Maybe you won’t care what I have to say as I’m not a celebrity, personality or mega-influencer, but this post is important and I hope that if only one person reads it, maybe it will make a difference.
It’s something as women which sends a shudder down your spine. You hear horror stories as you grow up and nobody has a good word to say about it which, let’s be honest, is never a great way to make you feel at ease about something.
The smear test. Even it’s name sounds unpleasant. When we do talk about it, which isn’t often enough, we are led to believe it’s awful and as a result, 50% of eligible women delay or don’t attend their cervical exams. Young women my age are the worst offenders! At 25 we are invincible right, our adult lives really just getting started? True as this may be, between 25 & 35 we are in the most at risk category for developing cervical cancer.
I remember that people never really discussed their female health often and when they did it was hushed, embarrassed chat. Hearing people say how painful the test was, how embarrassing it was, how much they hated it and put it off. These were women around me whom I respected and looked up to and went to for guidance, making it seem like something I never wanted to happen. Leading by example, but for all the wrong reasons.
I was lucky to have done lots of work with Cancer Research UK and understood that early detection comes with huge success rates (at stage one and two it’s over 80%) so missing mine was not an option. When the letter came just before my 25th birthday I booked an appointment straight away.
On the day itself I was a bit apprehensive not knowing exactly what to expect (and due to all the horror stories I’d heard) but as soon as I arrived, I felt at ease. The nurse was so laid back and talked me through it all in detail as it was my first time. It might have been my first time, but she’d done it thousands of times before and for her it’s just her job and comes with no judgement. She chatted to me throughout and it was fine. All over in 5 mins and no more uncomfortable than cramp. I expected due to having the cervical cancer vaccine in school I’d be all done and back in 3 years for the next one, but I was wrong. I received a letter calling me to hospital for further procedures due to detection of some highly abnormal cells, which shocked me. It stayed in my mind at night and would pop in to my head at random times of the day, but then I thought to myself, what would happen if I hadn’t have gone?
The further tests were more invasive but I was thankful that they were ruling everything out. Every nurse I met along the way was incredible, talking me through everything and keeping me company in a stressful time. But even the further tests weren’t bad like I’d heard people describe their smear experience. So much so, that after a few Nurofen I was straight back to work that day!
I now have to go back every year due to these abnormalities as I’m seemingly at risk, but I’d rather do that and potentially pick something up early than ignore it and it be too late. I had no idea having had the HPV vaccine that for some people it just doesn’t work, that it doesn’t protect against all strains of HPV or that I was at an age to be most at risk, but now I do.
From knowing this, my plea to you all is go! Don’t think about it, don’t delay, just book your appointment and go, it definitely won’t be as bad as you think. And for all women who talk badly about the smear test, remember the lasting impression this is having on the young girls around you who will one day have to have theirs. Would you want them to risk not going? To any of my male readers who think this doesn’t apply to them, encourage your partners to go, talk about it with them and help break the taboo around female health.
Perhaps this is more personal or more detailed than some of you may find comfortable. To be honest it’s more insight into my life than I feel comfortable giving as I’m very private, but for this I’ll make an exception as it is something I feel so passionately about. Writing this is in all honestly probably more uncomfortable than the procedure itself, so please, please, call your GP, make your appointment and go asap as it could save your life.