So, I’ve thought long and hard about doing this. And I decided it’s like therapy, and might help someone. I recently had a bit of a scare, involving statistics, my cervix and the dreaded C word. No, not that one, get your minds out the 18th century gutter, dirty buggers.
On my 25th birthday, which fell on a Saturday, the postman failed to deliver any cards, but he was nice enough to drop off a letter from the NHS, letting me know I was ‘invited to a smear test’ making it sound like a fucking dinner party. No, it’s not, a burly woman with big hands is going to stuff a mutated duck up your bits, wipe a steroid abusing cotton bud up there, then send it off so some machine can sniff out any problems. That is not a dinner party.
Either way, I thought I was being a smart arse when I avoided said franken-handed nurse for well over a year. I didn’t feel so smart when I was cornered by a nurse at a check-up who declared it was important that women have their smear tests, and she could do it for me there and then. Wasn’t that nice and helpful? Probably. I don’t care. I had to have a smear test.
Anyway, smear test was had, and seriously, it’s not that bad. Your pride hurts more than anything else, it’s just a bit embarrassing and uncomfortable. But if you can focus on the idea that nurses and doctors have seen more bits and pieces than the average Essex hooker, then it’s not so bad. They’re even nice enough to send a letter afterwards, in case you needed reminding. Thanks NHS. Anyway, my letter came through, letting me know that I had mild dyskaryosis. This in itself isn’t really that worrying, as the cells of the cervix go through changes all the time, for hundreds of reasons. So off I was sent for a colposcopy.
So there I sit, in the saddle chair, feet in stirrups, feeling a little silly. And another nurse, with cold, big hands, takes a sample. With an apple corer. Ow. It’s only tiny, but by god it was a shock! Off the sample goes, gets poked and prodded and I go about my day realising that I can’t have sex, or do anything messy for a couple days. So much for that therapy, off to the shops.
My results came back clear, yay, with a note letting me know that instead of having a smear every three to five years, I now have to have one every year, until I have two to three clear years.
Damn you cervix, behave yourself!
The next year, just before my 28th, I get another letter. Another smear. Oh, be still my beating heart, I can’t wait. No, really. I can’t. Off I go, franken-nurses hands are bigger, the duck is colder and I spent the whole time trying to hold in a fart. Successfully, I might add. Away sails the cotton bud, and returns in the form of a letter two weeks later.
It’s different. It’s severe this time.
Off to another colposcopy. This time, it’s a doctor with the most distracting ears I’ve ever seen. Seriously, endangered species of buzzards could have lived in there. Amazing.
Over a month later, a phone call. At the Squash’s birthday trip. That was fun, trying not to think about it, and trying to keep the smiley face on. I didn’t want to ruin his holiday. I’ll not lie, it was hard. I have to return, a couple days after we get back. For a small operation. I was terrified.
The letter let me know that I had CIN3, which the doctor with the incredible ears informed me was basically the last step before proper cancer. In America, they call it seedling cancer. Back in the chair, and the nurse stocks a giant plaster on my thigh, to earth me, apparently. Worrying. The doctor goes to work, jabbing and poking, injecting and cutting, and cuts away half of my entire cervical area. Sad face. But with pain and worry comes humour, I am now a ‘half-moon’. I was ‘full-moon’, and despite Squash’s hopes, the evening was not filled with ‘total eclipse’. I’m also not allowed in, according to the doctor, ‘public swimming baths’, I had to update this in my head, correctly, to swimming pool. All the while he’s telling me after care, I’m still in the chair, when one of the nurses suddenly notices one of my tattoos, a tiger paw print on my bum/thigh line, and asks if her colleague can see it.
Seriously? I’ve been strapped in the back-laid saddle, you’ve seen my cervix, my bits, my bum and you’ve cut bits off and injected me with some horrible chemical that made me walk like a late-case leper, and you ask if this other woman can see my arse cheek? Sure, why not.
So either way, the large chunk they’ve cut away has gone off for testing, and in theory, they’ve got it before it turned or spread. But with that thought in mind, I suddenly realised a friend is going through similar, at least three people either in my family, or so close to it, they might as well be family, have died from various cancers.
And I realised that nowhere near enough people know about the simple checks they can do. I know we can’t feel for lung, pancreas or brain cancer, but we can feel breast, testicle and skin cancer. We get signs from our bodies when things aren’t right. Bowel cancer can be spotted by bleeding with going to the loo, some internal cancers give little signs. Check people, look it up, and read the signs.
Your body knows the score, and it’ll tell you, if you let it.