Thursday, 28 January 2016

#CervicalCancerAwarenessWeek :: My Story

This week is Cervical Cancer Awareness Week and I thought it is the right time to talk about my story and journey. I've wanted to write a post like this for so long but it was an incredibly difficult and challenging time in my life and re-writing a moment that filled you with incredible fear and doubt is not easy but I hope that what happened to me will encourage all of you to get to the Doctors and have a smear test done. I can't begin to tell you how important it really is.

Way back in June 2011, my 25th Birthday was fast approaching and I received a letter from my GP asking me to come in for my first smear test. The first thing I did was tell me my mum about it, she is the most comforting and reassuring woman I know and she told me there was nothing to be worried about and to get myself booked in. I didn't hesitate or put it off, I rang straight away and I was booked in two days later.

On the day, I wasn't nervous at all. I remember feeling quite relaxed, as if I was there simply to have a blood test or have my ears syringed (something that unfortunately I have to have done twice a year!) My favourite nurse, Barbara called me through and we were chatting like we usually would. She's the most sweetly natured nurse in the world and I could talk to her about anything, she's great. Anyway, she explained what would happen and that it would literally take a few minutes and it would be over.

*WARNING - This next part may be a little TMI*

I took my bottoms off and was given a towel to put over myself and I climbed up onto the bed. She then inserted the speculum which is a plastic device that opens you up enough to see the cervix. It wasn't painful at all, just a little strange! Barbara then told me she would be scraping some of the cells from my cervix and it would feel like little scratches. She wasn't wrong. Again it wasn't so much painful, just uncomfortable which in all honesty, it's going to be because it's inside you! A few seconds later, she told me it was all done, I could get dressed and that I would receive a letter in a week or so with my results. I left the doctors and put it to the back of my mind.

Around five days later, I was at work when my mum called me. My mum only calls me at work if there is an emergency such as my daughter or something has happened at home so of course I panicked. She told me that a letter from the NHS had arrived and she had opened it (I always ask her to open any mail for me that looks important if I'm not there to do it myself). She read the letter out to me which detailed the lab findings. They had discovered abnormal cells on my cervix which they described as borderline/mild cell changes, or to put it scientifically - low grade dyskaryosis.
I remember feeling stunned and going quiet but I wasn't so much scared really. It said I would need to go to hospital to have a Colposcopy which is a more detailed look at the cervix and to assess what treatment I would need. Mum reassured me so much over the phone and when the call finished, I went back to work and got on with my day. But as soon as I got home, I fell apart. That was when I was scared.

I got an appointment fairly quickly and before I knew it, I was sat in the waiting room. I was surrounded by so many women that day, including ones who had lost their hair. That really put the fear of god in me because I knew what abnormal cells could lead to. I was called in by a lovely nurse and was greeted by a male doctor who turned out to be one of the specialist gynecologist's in the area (highly reassuring).
So once again I had to undress my bottom half and get up on the bed that was rather strangely in the middle of a very large room, a bit like a scene from a horror movie. My legs were put in stirrups, speculum put in and then this huge device which I can only describe as a telescope with a giant mirror on the end was brought down, thinking about it now it's actually quite funny. 
Throughout the time he was looking at my cervix, I had two lovely and friendly nurses holding my hands and chatting away to me about all sorts of things like tattoos, our kids, men! I know they were there to distract me away from what was going on but it didn't work. I could feel everything and no matter how much they spoke to me, I knew what was going on.

After around 15 minutes, the doctor got up to remove his gloves and wash his hands etc and then he came and sat next to me. He said that he could see the abnormal cells on my cervix and they would most certainly need to be removed asap. I was terrified and straight away asked him;

'Am I going to get Cancer?'

He was very straight forward with me and said that I would undergo treatment the next day to remove the cells and that he cannot guarantee that all the cells would be removed. I appreciated his honesty but I was absolutely terrified about the worst case scenario.

The following day, I went back to hospital with my friend Michelle, I really needed the support and as my mum didn't want me to wheel her about in her wheelchair (she said it wasn't fair on me), I knew I could rely on Shell to be a fantastic stand in.

Back into the room I went, stripped off my bottom half, back on the bed..ugh. Only this time, the doctor asked me if it would be ok to have a medical student present to watch the procedure. I wasn't bothered to be honest, she was a young lass and how else is she going to learn!
The doctor then explained to me what would be happening. The treatment I would be getting was a loop diathermy (although now I believe it's known as laser ablation). It is a loop of wire that projects a laser and it is moved over the cervix to zap away the cells. Thankfully, I was given an anesthetic down there but my god it hurt!! Honestly, I've been through child birth and tattoos and that little monster stung like a bitch!!!!!!!

Once it took affect, the doctor got started. The nurses once again held my hands and chatted away to me about anything and everything but then they asked me if I wanted to look at my cervix on the monitor! I'm not usually bothered by that sort of thing but because it was a part of me it just felt a bit strange so I decided against it haha.

Around 30-40 minutes later, the treatment was over. I was given a tampon as there was bleeding from the diathermy, got dressed and told to wait in the recovery room. Shell, who unfortunately could not be in there with me, was there waiting for me with a huge hug and her big cheery smile and I instantly felt relieved. A nurse came in and gave me a leaflet about what I had just had done (relevance? I'm still not sure) and said that I was free to leave whenever I felt ready. The car journey home was quite unpleasant, every bump in the road made me feel sick and was painful.

Three days later, another letter arrived for me. I was physically shaking when I was opening it as it was about to tell me whether the treatment was a success or not.

IT WAS!! They had successfully removed every abnormal cell and I was now clear. I have never been so relieved in my whole life!

It's been five years since I went through all of this and thankfully, I have been getting the all clear from my smear tests since. I can't even begin to contemplate how things could've been different if I didn't go, which unfortunately is something that so many young women are doing.

Cervical cancer is the number one killer of women and it is becoming far too common for women to put it off or forget about going for their smear tests. I firmly believe that the age should be reduced from 25 to 21 as their are constant stories about girls who have died from cervical cancer because they were refused a smear test, simply for being under 25. 

I'm not doing this to force anyone of the age to go and get it done, but after reading my story, don't you think it's worth it? It's terrifying, it's worrying, it's an inconvenience I get that, but it's so important!

Please Please PLEASE, if you are 25 or have not been for a smear test in a while, get yourself booked in for one. If you can find the time to go shopping or go out for a meal with friends, you have no excuse finding time to do a test that could save your life.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love reading your comments, i'll always reply so write as many or as few as you like :) It's always good to talk