacterial Vaginosis, but you need a smear. Go to the nurse.” I went to the nurse the same day (in fact immiediately after, the doctor called through.
After the usual rigmarole of falling over when trying to remove my jeans, falling onto the couch and generally making a prat of my self, the dreaded words came “Put your ankles together and drop your knees.”
And then the most terrifying thing happened. My heart pounded so hard it hurt, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, the room span and my mouth went dry.
“There’s something wrong. Something isn’t right. You will need to see a specialist.”
I walked out, called the husband and nearly broke down there and then. Me? Cervical cancer? I’m 25! I have two children. It can’t be me!
For the next two weeks, waiting for the results of my smear test, I cried, I denied, I lied. I would tell myself that it was fine and just an over cautious nurse. I’d google my symptoms and all of them were massive red flags. I’d wait for the post every day, always waiting for the letter to come to tell me I was being over dramatic and a hypochondriac. I’d look at my two wonderful angels and wonder if I’d live to see them start secondary school. See their first loves. Watch them go to prom. I’d look at my husband and wonder how long we had left, was my cervix a ticking time bomb? Was I going to leave him? I’d stare in the mirror and brush my hair wondering if I’d lose it. All these thoughts, it was tearing me apart.
They were the worst two weeks of my life.
Then the letter came. Abnormal. Inconclusive. Blood contaminated it. My heart stopped again.
I saw the specialist the next day. I went with a heavy heart, shaking, nervous, scared.
I gowned up, sat on the chair, placed my legs in the stirrups and thought of England. And my girls. My beautiful angels who still needed their mummy.
Then the specialist looked at me, smiled and said “I can see the problem. It’s not cancer.”
I could have hugged her. All that stress for nothing. Turns out I had cervical etropcian. It simply needed cauterizing, but to be safe she biopsied me and sent them for testing.
I have had the cauterization done now, and whilst that REALLY hurt, and I really hurt afterwards too, I’m fine.
So why have I written this? Because it dawned on me, if I, usually really sensible when it comes to my body (I even get my moles checked) would delay a smear until it could have been too late, any one will and can. And I’m imploring you, begging you even, to just go and get it done. For two minutes of slight uncomfort you could avoid all my stress and worry. Cervical cancer when caught early enough (which it usually is with regular smears, and being in tune with your own body) won’t kill you, it won’t rip apart your loved ones. But when it’s left to grow and spread, which it will be if you avoid your smears and don’t know what is normal for you, it will. It will decimate your life and the lives of those you love. Why are we happy enough to have bikini waxes for aesthetic reasons but won’t see a professional for our health? It’s absurd. So book your smears, get the swabs, and continue for the next 3/5 years. And know that you’re doing the best by your body that you can.