Let me paint a little picture for you. The letterbox swings and something drops in the hall, it’s a letter for you with IMPORTANT HEALTHCARE INFORMATION emblazoned on the front. Could it be? The letter you’ve been half expecting and half dreading? You’re in one of two groups of people at this point – you either know nothing much at all about cervical screening and weren’t even really expecting the letter, or you’ve heard horror stories from friends and are terrified of this painful and frankly humiliating procedure. After imagining all the horrible things that are going to happen to you when you’re there on the table with your legs akimbo and your beaver flapping all up in the nurse’s face – you finally remember Jade Goody and think, oh well I better book in. So you do, and you have to wait six weeks or something for the big day, then it finally drags around and before you know it, you’re being called in. The nurse has a kindly face and a no-nonsense approach so you do as your told as she explains what’s going to happen. Trousers and pants in a heap on the floor and out it comes… your muff, snatch, camel toe, lady garden, fanny, frou frou, minnie, grassy knoll, front bum, poonanie, tunnel of love, snatch, cock sock, cupid’s cupboard. Need I go on? I’ve got a few more… but you get the idea.
Lie back and think of England
That’s the phrase that comes to mind over the whole thing. I’ll be honest with you, it’s not the most fun you’ll ever have in your life – it certainly doesn’t compare to drinking sangria on the beach in Ibiza with your mates – but it could save your life. And quite frankly – I really don’t see what the fuss is all about after having mine yesterday. So I figured it was important to share my experience with you all to stop any worries you might have if you have yours coming up – or if for any reason you have put off having yours. I was pretty lucky actually, I got my letter yesterday afternoon and already had my last jabs appointment booked in for the same day, so I took along the letter with me, hoping to book an appointment for before I went away travelling in January. I hadn’t actually expected to get my letter so soon, but had already been told when I asked that I couldn’t book until I’d been called up. Luckily, mentioning it to my nurse as I had my jabs, she said she had five minutes spare to do the examination on the spot to make sure I had it before I went. Okay – I totally understand I was a bit lucky here as I had no time to dread it or worry, but I can seriously assure you all that there is no point in building it up in your mind.
So what happens?
A curtain is drawn, the door is locked and you have to whip off your trousers and knickers before laying down on the bed with a bit of tissue over your bits. Had an STD test before? Then this will all be familiar ground. The nurse will bring over a funny looking piece of equipment called a speculum and a little brush with a long handle, plus a good squirt of KY jelly – she inserts the speculum into your vagina and it is used to spread it slightly so she can access your cervix. For some, this might mean putting your fists under your bum if the angle is slightly different, but I didn’t have to. Within less than a minute, she has popped the tiny brush up there, swiped it around a bit and gathered a load of cells for testing. Now this part feels a bit odd – some say uncomfortable – but to be honest, I consider an aching bum from sitting on a plane for six hours uncomfortable and this was nothing compared to that. It was a weird feeling, but certainly not painful in any way and it is literally over in minutes. The brushing motion feels weird because the nurses are thorough and try to ensure they get a useful sample first time so you don’t have to go through it all again. After that, you whip your clothes back on and wait two weeks for your results.
Getting your minge out in front of another woman who spends much of her days looking at any number of them? Where is the embarrassment there? The whole thing is a bit cringe, but who honestly cares if this woman likes the look of your labias or not? You’re finding out that you are cancer free and unlikely to develop the disease – does embarrassment really need to come into it? I really think that if embarrassment about another woman (WHO ALSO HAS A VAGINA) seeing your bits is preventing you from getting this important health check, then you really need to reassess your life. We are really lucky to have this service available to us for free in this country – it is a shame it is not offered to women from a younger age, but we should be grabbing the opportunity with both hands! I’m sure if Jade Goody could go back and do it all again, she would beg for a test if it gave her one more day with her sons. Two awkward moments for a few years of reassurance – you can’t really compare or measure that for me. Especially if it gives me a good laugh with my girls over a glass of wine in the pub next week.
In the few hours that followed my smear (that word is so gross isn’t it?) I did notice a tiny bit of spotting, but it was barely anything at all. The nurse explained it was just caused by the swiping motion of the brush and was nothing to worry about. And my lower tummy did feel slightly odd – I couldn’t even describe it as an ache because it didn’t hurt – it just felt like someone had been poking around in there, but by the time you read this post, everything is back to normal and it is like nothing ever happened. I now have two weeks of waiting for my results – hopefully all clear – and then I have peace of mind and nothing to worry about until I am 28 and it all has to be done again. Three glorious years of knowing my cervix is a-okay and that I am not going to be struck down in my prime like some of the devastating stories here or here, or here, and how about here? All four of these stories are just devastating, and I barely had to search to find them. They are becoming more and more high profile as further cases emerge – many of these girls were not yet allowed the smear because they were considered too young. So tell me how you can possibly justify not going along and getting yours when it is being offered to you on a plate?
If you get your letter through, or if you’ve already had it, please don’t let fear or embarrassment put you off booking an appointment any longer. It really isn’t anything worth worrying about and for something that is over in two minutes, it really could change and save your life. I never thought I would say this after seeing her in Big Brother – but this really is one of those times we should ask ourselves –
What Would Jade Goody Do?
Tell me – what was your cervical smear like? Why is it so important to take up this free health check while we have the opportunity?