Don’t Fear The Smear

I had my smear test on Wednesday.

You know, that appointment that us females look forward to every three years.

I mean, who can’t wait to lie back on a bed in a nurses office, legs akimbo whilst a nurse shoves something looking not dissimilar to a toothbrush up your bits under the glare of a bright light

Yep, I was really looking forward to it.

All joking aside, I was looking forward to it. I was looking forward to getting it over and done with, and hopefully getting the news in two to six weeks time that it’s all okay and that I don’t need to think about it for another three years. If there is something a bit iffy about the results, I’ll either be booked in for another one just to double check or go to the hospital to have a few more tests. Whatever the outcome, it means that I will know.

And that’s what a smear test is all about. Knowing. It’s knowing whether your cervix is looking healthy or knowing whether something is amiss and needs a bit more investigation. It’s about knowing so something can be done about it before it’s too late.

I had my first smear test when I was 25. I don’t remember being particularly worried about it, but I had pushed a baby out of my lady bits just 12 weeks previously, so I probably figured if I could do that, a little speculum was going to be easy. I was really surprised when a few weeks later, I had a letter that said my results were a bit concerning. There were some mild cell changes in the neck of my cervix and they wanted me to have a colposcopy, which is basically like a more in-depth smear test, done at the hospital. Of course, that totally shit me up, and looking on Google did not help at all. I was convinced I was dying of cervical cancer, that my three-month-old Harrison would be left motherless etc etc etc. The fear of waiting for that test, which I don’t really remember (so it can’t have been that bad!) was horrendous.

As it was, it was just very mild cell changes which had gone by the time I had the colposcopy. The gynae person who did it reckoned it was because I’d recently had a baby and things had been a bit slower at getting back to normal. Nevertheless, it was better to be safe than sorry, and for the next two years, I had a smear test every six months. Fun.

To be fair, the worst part about having them so often was actually making the appointment. Trying to get through to the doctors on the phone and then getting an appointment off the dragons that did the bookings was more stress than the smear itself.

They all came back clear, so I’m now back to three-yearly ones. The nurse put me straight at ease. She explained what she was going to do, asked me a few questions about my periods, contraception and whether I had any unexplained bleeding between periods or after sex.

She then left me to get undressed from the waist down behind a curtain, lie on the bed and cover myself up with the paper sheet. Once I was ready, she came in, got me into position and popped the speculum in, which holds the walls of your vagina open so she can get to the cervix. It was a bit cold but didn’t hurt one little bit. She then used a soft brush type thing to gently collect some of the cells.  It felt a bit like a scraping – not the nicest of feelings but nothing more than a few seconds of ‘okay, that feels strange’. Honestly, having my eyebrows waxed was a lot more painful. Some women will find it more uncomfortable. That’s normal. She told me what she was doing at every step of the procedure, and made me feel relaxed and at ease.

Within a couple of minutes, it was all over and she left me to get dressed again. She explained I may have a bit of spotting, which is totally normal, especially at that point in my cycle, and that I’d get a letter within two to six weeks with my results.

Was it a pleasant experience? Well, no, not exactly. The point is that it’s not scary, it’s not embarrassing,  it’s not hugely painful but it is so important. The nurse really doesn’t give a shit what your lady bits look like. She’ll have seen thousands of them, all different but all the same. And anyway, what’s a few minutes of awkwardness compared to what could happen if you didn’t go for one?

Don't Fear the Smear

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