Please read this blog post as an out and out love letter to the NHS. It was a scary and painful time, but I am 100% grateful to the talented and wonderful staff who work in our hospitals, clinics and other care facilities.
“It’s all clear” the nurse said. “You’re back to smears every 3 years now.”
And out she walked, with a photo of my insides, closing off a horrible, 11 month journey I’ve been on.
So, to rewind, I’m a huge advocate of the smear test. I’m eternally grateful that I live in a country where (for free) someone will remind me on a regular basis to get checked for early signs of cancer, check me for the early signs of cancer, and treat me before those early signs even become pre-cancerous. As soon as that letter drops through my door, I’m on the phone to the surgery to find out how soon they can fit me in. I 100% appreciate the value of the NHS, particularly in this area.
Smears start when you’re 25, and you’re invited to them every 3 years. The first 2 went by without incident – in and out, if you will – and with a thin ‘cells are normal’ letter at the end of it. Huzzah! But in May last year I went for my smear and it turned out differently. Not just because the nurse had horrendous hay fever and was sniffing and dripping throughout the exam. It is very disconcerting to be poked around by a lady who is struggling with a runny nose!
The letter arrived – it was thick, and obviously contained leaflets. High grade dyskarosis. Pre-cancerous. Abnormal. Colposcopy. Lots of words that all faded into a teary blur as my knees went from under me and I sat on the kitchen floor. Then I did what any self respecting 31 year old would do – I called my mum.
After talking to my mum, searching on google for other people’s experiences, and drinking the 500 cups of tea made for me by my partner (his coping mechanism), I prepared myself for my colposcopy. I visited the nurse who had done the smear (thankfully she’d taken her Claritin and seemed better) who assured me it was fine and I’d be back at work within hours.
“Abnormal. Colposcopy. Lots of words that all faded into a teary blur as my knees went from under me and I sat on the kitchen floor.”
I almost passed out in pain at my first colposcopy. I don’t know what happened, I don’t know what went wrong. I don’t even remember a hefty chunk of it. I just remember the searing pain as I felt like I was being sliced open. Apparently the nurse may have used the wrong sized speculum, which is a thing apparently, and this ended up making it feel like she was using a spade or something! The nurse holding my hand (sorry for the crushed bones lady!) tried to chat to me about an upcoming wedding I was attending, while tears poured down my cheeks, I shook uncontrollably, and the other nurse told me to “keep still” while she tried to stop the bleeding from the biopsy. Afterwards, the nurses gave me a cup of tea and a packet of biscuits, which I consumed, then asked where their loo was, so I could go and be sick.
To be continued…
Some helpful links about smears and colposcopies: