5 Jul 2013

It's a Smear Campaign

I wasn't sure whether I should (or wanted to) write this post, if this was the right place as it's a bit too over sharing for me but it has been niggling away at me and so I'm just going to do it. It's important for every woman to have knowledge and if Bubba reads this when older I hope she recognises the importance of what I've said.

If you aren't keen on over sharing about women's issues, look away now...

I recently read an article that the 'Jade effect' has been wearing off and less and less woman are going for their Smear Tests and Cervical Cancer is becoming a very common cancer in women under 35. That to me is a shocking, as testing saves lives every day and for the uncomfortable five minutes in the doctors, it could mean the difference between life and death. Sorry to get all preachy on you and here is the over sharing bit that I hope if it only gets one woman who has been putting it off or doesn't see the point to make an appointment and go then it was worth writing.

My Story

The threat of Cervical Cancer has been one that's present in my life for at least the last ten years although I try not to now look at it like that because I go and get tested regularly. At around the age of 27 I got my first CIN II result from a routine smear test, which to anyone unfamiliar is the detection of 'pre cancerous' or abnormal cells and required me to go for further investigation at a Colposcopy clinic at my local hospital. I affectionately call them my 'naughty cells' now because it lessens the impact on my poor over tired brain! It is common and at one point in their life most woman get referred to this clinic to see if further treatment is needed. It shouldn't be a place of fear and shouldn't put a woman off because it may be embarrassing to have someone take a closer look (trust me once you have children, nothing is embarrassing ever again).

On this occasion I needed further treatment and had a laser loop (exactly what it sounds like...a laser on a loop) that burns off the surface of the cervix to eradicate the abnormal cells. It felt uncomfortable afterwards but not painful and for most woman other than a test six months later and then onto yearly tests for a while that's the end of it.

For me, I had the next test clear and the one after that (at a year) showing more CIN I cells (this is less severe than II). Again I was referred to Colposcopy and again had laser treatment but this time the doctor removed a lot of the area. For the next four years I went gradually from six monthly tests onto having yearly tests which all came back normal and then I got moved onto three yearly tests again (much celebration ensued).

When it came to having a child, lots of discussion and referral took place because so much of the lining of my cervix had been removed. I may need a stitch to keep the baby in, I may not be able to carry full term but in the end it worked out but amidst the crying and soul searching a very lovely nurse put it all in perspective for me. Her words really hit home and she said them without malice when I got upset that I may not be able to carry a child in my 'defective' body

"It's not nice but if you hadn't of had the treatment you may not be here now".

That one sentence (and truely I'm glad she said it because it's so true) made me take stock and realise that if it hadn't of been for the testing then I could of been looking at a totally different future...or no future at all.

My story now is one of naughty cells still,  I have had borderline changes for the last 18 months (I'm being tested every six months again). It's stopped me trying for another baby (although I have been desperate in a hormonal clock ticking way) because I wouldn't put myself into the position of developing cancer if I can help it. The last test came back normal so for now we are celebrating that I'm just like everyone else again. My future may involve having an early hysterectomy or being tested more regularly but rather than shy away from the testing, I try and get it done as soon as possible because an early warning is better than no warning. I even complimented the nurse and thanked her on my last visit - that's how familiar I am with the tests now...I can spot a good test from a bad one!

Please don't put it off, go for the test, then go for a celebratory coffee and cake.

If you have any concerns or want more information then please visit http://www.jostrust.org.uk/
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