Cervical screening/smear/pap smear testing is one of those things as a woman we all dread.
I’m going all out TMI in this post – because all women have the same bits, and these bits make us beautiful and grow babies – so why be prudish eh.
I started having issues with heavy periods and bad period pains from age seventeen; and so was used to regularly finding myself under a hospital lamp legs akimbo for one reason or another.
Once diagnosed with PCOS age 22 I decided to try a mirena coil, which involved more lying spread-eagle on a nurses table and ended badly with a womb infection and rapid removal some weeks later.
Fast forward a few years to age 25 and I received a letter inviting me to attend for cervical smearing. Like a party invite, but with scary diagrams…
I’ll be honest all I remember is what that it was over and done with really quickly.
Age 27ish I started fertility testing and investigations; at this point my best friend told me she was hurt that she was the only person in a ten mile radius who hadn’t seen my cervix; I’d had a lot of downstairs examinations and I wasn’t even phased anymore. I joked one day that I may as well just strip off from the waist down before I go in.
In March 2014 age 29 on the day I went in for ovarian drilling and laparoscopy a random pot of wee turned into a positive pregnancy test and low and behold, an eight week old baby bean complete with heartbeat was discovered in my belly.
November 2014 I birthed 9lb(it may as well have been 20lb. Huge head) of baby boy via the emergency escape hatch and sustained some internal injuries after a doctor tried rather aggressively to break my waters when I was 1cm dilated(I worked hard for that 1cm, man).
Some weeks later my three years were up and it was smear time again; this time I found myself legs akimbo while feeding a newborn baby. Quite the experience.
And so, my three years is up and last week I attended for my smear test.
As soon as I booked the appointment the fear started.
What if I fart? Worse, what if I puff from the, erm, front entrance(can you imagine the shame?)
I remembered a work colleague who told me about a smear test; who panicked when she had to go from work and was so concerned about cleanliness that she whooshed a can of feminine hygiene spray up there and hoped for the best. The (male) nurse laughed part way through and told her she needn’t have made such an effort. There’s a lesson here, kids – don’t mix up feminine hygiene spray with body glitter.
Another lady told me about how she needed a wee beforehand and dashed to the loo discovering there was no toilet paper. Always prepared she found a tissue in her handbag and off she headed. It was only when the nurse fished something out and laughed she spotted the postage stamp she’d been looking for all week chilling in the kidney dish
And finally, a colleague was congratulated on being brave and going in for a smear despite terrible anxiety only for a running commentary throughout:
“Once she’d had a good look she patted me on the thigh and told me my insides were the most beautiful shade of pink”.
So how was mine this time round? Despite days of nerves and an emergency shave the night before(standard), it was over in seconds and I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s slightly uncomfortable and not at all dignified but hey – it’s over so quickly and it’s so important. It is painless, quick and there is no need to be embarrassed – so do not delay.
In the UK every woman aged 25 and over is offered and SHOULD attend a smear test every three years; it’s free and over in seconds. I believe the age should be lowered and it should be offered to all women over 16; I had a friend who died of cervical cancer age 23; two years short of the minimum age in this country.
Please do not delay, please go get it done and please don’t be scared – we all go through it.
And please confirm the location of any postage stamps prior to attending.
For more information please check out Jo’s Trust here.