I get it. The last thing you want to be doing, especially during a plague, is taking your knickers off for a total stranger to have a consented rummage. Bring on the smear fear.
On a freezing cold November’s day in 2020, I found myself in this exact situation.
How could 3 years have gone so fast?
It’s absolutely okay to dread it, even more so during a plague.
What to wear?
I never know what to wear to these things.
I opted for a pair of stretchy leggings, slip on boots and my hefty parka which I decided I would keep on, no matter what, on account of the plague.
Prevention is key
I mentally prepare myself the smear fear sets in.
Having lost my mother to cancer, I will do whatever it takes, especially at my age, to look after my body as much as I possibly can. Once the swab is done it will be out of my hands, or vagina anyway!
It’s called cervical screening in the UK which is much less cringy to say and sounds less like an unfortunate after dinner spillage on your top.
The nurse is such a chatty Cathy which is comforting and annoying in equal measure due to today’s requirement of face muzzles. Partaking in awkward banter prior to her delving hand first into my lady bits is not easy.
I took my place on the gurney, instantly regretting wearing the hefty parka that was now bundled up around my middle.
Obsessed with not wanting any part of me or my things to touch anything else in an attempt to protect myself from the Rona, I was hot, uncomfortable and she hadn’t even swabbed my foof yet.
For me, the worse part are those words…..’just put your knees together then flop your legs to the side….’ So undignified but I know it will soon be over.
What I hadn’t prepared myself for was what she said next.
What she hadn’t prepared herself for was my reaction of sheer panic and terror which was marred by my face muzzle.
She wanted a second opinion on something she’d seen.
She said it looked like a blood blister but she hadn’t seen one before.
In a panic, I tried to do random calculations in my head of how many fannys she’d serviced.
Perhaps mine was one in a million? She wanted to refer me to the gynaecologist.
Keep Calm and Carry on
I do not cope well in these situations. Really, I wasn’t prepared.
So, I turned to Dr Google who gave me about 3 weeks to live. All I could do now was wait.
I needed to know more. I scheduled an appointment with my Dr who agreed he would take a look. A medical student was present and I was grateful. More so because she was able to use my (anti bac’d) phone to take a picture of my cervix and this thing…. Which was still there and was greeted by the doctor (who, btw happens to be a Dad on the school run) with an… ‘Oh yes, that’s a new one on me.’
We agreed I should keep my referral but he would fast track if I displayed any other symptoms in the meantime.
As expected, there was a huge backlog at the hospital. I made a fantastic contact in the department who assured me she’d taken my notes to a consultant and it didn’t seem to ring any major alarm bells.
Knowledge is key
Meanwhile, and unashamed, I had whatsapped the image to all my friends who might offer some helpful suggestions on what it might be.
They couldn’t offer a diagnosis but were all very complementarity of my cervical selfie.
The HPV test had since returned negative which was surely a good sign?
12 weeks after the initial discovery, here I was. Negative thoughts and smear fear plagued me as I walked into my appointment. I wouldn’t even sit down. I just stood there shuffling from foot to foot.
Well, I was there for all of 4 minutes. He looked less like the hunky gynaecologists you see in the brochures and more like a geography teacher. I didn’t really care at this point. I just wanted someone to know what they were looking at to have a peek and give me the news.
There was no news, it was fine. It was almost a disappointment. But not really.
Relieved, I returned home where I will hopefully have an uneventful 3 year wait for the next rummage!
Time to face your smear fear
Since my ordeal, I reached out to friends and was surprised by how many had experienced abnormal smears, often resulting in treatment. It was comforting in one way but I felt sad I hadn’t known as so often we keep private about our privates.
Cervical screening is one of the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer.
Screening can be really hard for some people – those who experience pain or have had previous trauma. There are some great support services available. Here’s one I used because I just needed some reassurance.
https://www.jostrust.org.uk/get-support or to find out more about what happens at cervical screening: https://www.jostrust.org.uk/information/cervical-screening/what-happens-during-cervical-screening
You can also find out more about it here. Get screening ladies and beat the smear fear!
Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels