The following blog has been written by Eve Vaughan.
Wondering about Eve’s image with the smeared lipstick? She has taken part in Jo’s Trust Smear For Smear Campaign. Get involved #SmearForSmear
Since being in my 20’s, the words ‘cervical smear test’ have been pretty scary words to hear. Knowing I’d had the HPV vaccines at school gave me some comfort as I approached the big 25th birthday. I always thought you received the invitation for a cervical smear after your 25th birthday, however, it’s up to 6 months before your birthday that you get the letter.
I use the word ‘invitation’ because that is how the NHS addressed the letter to me… “we invite you for your cervical smear test”. To me, an invitation is an exciting thing; to get invited to a party with friends and family, not to get invited to the doctors for a daunting cervical smear. But hey, maybe it makes it sound more appealing.
Before my Appointment
So I received my letter when I was 24. I read the letter briefly, folded it in half with the information booklet, and put it under my bed (where I put all things that can be forgotten about briefly and addressed when I discover them many months later). My 25th birthday came and went with the increasing urgency to ring the doctors to book my cervical smear test.
My best friend turned 25 around a month after me, and was very organised in booking her test. We discussed the cervical smear a lot and agreed we both felt pretty nervous about it. The main reason being it was something unknown and we were unsure of how uncomfortable or painful it may be. A couple of weeks go by and my friend’s test is fast approaching, I still haven’t booked mine and she is still texting me telling me to get on with it!
Just a side note, this is all happening during lockdown last year. This current pandemic we are all trying our best to get through, made my cervical smear test seem a little less important than it should have been.
I subconsciously thought that my test can wait as there are more important things going on in the world (wrong thought process by the way)!
My friend rings me walking out of her cervical smear and tells me I have nothing to worry about. She was in no pain, no discomfort and seemed so happy she had done it! So, feeling a little more reassured, I pick up my phone to ring the doctors. The phone line says “user busy” so I hang up and try again later. Attempting to get through to the doctors during this pandemic was very difficult, the line either went dead or I was told I was number 16 in the queue. Eventually, I got through and got my test booked.
Meanwhile, I was very lucky to speak to an amazing friend who works for Leeds Cancer Awareness. I mentioned I was feeling very nervous about my smear test. She explained the procedure to me and said that if I didn’t feel comfortable with the speculum* the nurse used, that I could ask for a smaller one. This was so reassuring for me to hear, the fact that I had options and could ask for things to be changed during my appointment took a little bit of pressure off the whole thing.
*Speculum: the device used to open the vagina so that the cervix can be seen.
Not long before my appointment date, I came on my period. I was aware you couldn’t have your cervical smear test whilst being on your period, so I kept my fingers crossed that it would finish before the big appointment day. Just my luck, it hadn’t (eye-roll emoji here).
I rang the doctors the day before and rebooked my test for a later date. The day finally arrived (again), and I walked down to the doctor’s surgery feeling apprehensive and a little anxious. My heart was racing and I got that nervous sicky feeling you get before going into something unknown.
The Cervical Smear Test
Firstly, I was spoken through the procedure and told exactly what would happen. The nurse showed me the brush and speculums, she said she would use the smaller one first but if she couldn’t see my cervix well enough then she would use the larger one.
I was asked a few questions for the nurse to make her notes and also asked whether I understood all the information given to me. There were plenty of opportunities to ask my own questions too.
I then went behind the blue curtain, undressed my bottom half and laid on the bed. I remember looking up at the ceiling, telling myself to take deep breaths and remain calm. For me, the best way I can explain the feeling of the brush on my cervix was a dull achey pain … almost like a quick period pain. It lasted seconds whilst the brush was used to gather the sample and was over before I could give it a second thought.
It wasn’t long before I was putting my clothes back on. I felt so relieved whilst getting dressed that I had just had my cervical smear and felt absolutely fine. As I left, the nurse told me to not even think about the results until I received my results letter in the post.
Reflection of my 1st Cervical Smear
Looking back on the whole experience, I wish I had been more proactive in booking my cervical smear test. I would advise you, if you’ve received your letter, to not let your worries (or this pandemic) delay your test. The test is so important and we are lucky to be given the opportunity to take it. Please know, there is a huge network of people and organisations out there willing to help, reassure and answer any of your questions (even the ones you think are silly). Speak to your friends and family around you, they’ve been in your shoes or are in them now. You are not alone in this, I promise.
Remember, it’s not a test for cancer, it’s a test to help prevent cancer!
Thank you so much for reading my story, I really hope it has shed some light onto those 3 words and made them a little less daunting.
All my love, Eve xxx
P.S. Remember, the actual test takes seconds/minutes and is no way near as bad as you build it up in your head to be!!
Thank you to our guest blogger, Eve Vaughan for writing this blog.
The content of this blog has been written by Eve Vaughan and is representative of their views not the views of Leeds Cancer Awareness. If you would like to reproduce any aspect of this blog please seek the permission of the blog author.
If you have any worries or questions or simply want to know more about cervical screening visit Jo’s Trust, the UK’s leading cervical cancer charity.
For more information on other gynaecological cancers visit The Eve Appeal.
To read more of our blog posts visit Leeds Cancer.
Curious about Eve’s lipstick smear? Check out Smear For Smear and get involved!