My First Cervical Screening Experience at 26.

I am 26 years old, this means that in the UK I am eligible for my first Cervical Screening or (Smear Test), same thing just different name. You've probably seen the incredible response online to the #SmearForSmear campaign recently, organised by Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust.

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer found in women under 35, yet one in three young women don't attend their smear test. I was one of people until January 2018.

After reading the capacity of my brain in articles, forums, and blog posts I booked my first appointment. I was also tired of the constant pressure from people around me to get it done. I know it's importance but you know life gets in the way and it sometimes doesn't seem 'that important' you know. It is important. Your health is incredibly important. SO Monday 30 January, 9.20am. I booked the morning off work and then wrote the date in my diary, ever looming. It was around a week away. Shit a brick.

BEFORE THE TEST

My initial invitation to go came before my 25th Birthday, not the best present to receive but definitely the most important. I've been avoiding my smear for nearly 2 years this July. The fear that transports itself through my body to my mind was unbearable. A test like this has filled me with an increased level of anxiety and questioning, 'what if I get cancer?' 'I'm not ready to die', 'I've got a niggle in my pevlic area, it must be cancer. shit shit shit' and I can barely cope with everyday life, let's not throw me another spanner to cope with, please. I needed to change this, bite the bullet and get the job done. Plus not every girl is comfortable with just letting someone check out your vagina, you know.



Since I booked the appointment I've been going through the different outcomes in my head, preparing myself whatever the outcome may be. My anxiety makes this kind of thing very difficult.
I think what terrified me was the most about the experience was wait between the results. For someone with anxiety I need to be in complete control of my life as much as possible and no, not for this test. I'd have to wait for 2-6 weeks, live with my terrifying thoughts before a conclusion has even arrived at the door. Urgh not good about that.

I decided to call the Jo's Cancer Trust helpline on Friday, I was pulling my hair out with worry and I'd ignore my boyfriend's reassurances that I'm going to be ok and there's nothing to worry about. The helpline was an absolute knight in shining armour and I'm so glad I took the time to pick up the phone for some support. She also offered me their call back service which meant that after the screening was done she would ring me to check how the procedure went, as well as seeing whether I had anymore questions.

Nobody looks forward to having their smear test.

THE PROCEDURE


Before I went I also wanted to 'present' my vagina in a way I felt comfortable with, sounds stupid but it put my mind at ease. I had a shower in the morning, put on some of the underwear I felt most confident in and made sure to wear a dress and tights. I did worry about it a lot, 45 minutes before my appointment I definitely sobbed in fear on the phone to my mum.
If you aren't confident in going to the appointment alone then you can take someone in with you, I couldn't and this definitely played on my mind. But you can do it alone too.

In hindsight I shouldn't have worried whatsoever. I rocked up to the appointment 5 minutes early, did some breathing exercises and drank lots of water to keep myself hydrated. I was greeted by a smiley faced who ushered me into her office. Before the procedure she asked a few questions surronding my general health and periods, gave me an brief explanation of the procedure and said that we were doing this together. She then asked me to pop my bottom halves off and pop myself on the bed whilst she organised the equipment used. Now, before this I had heard the speculum used would be plastic so imagine the horror that filled me when they didn't have any plastic ones available and I'd be having a metal one inserted in me. I instantly felt terrfied and wanted to run, obviously bit of a toughie when your bottom half is not clothed but anyhow. 

You are asked to put your feet together and your knees apart so that she can see the vagina properly and be able to perform the procedure. It was fine. This person looks at vaginas all day every day. I'm sure she didn't judge the fact that I had shaved the night before but hopefully it was appreciated all the same. She lubed up the spectlum and it felt like a sex toy had been inserted into my vagina (please God never let my family read this post). I honestly didn't feel anything after that. Before I knew it it was out and all done. I was shocked. Are you sure hun? It was uncomfortable but wasn't painful and was done within minutes. I popped on my tights and knickers then was sent on my way. The nurse instructed me of the next step and hoped I would have a good day. 

Now the wait is tough. 

I hate having to wait for results so for 14 days I decided to keep myself preoccupied and fill in my diary with lots of fun stuff to do.

Today is 12 February, exactly 2 months since my Smear Procedure and my results arrived in the post today.

'Your cells at this time are normal'. 

Hallejuah! 

I am so relived you wouldn't believe. It has definitely got me thinking and I wanted to share my experience because so many people have said their anxiety has held them back from making an appointment too. Please let me assure you that those 5 minutes spent awkwardly showing off your lady area is definitely worth it in the long run. With around 3,000 cases of cervical cancer diagnosed each year in the UK its important we do our part in looking after ourselves.

If you do need support I would definitely get in touch with Jo's Cancer Trust, they were definitely there when I needed them. 

And please ladies if you have been avoiding the letter please ring and book your appointment.

Emmie x

13 comments

  1. Loved this blog post Emmie:) very well structured and informative to raise awareness for the #smear4smear campaign

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    1. Thanks for your comment Hayley, I really hope it's helped people because I definitely feel as though it was a post I needed to read having suffered with anxiety and struggled to get into the doctors without freaking out! x

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  2. I've had extra screenings to investigate problems with my periods and I find that they're not that big of a deal to me anymore. I still feel awkward having not shaved my legs and things like that - I can't believe it's the small things that make us feel so uncomfortable sometimes!

    Mel ✨
    http://meleaglestone.co.uk
    @meleaglestone

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    1. Sorry to hear that Mel, hope it's solved for you soon! I think now I've done one I can feel more confident in going again for sure, it was a hurdle I needed to overcome and feel so proud for doing so. I know - I went away like "I don't think she cared my vagina was well groomed for the event". x

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  3. Thank you for sharing your cervical smear test experience! I put mine off for over a year because of the anxiety and fear I felt when opening the letter inviting me for the test. When I finally plucked up the courage to go, it turned out I had abnormal cells and had to go for further tests and a biopsy. Thankfully, I was given the all clear, but it was a terrifying time and I wish I'd not put it off so long. I won't delay going for future smears! x www.aimeeraindropwrites.co.uk x

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    1. I think it's normal to have anxiety and fear over it - I'm just glad that I went in the end. I won't either, as soon as my letter arrives in the future I'm going to get my butt to the doctors and get sorted! x

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  4. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I can understand why you were struggling with the thought of waiting for the result, I always just think that if there's something wrong I'd rather know about it than continue to be afraid of what "could" be and put my health and future at risk. Always better to be safe than sorry. Well done for being brave and going for it!

    Kathryn // www.theglutenfreecheerleader.com

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    1. I definitely understand that but for some people like myself we can't just get over that fear even though we understand and acknowledge its important to our health. At least I did it eventually :) x

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  5. This was an interesting read. In the US, this is done yearly (Recently they changed the guideline to once every 2 years) from the time you start going to the gyno. Its so important. I have several friends who were prevented from getting cervical cancer from these checks. Ladies, don't be afraid. It only takes a moment, and while its not overly comfortable, it isn't painful. Get it done!

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  6. Brilliant, well written post! I have no doubt that sharing your experience and how you coped with it will help so many young women and give them the confidence to go too!
    Much love
    Steph
    www.pricelesslifeofmine.com

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  7. Thank you for sharing your experience regarding this intensely personal and tough topic.

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  8. Great post, Emmie! The more posts there are with these honest and real experiences the better! Horror stories don’t help anyone. Although I didn’t put mine off, I felt a lot of the same as you cos I suffer with bad health anxiety too. I booked mine more or less as soon as I received my letter for a few days before my 25th cos I wanted it out of the way ASAP but the month between booking and my appointment I was a nervous wreck, definitely cried a few times and certainly sent myself into a tizzy on multiple occasions. But again like you, didn’t have anything to worry about. The doctor was lovely, it didn’t hurt and was over and done with in less than a minute! I was also sick with worry in the lead up to getting my results but unfortunately mine didn’t come back normal so the worry started all over again. I think if there was more information readily available and more people talking about them and less taboo surrounding them and DEFINITELY less false information then women wouldn’t be so terrified.

    Jenny
    http://www.jennyinneverland.com

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  9. Really well written, and I'm so proud of you for going. I always wear and dress and tights as it feels a bit nicer having my skirt rather than literally being half naked. I had some bad results from my first smear 3 years ago, and subsequently needed treatment. I'd put off my tests because I assumed everything would be fine, and as you say, life gets in the way. I now have to go for checks every six months, but got my first ever 'normal' result this january, and i literally bawled like a baby, i was so happy. I think it's so important to keep talking about it.
    Hels xx

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