A month ago, I went for a routine, 3-yearly smear test; I’m normally OK with anything medical but I can’t bear smear tests. The nurse at the surgery was lovely and put me at ease, and within 5 minutes it was over and I headed back home as it nothing had happened.
Roll on two weeks and, lazing by the pool at Hotel Isla Mallorca, on my girlie holiday (which was amazing, by the way!) and my phone bleeped with a text:
“This is a reminder of your appointment on Monday 28 October at 11:00 at the GYNAECOLOGY department, RBH”.
I dismissed the message with a reply text of “Wrong number” and carried on my debaucherous weekend, without a thought.
Once home, life carried on as normal until Tuesday evening when I got home from the gym and Sam said the doctor had called for a ‘catch up’ and could I call the surgery in the morning. Obviously, my head went into over-drive and I asked Sam a million questions, all of which he answered, “I don’t know. He wouldn’t tell me anything.”
Now, firstly I’m a firm believer that you should be able to sign a disclaimer for a loved one to be told the reason, and secondly, surely phoning at 6.30pm is a silly time as you then have to wait until the morning to find out WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG.
After spending the next 12 hours trying to guess, I eventually got through to another doctor who told me that my smear test had come back with borderline changes and a possible presence of HPV, so I would need to go for a Colposcopy – and that the text I’d received was correct. Calmy (how I don’t know!), I asked if a) I had cancer, b) why would I need to be seen within a week and c) should I worry. The answers were: no, routine, no.The week went by and I can honestly say for the most part, I didn’t worry. On the morning of the procedure I got to the hospital and was seen within 15 minutes of my appointed time (which was good as I envisaged sitting waiting). A lovely HCA, greeted me with a huge smile and walked me into a a large, bright room and introduced me to her colleagues.
Beverley, the Colposcopy nurse, sat me down and…
- confirmed my smear results (explaining that had this happened 4 years ago, they wouldn’t have called me, but things have changed);
- explained that HPV is not a sexually transmitted disease (as it very much sounds) but that 80% of women have it at one time or another is a bit like a cold sore (it just disappears after time);
- told me all about the procedure, including that she would take a biopsy for good measure and that it would take 20 minutes;
- determined the next steps – wait for two weeks for the results; if they are OK, I’ll go back to smears every 3 years, if not they’ll call me back and I’ll have a simple ‘scrape’ done to get rid of the abnormal cells. This will then mean annual smears for a while, but hey!
Beverley really was fantastic, making sure I was happy with all the info before starting. I won’t go into too much detail about the procedure but it’s like having a long smear test. One thing I can tell you is that it doesn’t hurt. In writing this blog post, I did a Google search on what others have written and ALL of them suggest taking Ibuprofen, having a friend with you and resting afterwards; they also say how horrid it is. Well it’s not. I can categorically say that it was FINE; I had a tattoo done in the afternoon (as a reward for being so brave!) and went to a Halloween party in the evening.
I’m not expecting praise for my heroism. I’m writing this because I don’t think there are enough positive experiences written about and I think it’s all too easy for people to get scared by reading stuff on the internet. I’m also writing this because I want all you ladies out there to go to your smear tests. DON’T PUT IT OFF – it’s not the end of the world – cervical cancer may common, but it is avoidable.
More information can be found here:
UPDATE: I finally got my results 5 weeks after my colposcopy and the verdict is good – low grade changes confirmed and back for a smear in a year. Yippee!