So… It all started back in May 2017, when I turned 28, woo! But being 3 years since I turned 25…it meant another smear test…nooo!
First of all, I’m going to start with a little tiny rant, which is actually quite important. Why on earth have they made it SO hard to book a test? Back when I was 25 I had my test done over at a sexual health clinic in Bedford, because I know so many of the ladies at my family doctors as they are either the mums of people I knew from my school years or I see them all the time for other things. I fancied going to someone I’d never met before and would never see again. After all, smear tests are one of the most personal and quite frankly embarrassing tests you can go in for.
However, this time round I was no longer allowed to book in at the sexual health clinic or anywhere else besides my usual doctors surgery, unless I went private for about £70 a test…which was tempting… but I ended up just facing it and booking my test in at my usual doctors surgery. But what I’d like to know is WHY is it so hard to book a test in? Not only did I have just one choice of place of where to get tested. There were hardly any test dates or times available for people who work standard full time hours! It was rather poor. The only time I could get was halfway through the day, meaning that I’d have to book the rest of the afternoon off, as I’m not sure I’d personally feel 100% comfortable driving all the way back to work and working the rest of the afternoon afterwards. WHY… when they are trying to encourage ladies to get tested, do they make it so hard to do so? Considering that this could be a life saving test…
Anyways… Thankfully with the doctors you can ask them for a list of names and say yes/no to each one which is helpful, so I went with one I didn’t really know. However, due to a complication I actually ended up having to go have my test done by the mum of someone I used to be friends with when I was little. Awkward. But I really needn’t have worried. She was so lovely about it all, so matter of fact about the process because (as I kept trying to tell myself) she’s done this a million times before. Whenever I get it done, I remind myself that I could be going through much worse things in life and tell myself to get a grip really.
Test done… it was time to wait for my results. Thinking nothing of it, considering my test at age 25 was totally fine, they came through the post and there it was. They’d found an abnormality.
The letter thankfully clearly says “this result does not mean that you have cancer”, which, sadly, crosses your mind when a test like this comes back abnormal. The letter said that I had some slightly abnormal cells called low grade dyskaryosis, which are sometimes caused by the human papillomavirus (you’ve probably heard it being called HPV), and yeap, I had the HPV virus too. The letter is good at explaining that most women will be infected with the HPV virus at some point in their life, but the immune system usually just fights it off. However, having the HPV means that any abnormal cells you have are less likely to go away. The letter also explained that I had been booked in for a colposcopy at the local hospital.
Panic sets in. What have I got? Is this common? Has mum ever dealt with this? I’ve never had any friends say they’ve had things like this? Being a naturally anxious person and someone who has (thankfully) never really had any major health issues, I worried about the worst.
Thankfully the date for the colposcopy was exactly around the time I was securing a brand new job, and I was able to finish my old job, have a week out to get this all sorted without having to take holiday time off and then jump straight into my new job. However, with all the stress of leaving a job, starting a new one and having this floating around in my head too, it was a tough time.
I’m not going to lie, I was genuinely scared and worried prior to my hospital appointment. I had no idea what to expect, knew no one who had gone through anything like it and worried what this may end up being. Yes, I got upset. I had times of tears and feeling very very alone. I remember one evening on holiday with my parents in Whitby and my heart was racing like mad with worry when I was trying to get to sleep.
This all changed when I did something quite brave for me…I spoke out on my Instagram stories. I sat there and explained what was happening, just in case anyone (like me) was going through a similar experience and was feeling quite alone about it all. The response I received off the back of speaking out was genuinely amazing. I had current friends, old school friends, uni friends and even someone who follows me but I’d never met message me saying they’d gone through the same thing or knew someone who had and they thought it was great I was talking about it out loud. I’d also started to post about it on Facebook too and received such a great response and therefore have continued to post updates of what is happening. I just want to ensure no one else feels as alone as I did with this, which has in turn spurred me on to write this post.
So what is a colposcopy? In this test they get you to cough (yeap, cough!) as they take two little pieces of your cervix away and weirdly enough, you don’t really notice them doing it at all. I must say, after this procedure I felt fine for a few minutes but then as we started to walk outside to dad’s car I started to feel a bit faint. I can quite easily feel fainty and I didn’t and never have actually fainted, ever. Just take it easy after this procedure, maybe take someone with you if you can for moral support, take a little bag of sweets and a bottle of water just in case you feel a little lightheaded like I did. You might not feel like that at all, I probably just built it all up in my head or something. Take it easy and you’ll be fine. The fainty feeling had passed just a few minutes later anyways.
Being completely honest, after this test you may also feel a bit of period-like pain on and off in the hours afterwards and obviously you will bleed a little bit. So rest up, take it easy, get someone to wait on you hand and foot and get Dominos on speed dial if you live on your own.
After the procedure you are told how you cannot have baths, go swimming, erm – you know – do adult stuff, use tampons, do vigorous exercise etc. etc. for about a month or so afterwards. Thankfully it was just in time for the timeframe to pass and for me to be able to go on holiday to Tenerife and actually enjoy that hot tub in our fancy “privilege” lounge! Otherwise that would have been a bit of a bummer…
The letter I received after the biopsy confirmed the abnormality and noted that it was “CIN 2” – this means “there’s a moderate chance the cells will become cancerous and treatment to remove them is usually recommended”. They explained how this could be treated with loop diathermy treatment to the cervix under local anaesthetic and another appointment had been booked in for me at the colposcopy clinic. They even suggested to take the next day off work if possible. Thankfully my new company are great when you need time off or to leave early for anything and I could note this down as medical time off instead of using up my holiday. I can’t thank them enough for how great and easy they are with things like this. When it comes to the coding (CIN 2) there are different levels of coding and thankfully mine was of a lower level of risk, however, someone I know did message me to say she had a higher level of risk. So don’t panic too much if yours come back saying this, you’re not alone. Just go get your treatment sorted!
This next procedure sounds a bit scary, but actually out of the two tests, this one didn’t leave me in such pain or with as much bleeding. The loop diathermy is basically where they give you a local anaesthetic (so you can’t feel the treatment!) and use a heated electrical loop to effectively burn away the nasty cells. Sounds a bit crazy, but I was so impressed with how swift and easy this was. I had major worries on the run up to this thinking I’d feel the needle and everything but I really needn’t have worried at all. Again, they get you to cough as they do things, so you don’t really notice much. Just go in there head strong and do 3 good coughs in a row when they ask you to and get it the hell done. I honestly didn’t really notice anything in terms of pain – and I’m being genuine here.
The only thing you may feel is a little heart race and a slightly jiggly leg when they give you the local anaesthetic, which literally lasts seconds if you even feel it at all, might sound scary, but honestly it was over in seconds. And before you know it, they’re finished and moving your chair down. I actually said to them “is it all done?” in a genuinely shocked tone, because it was all over and done with before I knew it.
I have to take this moment to say a huge huge HUGE heartfelt thank you to the wonderful ladies at the gynaecology department at Milton Keynes University Hospital. They are the most fantastic ladies who truly put me at ease and genuinely felt like my friends for the few moments I was there having my procedures carried out. I cannot thank them enough. They were welcoming, warm and just everything you would want in a medical team when you’re going through this.
So… once that was all done, I received a further letter explaining that the loop biopsy they took revealed that I had an abnormality CIN 1 & 2 and thankfully didn’t show evidence of anything more serious. CIN 1 means “it’s unlikely the cells will become cancerous and they may go away on their own; no treatment is needed and you’ll be invited for a cervical screening test in 12 months to check they’ve gone” and as mentioned earlier in this post CIN 2 means “there’s a moderate chance the cells will become cancerous and treatment to remove them is usually recommended”. There are two more levels above this and if you wish to find out more, here’s the NHS page for colposcopy results – www.nhs.uk/conditions/colposcopy/results/ The letter also asked me to book in another smear test in 6 months’ time.
I’m very super duperly happy to tell you that this follow up smear test sample was normal and I’m all fixed! I no longer have the HPV virus either. All I have to do now is simply go back again in 3 years’ time like normal. Woohoo! I must say, when I received the letter saying I had the all clear back in May this year, I cried. I sat on my bed and cried tears of relief. All of this nonsense had been hanging over me for a whole year, alongside the months where I couldn’t live a normal life of exercising, bathing, swimming etc. whilst recovering. It was just so nice to live normally and not be worrying about it anymore.
If you would love to know a little more about everything or if you’re concerned about anything, I’d recommend checking out Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust (www.jostrust.org.uk) and also following them on social media (especially Twitter) as they have some really useful discussions on there sometimes.
The trick with dealing with anything like this is being head strong. Reminding yourself that you could be in a much worse situation, to be brave and get on with the treatment.
After all, smear tests and any subsequent procedures, COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE! Need I say more ladies? Get booking that test!
Jumpsuit: (I’m wearing Petite) New Look £27.99
Shoes: New Look