This is a story that my friends and family know but I’ve never blogged about. I guess the ‘downstairs department’ has always been an off limits section when it comes to general conversation. I may not share details of my ‘downstairs hairstyle’ or want to tell every Tom, Dick and Harry the state of the place after having J but talking about a smear test shouldn’t be something to be embarrassed by.
The idea of the test is much worse than the test itself. I was so full of dread that I didn’t have my first test till I was 27. I hated the idea of someone seeing that part of me. I was worried about feeling exposed and then irrationally I was thinking ‘what if I look weird?’ and they laugh at me. All of this is daft. These are medically trained professionals who have seen many body parts and are not surprised by anything. They don’t stand there taking a good long look, they are pretty much ‘in and out’ (excuse the pun).
There’s a fantastic blog post by Mimi Rose and Me which tells you how to prepare and what to expect so I won’t go into detail about too much as she explains it fantastically. What I will tell you about is my story and what happens when you get THAT letter…the one that says something’s wrong.
I went for my first smear and just assumed everything would be fine. I had no symptoms, no pain and no concerns. I only went because my Mum nagged at me, and since we had decided to try for J it seemed a good idea to have a quick check. I went along, had my test and wondered what all the fuss had been about.
Then I put it out my mind…until the results letter came. I had been asked to see Colposcopy at the hospital. There was something abnormal about my results that required further assessment. I had CIN 2 and 3 cells. It was explained to me about the different levels of the cells but basically it was precancerous cells. That means it’s not cancer but it can become cancerous if left untreated. The time limit for this can differ so it scares me to think what would have happened if I had left it even longer to be tested.
I had treatment called LLETZ. This is where they use a heated coil to remove the cells. It sounds scary but actually it was quite simple. Don’t get me wrong, I felt so embarrassed at the concept of having my legs in stirrups and a team of people looking at my bits. You go into a little changing room and take off your bottom half of clothes and wrap towel they give you around yourself. Once on the bed they position you and you begin. There was 3 people in the room. One stayed ‘up north’ and chatted to me whilst the lead doctor was doing their thing, with the 3rd person assuring. They offered for me to watch on a screen but after a second it was a bit to gross so I asked for them to turn it around.
The treatment itself was fine and no issues (except being scared I’d sneeze and end up mutilated). They then wanted to take a biopsy. I won’t lie, it hurt! It hurt for 10 seconds…not much in the grand scheme of things. The results showed that I had further CIN cells and CGIN cells. This resulted in more treatment but this time they couldn’t get it all as some was higher towards my womb. However these were low level and not of concern as long as I kept up to date with smears. They took another biopsy and this time I had local anaesthetic which was nicer.
Thankfully the results were better and as only level 1 CIN cells and they said I didn’t require treatment. They gave me the all clear to begin baby making. I had a smear test done when I pregnant just so they could keep an eye on the progress of my cells. Thankfully the cells had cleared themselves. That’s the good thing about level 1’s but don’t fool yourself into thinking they can’t come back!
I had J and the time went by in a blur. I delayed my smear test as it was booked before I knew I pregnant for the second time and sadly I miscarried so didn’t even think about the smear test. I went back for my smear test end of 2017. When I was there the nurse was concerned about something she saw when doing the smear test. I was rushed to see the doctor who referred me back to colposcopy.
To say I was freaking out is an understatement. I was scared that the cells had turned cancerous, that this was the time I wouldn’t get the all clear. I worried I was going to die. It may sound dramatic but cervical cancer can and does kill.
I saw the specialist and after another time up in stirrups I was told that my cervix looked clear. The markings that the nurse and doctor had seen was scarring from the previous proceedure. However as there was inflammation I had another biopsy. I asked for anesthetic again but she assured me that biopsy had changed and that this wouldn’t be as painful as previously. So I agreed to the ‘punch biopsy’. She was right, a quick cough and it was done.
I went home and bled a little, and felt rather sore. It like an ache feeling…what I imagine a kick in the lady parts feels like. I took the rest of the day easy and waited for my results. After Christmas I received two letters. Both my smear and biopsy were clear. There was no sign of cancer or the CIN cells. I was free! I will now be monitored yearly simply because I will always be at risk of the cells returning.
But I have my life ahead of me. This is thanks to the first smear test and the treatment given to me…all free on the NHS. How great is that? It worries me that smear tests are being taken by less and less women. It’s such an important part of being a woman. Look after your body, it’s the only one you’ve got.
So, please don’t just see ‘Smear for Smear’ as a fun hashtag and photo opp. See it as a reminder to book yourself in, and to remind friends and family too!x
For more information on ‘Smear for Smear’ campaign, starting 22nd January, and support check out Jo’s Trust ❤️