Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Because We're Worth It

I was doing the usual start of year diary update - birthdays, dinner dates, parties etc - when I realised that 2012 meant something less exciting.   

The dreaded smear test is due ...

Yes, three years have flown by and it’s time to assume the embarrassing position again.  At least with childbirth, we have something lovely to show for it after the indignity - but with a smear test we’re left with nothing but an agonisingly long wait for the results.

I was lucky enough to have a gynaecologist for many years, who was the spitting image of Father Christmas.  It was all I could do to stop myself sitting on his lap and telling him I wanted a new bike!  I never felt uncomfortable or uneasy with him; he just had the knack of putting his patients at ease.  He had me chuckling once when he told me how he would often sympathise with his wife on the hardships endured by womanhood.  Thinking he was referring to the procedure, I was surprised when he continued, “Oh yes,” the burden of having to match all those shoes with all those handbags!”

Sadly, he’s now retired and quite possibly gone to Gynaecology Heaven (not an image I want to entertain) but I will always have a little soft spot for him - that sounds ever so slightly wrong, but you get my drift I hope.

So do I get the deadly deed over and done with ASAP or do I put it off until the last minute?  It’s not like childbirth - I didn’t have the choice as to when I’d be legs akimbo, it just happened and there was no putting it off.  Smear tests can be avoided, though.

But I’m too sensible for that.  I’ll gird my loins (!) take a good book, sit and wait for what seems an eternity (this is the worst part) and get it over and done with.

I’m normally a firm believer of ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ but cervical cancer is a silent killer and can so easily be prevented.  For the sake of a few minutes in the stirrups, lives can be saved.  I was never a huge fan of Jade Goody but, through her misfortune and subsequent campaigning, she helped to encourage thousands of women to take themselves off for this free and painless test.

Because, let’s face it ladies, it is painless isn’t it?  It’s just the thought of it and the fact that we have to reveal our lady-bits.  But we need to bear in mind that these professionals spend the majority of their time performing this procedure and they’ve seen it all - hairy ones, shaved ones and vajazzled ones and I dare say some that look like the labial equivalent of the trout pout - there is nothing to fear.

So here are Mummy Misfit’s top tips for surviving a smear test:

- Aim to reward yourself in some way when it’s over and done with.  Then you have something to look forward to.

- Take a good book for while you’re waiting - one of the Misfits should help to give you a giggle and take your mind off things!!

- Wear a long skirt and not jeans or leggings - that way you won’t feel quite so exposed.

- Breath, relax and breath again - it really is super-quick and should never be painful.

- If you’re really nervous, tell the practitioner - they’ll feel better for knowing and will be able to put you at ease.

- Imagine you’re a famous person - they all have to go through it you know!  Even the Queen at some point in her life!

- And if you really need a giggle to get through it, think about the gynaecologist who decorated his hallway … through the letter-box! (boom boom)

- Give yourself a happy pat on the back when it’s over.  You’ve been a responsible woman, taking control of your own health.

- Remember to make a note of your next test date as some surgeries don’t send reminders.

There, I’ve done my women’s health good deed for the year.  Now go and check out if your test is due and, if it is, you have me to thank!  Sorry but you know it makes sense.

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  1. http://yeswedohaveatv.wordpress.com11 January 2012 at 09:24

    I've just made an appointment for mine. I had my first test last year at 27 (I'd been putting it off for 7 years) and had CIN3 abnormalities. I was terrified, and found out a simple smear is NOTHING compared to the 3 colposcopies and treatment that followed. And they weren't as bad as I'd imagined. I now have to have a smear every 6 months and I couldn't be more devil-may-care about it. There's nothing to it.

    Great post! Very worthwhile.

  2. I couldn't agree more. There's no reason to avoid taking care of one's health (reproductive or otherwise), is there?

    I've never had any anxiety or awkwardness in having these exams done, so it's hard for me to understand women who tie themselves in knots with embarrassment over doing this. Any other medical exam and they're fine, but talk about getting a detailed check "down there" and Oh, my!

    Of course there are other obstacles, too: "she helped to encourage thousands of women to take themselves off for this *free and painless test*."

    And that's a big obstacle for many women, right there.

    Of course, you're in the UK, and I'm in Italy (where the test is also free). However, I'm from the United States where the smear test is most certainly NOT free for every woman.

    I would advise any woman who has access to free preventative health care to take advantage of this facility. There are worse things than a bit of embarrassment, after all.

  3. I put mine off until I was 25. Jade Goody being in the media really did give me the push I needed.

    I ended up having to have several smears and a colposcopy, followed by smears every six months but I was lucky and everything turned out to be fine. I can now have them every 3 years.

    A smear test is nothing when you think about what it can prevent. A few minutes of embarrassment really can save your life.

  4. I was another early case. I had abnormal cells on my first smear at 21 and follow up treatment.

    I am on 3 yearly follow ups these days, still dread it, but know it has to be done.


  5. Having a family history of abnormal
    Cells in the family (my mother was lasered & later had hysterectomy for prevention, my aunt & cousin both had laser treatment & my nan had hysterectomy for ovarian cancer) its close to me.

    I had my first smear at 21 and go every 3yrs. I brought my smear forward (which you can do) after suffering 2miscarriages in 5mths incase there was a reason. Thankfully all was ok. I'm my smear again in Sept.

    My 2 sisters are 25 & 19 and I urge them to have it done, especially if sexually active.

    Anyone can get cervical cancer and I'm a big believer that the age for call ups need to be lowered!!!

  6. Yeah I don't really feel self conscious about it, the gynos seen hundreds of vaginas over the years it's just like he's a mechanic tuning a motor!

  7. This has just reminded me that I really need to make an appointment! My sister had a cervical cancer scare a couple of years ago and that, more than anything, made me sit up and realise that regular checks are so important. And I've been putting off making that appointment for far too long now...

  8. Hell yeah! So glad I grew up in Australia. Had my first smear at 18 and my first abnormal one at 21 but luckily it was all sorted out very quickly, most likely saving my life. Am shocked that here in the UK the age is 25. That is way too late for many women. Also shocked at people who are opposed to girls getting the HPV vaccine - especially those who claim they are "prolife". Nope, they're anti-woman!

    Georgia Lewis

  9. I've just had mine and I did put it off for months but it was over in seconds. My last one 3 yrs ago showed a polyp so I had to go and have it removed but even that wasn't as bad as the thought of it. I only have another two or three smears to go before I'm past the age for them so I don't know whether to be happy I won't need them or upset that I won't be looked after in that way anymore. Yes, as you said wear a long skirt or long top if you wear trousers, I didn't and the nurse didn't give me a sheet to cover myself so had to use my jumper. A really good informative post.

  10. A great post with useful tips.

    Is there an age limit on smears? I've not had any yet, mainly because they're at such odd times in strange place I can't get to! (No, I don't mean down there).

    I don't think young people are informed about smear tests and the risks

  11. My last smear test was when Jo was in the buggy aged 2 and he was handing me an empty banana skin just at the exact moment of 'locating the cervix' and me thrusting my pelvis in the air ! he was so very insistant that I took it off him "right now mummy!" that the nurse raised her head, removed the speculum and let me quickly grab the banana skin, give him a drink of juice and a book before continuing the procedure. Stressful? not at all!!!

    Mummy on the Edge x