Sunday, 23 November 2014

LIFE: My First Cervical Screening Test

I never thought I would ever mention my cervix on ohhellojo, but here we are and I'll been mentioning my cervix quite a lot in this post. Weird, but also liberating. Every woman has a cervix and some women end up having cervical cancer too, so it's important. Talking about it shouldn't be weird! (but even after that intro, it's still super weird).

The other day I went for my first smear test. I've been for STI tests before (although intitially not for STI tests, for smear tests, which they consistently refused to give me because of my age, so ended up with STI tests instead. Awesome), so I thought I knew what it'd be like. Sort of. It's also why I went for it right after my twenty fifth birthday.

If you're sqeamish, probably don't read the next few paragraphs, skip to the last one.

So! I didn't get a choice of what size speculum (I didn't know about different sizes until afterwards) so I found it weird and increasingly uncomfortable. It was in there for about a minute. The whole time, I desperately wished it not to be there. Not painful to start with, but not comfortable either, it got to the point where it was really painful I'd have pulled it out myself if she'd taken any longer. I'm not sure what I did during that minute except stare at the light fitting above me and try to breathe through it so as to not clamp my legs together, unfortunately probably around the woman's head, in the way my legs seemingly wanted to.

NOTE: Before getting my invitation, I honestly thought that having a smear was a biopsy and they'd take a small portion of my womb lining for examination. Once I'd read the leaflet and realised they were swabbing my cervix I felt much better because that's essentially what I'd had before and the STI tests weren't all that bad. (so if you think you need an STI test, go!)

Now, the part I was not prepared for, was the pain afterwards. And the bleeding.

Thank goodness I wasn't going to work immediately after, or even at work that whole day. She triumphantly held up the brush (because it's not really a swab, but a quick whip round with a brush that looks very similar to one of those little flossing things) and it was covered in blood. Uh oh. Didn't see that coming. At this point she said "it's very common for women to spot afterwards so don't be worried if you find a little blood in your knickers today."

Maybe I was just too tense? Maybe the nurse masked her brutality with nice chitchat? Maybe the brush was too spikey? Maybe my cervix is just a sensitive soul? Maybe I have a problem? Maybe I should have preplanned for possible blood loss? Well, bleed I did.

However, she didn't offer me any panty liner, pad or tampon to cover up the fact I was bleeding. Not spotting. Bleeding. I'm super glad I was wearing a dress rather than my skinny jeans which I'd originally planned to wear, because my knickers are ruined.

I had to wear a pad for the rest of the day. And the next day. And it felt as though I'd eaten a brick and it had hit my womb after I'd swallowed it. So, the after effects were pretty similar to my initial thought of what a biopsy would be. A good comparison for me to this is: the pain that sometimes comes just before a period (like a dull, constant, sickening stomach ache) and as I mentioned before, the blood loss of my last day. 

Bet you loved thinking about all that then... not. But it's a fact, and a fact that was not mentioned on the leaflet, or actually, anywhere online that's professionally written*.

And to me, it's the lasting effects that were the most poignant of the whole experience.

I thought about not writing this post. I thought about how it might (well, probably will) put some people off. But, and this is a massive but, for two days of weird bleeding, I've found out that I'm okay and my cervix is completely normal. The pro's outweigh the cons so greatly the thought of not having one freaks me out more than having to go back in three years time (although I'll definately ask for a different nurse and a smaller speculum).

It's alright donating or running the Races for Life or cutting your hair off to raise money, but if you don't take advantage of what you raise money and awareness for, what's the point? 

You only get one body and one cervix. Look after it!

*NOTE: there are so many horror stories on the internet about women having horrid experiences and I hope that although I haven't exactly sung praises about it, I've been factual enough to prepare you for what might happen rather than put you off. TANGENT: my chicken started limping once and I Googled what could have been the cause/how to treat it and all articles pointed to a leathal disease and imminent death. Turns out she'd fallen down the ramp to the hut and sprained her ankle. Take the internet with a pinch of salt, everyone is different and I hope you go and find out what it's like for yourself.

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