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A few months before my 25th birthday in 2018, I went for my first ever smear test. I was nervous but knew it was important so off I went, and it was over and done with within minutes. It was nowhere near as bad as I thought and I was told my results would be posted within a few weeks. I didn’t think any more of it really.
A few weeks later I was in my mum’s living room opening a letter from NHS which said I had to go for a colposcopy as abnormal cells were detected. I remember it said they can be caused by HPV and long lasting HPV can result in cancer, the word I remember most was ‘cancer’. I broke down in the living room in front of my mum.
I’d never heard of HPV before that point and started googling it straight away. It said STI and I thought I’d done something wrong. Trying to explain it to people was hard as I didn’t really get it and there were lots of questions, I had no idea if I’d had the vaccine or what that would have meant. Looking on the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website really helped me understand the process of a colposcopy and what HPV is all about.
I was very anxious leading up to my colposcopy and biopsy but my partner Nathan came with me and held my hand until the moment I had to go through. I remember walking in the room and there were three nurses which was so daunting at first and overwhelming. However, the nurses at York Hospital were amazing and made me feel as comfortable as possible. They sat a nurse next to me, whilst another two did the procedure, and she just talked to me about everyday things such as where I work and if I was going on any holidays, one commented on my nail varnish colour on my toenails. I became a bit worried when they administered the anaesthetic and my legs wouldn’t stop shaking and but the nurse constantly reassured me this was absolutely normal and said to hold her hand if it made me feel better.
I was in quite a bit of pain and discomfort the next coming days. I did a night shift feeling terrible but I was too embarrassed to tell my supervisor. The next day I told her as I was still feeling rough and she was so supportive and understanding I wished I had done it sooner.
I was really worried while waiting to hear what they had found. I couldn’t concentrate at work, couldn’t sleep properly. I was told they detected a high grade of CIN 2/3 which meant I needed another visit to the colposcopy unit and a LLETZ procedure. I just couldn’t believe I had to go through another thing. I didn’t know what LLETZ was at all but thankfully Jo’s helped me understand what to expect.
I had an anaesthetic and remember my heart beating extremely fast. Again the nurse reassured me it was completely normal. I remember the procedure was fairly quick and not that painful, there was a burning smell and before I knew it, it was over. It really wasn’t as scary as I imagined at all!
I was so relieved when it was over knowing no nasty cells were left. However 6 months later at a follow up smear my results said there was HPV possibly detected. I couldn’t believe it, I thought it had finished it all and kept panicking thinking ‘not again’, I didn’t want to have to go through all the worry once more. Luckily I didn’t need any further treatment and am back to normal tests.
I don’t know what I would have done without my partner throughout the whole experience. He held my hand through the most difficult time of my life, reassured and generally supported me through the whole process.
Throughout the whole time I found myself on the Jo’s website a lot reading through articles, stories and information which put me at ease. No one is in this alone, we are all in it together. It’s so important people talk about it, so you can find people in similar situations and stories you relate to.
I didn’t expect this outcome from my first test, I just assumed things would be fine. I’m due my next smear and there’s that worry in your head. However I’m so glad I went. I can’t help thinking what would have happened if I hadn’t gone for my smear. I saw what happened to Jade Goody and it does get me emotional. Although the procedures can be daunting and scary I would go through it all again to make sure I’m clear and healthy.
If you’re worried about your test I would say it’s over fast and the nurses are amazing, they make you feel comfortable and really understand how you feel. I want to raise awareness as much as possible, for every woman out there, please go for your smear; it really can save your life!