This week is officially cervical cancer awareness week (22nd-28th January) so I, as somebody that has personally experienced the implications that can come from an overdue smear, am joining in with the #SmearForSmear campaign.
Back last year I blogged about my situation & why I hadn’t been around quite so much on the blog & via social media over the Summer which you can read here. I was met with hundreds of incredible messages of support & also heard from so many ladies who had either been through the same thing or had been motivated to call up their GP surgery & get booked in if they were overdue.
For those of you that haven’t read, I’ll do a little recap of my experience –
I went for my first ever smear at the beginning of June last year, I was one of the last of my friends to have it done despite being the oldest (December birthday) but the system had ‘forgotten’ me so I had to call up 3x to chase it before eventually being booked in.
A couple of weeks after the smear, which I presumed would be all fine & dandy considering my age, I received a letter telling me that I had low-grade dysklariosis as well as a strain of the HPV virus. Luckily it was low grade which according to Doctor Google (the one time it’s put my mind at ease rather than making me think I was about to keel over…) was a really good thing & most of the time it’s barely anything & just goes away over time.
I was booked in for a biopsy at the colposcopy unit at my local hospital for a couple of weeks after. This appointment put my mind at ease further as the consultant showed me the white patches (abnormal cells) around my cervix on a screen & told me that it looked fairly minor but to expect my biopsy results back in around 4 weeks. I walked away feeling positive.
That was until a week later when 3 letters dropped through my door informing me that my results had come back as CIN3 (the highest grade, any further & it’s classed officially as ‘cervical cancer’) & that I had been booked in for a procedure called a Lletz to essentially burn off the cells around my cervix but under general anaesthetic rather than the typical local.
I freaked out.
I spent what seemed like weeks consulting forums from Jo’s Trust from ladies in similar situations, most of which were having the operation under local though which made me wonder why mine was under general. I had never had an operation before or really even been in hospital much considering my crazy births (which you can read about here & here) so the thought of the anaesthetic was more petrifying than anything else. What if I didn’t wake up? I hated the thought of not being in control.
As quite an anxious person, I overthought every single tiny thing or symptom to put it down to the fact that something was obviously hideously wrong & I’d be leaving my two beautiful children motherless & husband without a wife. It was a long few weeks of bursting into tears at the slightest thing & making myself sick with worry.
On 25th August 2016 I was taken down to theatre & underwent the Lletz procedure then spent a few days in bed drugged up on oramorph due to the wide spread cells & their location which meant the operation didn’t go quite as planned & was rather more invasive than originally thought.
Since then, I thank God every single day for how I pushed for that original smear test. Imagine if I had ignored the fact that I was overdue & left it another few years as the system hadn’t ‘called’ me up for one.
We in the UK are so blessed to have such an incredible NHS service which provide us with healthcare at the click of a finger. My treatment & experience was just a tiny part of what they do on a day to day basis – I am eternally grateful that we have access to the healthcare facilities that many others don’t.
Please, if you are overdue (or even due soon..) a smear test, go to the appointment & greatly reduce your risk of cervical cancer. This highly preventable disease needs to be spoken about rather than hidden away as a taboo.
I decided to talk about it as I couldn’t find many bloggers raising the topic. Through doing this, I’ve heard from 20+ ladies who were previously overdue so upon reading my story got booked in but ended up having had abnormal results back & had to seek treatment. This is too many!
In the end, I obviously was/am fine, but others may not have had that fortunate outcome. It has actually been one of the best things thats ever happened to me in a strange way….sometimes it takes something big & scary to open your eyes. It’s changed my life & me as a person. I wrote this as a follow up.
Thank you so much for writing about your experience so honestly and encouraging other women to go for their smears, I work as a cervical screener and it is really upsetting when I come across a high grade smear in someone who hasn’t been for a smear for years or who had a positive smear and refused any follow up…The take up rate for smears is ridiculously low in this country, but what is a few minutes of embarrassment if it might save your life?