Hello hello, how are you doing? I’m back writing today with what I hope will be an interesting blog post for you.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my top tips for surviving your smear test because well, it’s not a pleasant time for us women is it? (YOU CAN READ THIS HERE) Today I am back with my story on receiving abnormal results and going for a Colposcopy for LLetz treatment aged just 24.
Since I’d already done a lot of research on smear tests and abnormal results, I felt like I was clued up about the whole thing. Let me tell you, the news that I had “severe dyskariosis”… it hit me like a bus.
I received my letter inviting me to a smear appointment around 6 months before I was due to turn 25, I thought about putting it off until I was 25 but I finally decided that I’d get it out-of-the-way – PLUS if anything were to happen, I’d not forgive myself for not taking the test sooner.
Fast forward to the week I was due to receive my results, I was at my student placement and was chatting quite a lot with another student who confided in me that she has never had an all clear from her smear tests – and she was 29 – so she has to have them every 6 months. We discussed a lot about abnormal results and she told me how it made her feels etc, she was a beacon of strength in that week when I was stressing out. Since I’d already done a lot of research on smear tests and abnormal results, I felt like I was clued up about the whole thing. Let me tell you, the news that I had “severe dyskariosis”… it hit me like a bus, despite all of my preparations, I was horrified and very quickly that horror turned to tears. I cried a lot.
The letter I received invited me to a Gynaecology Clinic whereby they “see and treat” women with abnormal results. Not all hospitals do the “see and treat” clinic, but I knew that it was a good thing because at least I didn’t have to go and get my lady business out any more than necessary. Some women go to these appointments to get further swabs/biopsies and if these happen to also be abnormal, you will be invited for treatment. Thankfully at my clinic, if they identify an abnormality, they will treat it there and then.
I’m not going to lie…it was traumatic. It was a horrendous experience that I would not wish on anybody. I took my partner for support and he was fantastic but the whole thing was quite an ordeal. Let me talk you through my experience so you know how things plan out if you’re due for a Colposcopy at some point.
ARRIVED AT 9:00AM
I waited anxiously in the waiting room making small talk to my partner and trying to ignore all of the information boards and leaflets surrounding me that showed pictures and stuff about the horrors of cervical cancer. Not really what anyone wants to read after receiving an abnormal result so I decided to just deal with it with humour…I think I said something along the lines of “oh that’s lovely, just what I needed to make me feel better. Such a warm welcome”.
The doctor who would be doing my Colposcopy took me into his office where he asked me numerous questions about my lady business e.g birth control, sexual activity, history of pregnancy, etc. He went through the questions quickly and then took me into another room with more women waiting to be called into the treatment room. I can’t deny it, it was a stomach churning wait and I just kept thinking I wanted it to be over. Every now and then I’d catch my partners eye and give a small smile – I just wanted to go home and have a cuddle.
It was my turn, we went into a quite a large treatment room with a non-dignified looking chair in it. My partner took his seat beside that chair and I was given a gown and instructed to undress from the waist down in the little private room. Once i’d popped that on, I walked out of the dressing area and tried (successfully!) to not flash my bum as I made my way to the offensive looking chair.
I promised myself I’d be brave, that I wouldn’t cry and I wouldn’t fall to pieces…I couldn’t of been more wrong and you know what? I don’t feel a shred a shame about that.
READY AS I’LL EVER BE
Up my feet go into the stirrups and the nurse pressed a button so the chair would increase in height…not the most dignified thing to be doing, – to be at lying at a standing height with your legs sticking out and know that your lady business is fully in the spotlight. I felt mortified and just wanted it to be over. The doctor came in, took a seat in front of me and got right to it. To be honest, the insensitive bugger startled me as I didn’t realise that he was about to begin because he didn’t say anything. The first I knew was when he wanted to make me acquainted with the speculum…and he wasn’t gentle in the slightest. And then something else happened…it popped out onto the floor. I don’t think I have anything to say that, so without further ado, let’s move on…
Shortly after the success of the second speculum, I started to cry. I’m not talking a little bit, I’m talking about tears streaming down my face. It was painful – not overly, but it wasn’t that, that bothered me so much. It was the fact that I felt utterly violated and vulnerable, the second after he started, my emotions just came crashing down and I couldn’t stop the tears. I felt a warm hand take mine and I looked to my left to see Chris looking at me lovingly with eyes full of concern, he was the ever calming presence that he always is when stuff gets serious. He rubbed his thumb back and forth across my hand and just told me to breathe. To him, he probably thought that he wasn’t making much difference because my tears did not let up, but it meant the world to me that he was there, just having him there was enough and I clutched onto his hand like it was the only thing holding me to the earth.
One of the things stressing me out was the injection (to number my cervix) and I really wanted this part to be over as soon as possible. I’m not going to lie – it did hurt and I uttered a little squeaky “ow” when he did it. With a shaky and teary voice, I asked “is the injection part over, have you done it?”, he said “another two to go actually”, I cried “WHAT?” and carried on sobbing hysterically as I frantically tried to wipe away the tears.
I don’t remember much from this point to be honest, I know that the doctor used a special dye to identify areas that are abnormal and then used a special machine to get rid of those cells. I remember him putting an electrical pad on my leg to perform the LLetz procedure (which doesn’t hurt by the way as you’re numb!) and then before I knew it he was telling me that he told me that he was stopping the bleeding and then he was done. He just said to me “I found moderate to severe dyskaryosis”, I asked him what CIN I was (the grading system used by medical professionals in relation to abnormal results) and he said CIN 2/3 (3 is considered to be the most severe). He said that he was confident that he had removed all of the affected cells but would await the results to be certain.
THOUGHTS & FEELINGS
In all honesty, my feelings regarding this experience are that I didn’t really feel like the patient care was really there, I felt like I was on a conveyor belt, the other lady was out and I was in. There wasn’t any chit-chat or kind words from either the nurse or the doctor (which I’m sure most women would appreciate). It was literally an in-and-out system and it made me feel awful because obviously I felt vulnerable and some kind words or at least talking me through what he was doing might have made me feel a little better. The nurse only spoke to me once i’d dressed and said “you did well”.
I went home, got into bed with Chris, we snuggled up and went to sleep for a couple of hours, That for me was heaven! And when we got back up, we ordered a Domino’s pizza and chilled out in the house. I didn’t feel any pain after the treatment, I just felt exhausted from all the crying and my emotions were all over the place so I knew that being kind to myself was important. I’d just had some of my lady bits chopped off – I deserved that pizza and sleep! I was told that I wouldn’t be able to have sex for 6 weeks and I couldn’t use tampons either. This for me was a nightmare because I HATE pads, I hate how icky they make me feel and bleurgh for Granny pants. I also had to wear sanitary pads pretty much all of the time for the first few weeks because SORRY IN ADVANCE FOR TMI of the ‘coffee bean’ discharge that you get after LLetz treatment. I’m not going to lie, this recovery is a ball-ache, I felt like the weeks dragged and the whole pad changing business did my nut in BUT I’m so glad that I went for treatment and my smear test when I did. Who knows what would have happened otherwise?!
The smear test results came back around 6 weeks later and stated that the biopsy taken was indeed CIN 1/2/3 but the doctor had managed to remove all of the affected cells. Following this success, I was asked back for a repeat smear test 6 months later to double-check that everything was healing well and see if this smear would come back normal. This was around 6 weeks ago now so I’m just waiting for the results to come back – fingers crossed I don’t have to do this again.
I’M GOING TO NAG YOU!
I know this story sounds traumatic and I know I really haven’t sold getting a smear test done to you…but I can’t stress enough how important going for your smear test is – regardless of how scared or embarrassed you feel about it, please please don’t delay and book yours now! I read a story recently about a girl who begged doctors for a smear test from the age of 18 due to worrying symptoms – bless her heart, she is now 25 and has sadly passed away from cervical cancer. I know it’s terrifying, I know it’s traumatic and degrading but it’s really not worth your life is it?! I might have been upset for a couple of hours and been in a little discomfort, but it is nothing compared to how things would have been had the abnormalities developed into something more sinister.
If you’ve got a Colposcopy booked soon (treatment for abnormal results), follow these tips to help make the experience a little bit less stressful…
- Shower beforehand – and a fresh change of clothes will make you feel a lot better about your appointment. If you can’t do this, use some feminine wipes to freshen up (but stay away from your intimate lady business, you don’t want anything to conflict with the chemicals they use to identify your abnormal tissue)
- Wear something you can get in and out of quickly – you’ll want to be out of there as quick as you can.
- Wear something comfortable – you’ll probably feel quite vulnerable afterwards so wear something snuggly that you feel comforted in (a big baggy jumper will do the trick).
- Take a friend, your other half or a family member. Anyone who can hold your hand and be there for you during and after will help make your experience a little bit better.
- Communicate with your doctor – tell him or her that you’re feeling nervous and you’d like them to be gentle. If you’d like to be talked through the procedure then let them know. Unless you communicate your needs to them, they won’t be able to accommodate them.
- Wear big pants & take pads – it’s not glamorous (what part of this is?!) but you’ll definitely need these so go prepared.
- Book a taxi/get a lift – the last thing you’ll want after your treatment is to be on public transport, you’ll want to get home as soon as possible and snuggle up with a hot water bottle.
- Take the day off work/school/college/university – you deserve it! You’ll not be in the mood to be in public afterwards and you need to put your feet up for a few hours after to take care of your own emotional needs so plan in advance and clear your diary.
- Plan something fun – plan a day on the sofa with your duvet and snacks. Plan a pamper session, plan to read a book if that is what relaxes you. Whatever you plan, make sure it’s something that makes your heart happy and feel guilt free whilst you’re doing it.
I know that this post isn’t pleasant and I’ve certainly not sugar-coated the experience but I’m not one to dumb down the truth – you need to know what to expect and me making out like it’s a walk in the park is not going to be helpful to anyone. Besides, if there is anything I want to be with my readers, it’s honest, I want you to trust me and know that the words I write are always the heartfelt truth in my eyes. So, having said that, I know it’s not pleasant but I don’t regret the experience for a second, it’s a necessary evil and you owe it to yourself to have your smear test done so you can stay the fabulous person that you are. That sounds morbid I know – but it’s the harsh reality, if you want to live life to the full, then one of the most important steps you have to take is that to the Gynaecologist. WoMAN-UP and do it!
Links I’d recommend
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust Forums – If you’ve got a colposcopy coming up or you have received abnormal results. Check out Jo’s Cancer Trust online forums, this place was a lifesaver whilst I was in limbo land waiting. You’ll find a lot of women here with similar experiences to you and all having the same anxieties.
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust Information Point – Here you’ll find everything you need to know about cervical cancer screening from what to expect to what the jargon means that medical professionals use.