The dreaded letter…. Turning twenty five was a big deal for me. I mean, I was turning a quarter of a century old. But along with gifts from family and friends, turning twenty five brings another little present for women up and down the country. The dreaded letter.
The time had come for my first smear test. Images raced through my mind. My palms felt clammy, my breathing a little faster. I put it off for at least a week. I even ironed that week, as an excuse to avoid making the call. But eventually, I took a deep breath, picked up the phone and made the appointment.
Putting it to the back of my mind, I carried on with normal life. But before I knew it, my appointment date arrived. I blushed as I said my name to the receptionist, thinking she would know why I was there. In the waiting room, I ducked my head and hurried to an empty chair away from questioning eyes. Barely two minutes passed and my name echoed through the room. Since when were doctors on time? I forced myself to stand and headed to room three to have my first ever smear test.
And just like that, it was all over! Luckily, it was nothing like I’d imagined – slightly uncomfortable, yes, but it was nowhere near as bad as I’d thought. The nurse was so lovely and comforting.
Afterwards, I was told I’d get the results by letter. As soon as I left, I phoned my partner, Craig, to tell him it was over. I have two children to run around after and have just started my degree at De Montfort University, so the whole experience quickly faded to the back of my mind. It was a big shock when I received a letter a few days later confirming my worst fear. I had severe grade dyskaryosis. This basically means I had a lot of abnormal cells. I was shaking, I didn’t know what these words meant. So I did what everyone does (even though I knew I shouldn’t). I Googled it. Every article was linked with cancer.
My first thought was, I am going to die. I have children, and I have just started university: this can’t be happening to me. So many questions raced through my mind. Do I have cancer? What’s going to happen? How has this happened to me? If I die, who will French plait my daughter’s hair for school? I felt sick.
I rang Craig, who came straight home from work. I just cried and cried. He was my rock. When I think of how strong he was and how he comforted me, it makes me realise that I am so lucky to have him by my side. A few weeks before, my best friend Rachael had been for her first smear (which, thankfully, came back clear). I sent her a picture of the letter, hoping that she could somehow make it all better. I didn’t tell many people because I was so embarrassed and ashamed. I felt like I had got something disgusting wrong with me. I was so wrong. It can happen to anybody. I shouldn’t have been embarrassed, ashamed or disgusted. We should be encouraged to talk about these things as much as possible. That’s why I’m writing this. It’s my way of saying, hey, it’s okay. We all go through it. Let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about smears.
A few weeks passed. Rachael came with me to the Leicester Royal Infirmary. I thought I was just having a colposcopy. This is a simple procedure used to look at the cervix, the lower part of the womb at the top of the vagina. However, after talking to the doctor, I discovered that I was having my treatment the same day. I wasn’t prepared for this at all. I didn’t have time to think. I remember the doctor speaking and I just couldn’t process any of the information, Rachael assured me it would be fine, but I could tell she was just as anxious as I was. The treatment I had was called Loop Diathermy. The abnormal cells are removed using a small loop wire, which is heated electrically. I can never thank Rachael enough for her support and I’m forever grateful to her for being there. I was awake throughout, and had some pretty random conversations with Rachael, the doctor and nurses, one of which centred on how nice ice-cream soda was with white wine.
It was the scariest moment of my life. But I think it’s scarier that without the smear test, it could have turned into cervical cancer. So I am really happy that the cells were found and treated. I know the thought of a smear isn’t very nice, but I can assure you that it’s not that bad. And it might just save your life.
Since this happened to me, I have had three smears since (due to additional check-ups) and thankfully they have all came back fine. I’ve been trying to spread the message of how important smear testing is, and how it shouldn’t be a taboo subject. I believe everything happens for a reason. If I can do some good from sharing my experience, then something positive has come out of all this. Together, we can make a change. If you have any questions, need any advice or would just like to chat, please send me a message. Thanks for reading. Take care, Annemarie.