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Katy was told she had high-grade cell changes in June 2020 while the UK was still in lockdown. She shared her experience of colposcopy and LLETZ treatment during the coronavirus pandemic and hopes that it will encourage others to attend their test.
It’s safe to say that I had my fair share of gynae problems over the past 12 months. Over the first six months, I had over 12 urinary tract infections as well as bacterial vaginosis and thrush. I practically lived at the GPs and was regularly on antibiotics. When I finally thought I was getting better, I noticed that I was still having irregular bleeding and bleeding after sex, so my GP – who was really on this ball with this - referred me to get a colposcopy straight away.
My previous cervical screening result 18 months before had been clear. For background, I just missed the HPV vaccine at school so my GP Mother paid for me and my younger brother to have it done privately (ten years before they introduced the vaccine for boys across the UK!). Given this during my first colposcopy the gynaecologist was very relaxed and said I was unlikely to have anything. However, when he was having a look he said it looked like I had a lesion of some sort and so he took a biopsy.
I thought the NHS would be overwhelmed due to the coronavirus but I was really surprised at how fast the biopsy results came back. Only two weeks after the biopsy I opened the letter and read ‘CIN3’. I was honestly really shocked given that my last smear test was clear and I am HPV negative. I wasn’t quite prepared for the mental stress this caused me – but I found by being open with my partner, friends, family and colleagues there was a lot of support out there and so many more women than I thought had had similar experiences.
I was also worried I would be waiting ages for treatment because of lockdown but, just like the biopsy results, everything moved really fast and less than 3 weeks later I was back before my Consultant. The letter inviting me for treatment didn’t specify which treatment this would be so I felt a little confused initially. However, at the appointment itself they explained to me about the treatments and recommended that I have LLETZ.
During the procedure itself, which I won’t lie was a bit uncomfortable, the worst bit was having a hot flush due to my having to wear a mask! A lovely HCA came over and fanned me which made us all giggle. All the Medical staff were lovely and made me feel very relaxed both before, during and after.
I knew quite a lot about sexual health before this all happened given Mum was a GP and sexual health specialist. As a result I’ve never shied away from talking about gynae issues both in my personal life and in my role as a local councillor in Solihull. Not everyone is fortunate enough to get the same level of education or exposure to the topic so that’s why I think it’s important for us all to be open about different experiences.
I think it’s important to be open about my experience for many reasons. Firstly, I want to try and negate some of the difficulties some people have in talking about all things cervixes and vaginas in a supportive and constructive way! I recently shared my story on Facebook and it encouraged five of my friends to book their smear tests which I think is amazing.
Secondly, I know from personal experience, and my role as Vice Chair of my local Health Scrutiny board, that many feel worried about attending healthcare check-ups – especially in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. I want to reassure everyone that’s it’s perfectly safe to go! A lot of my appointments before the colposcopy and LLETZ treatment were over the phone so as to minimise the amount of time in GP surgeries and the hospital. But during my treatment everything was spotless and we were able to comply with all COVID-19 safety measures such as masks, hand sanitiser and extreme cleanliness throughout.
Ultimately I feel very lucky that I have been able to access this treatment so quickly. Yes these topics can be difficult to talk about, but when it comes to our health if you think anything is wrong ‘down there’ go to see you GP. Mum used to joke that she had seen ‘literally thousands’ of naked bodies – so embarrassment is no reason not to attend.
If you are on this webpage because you are waiting and worried about your results, I feel you. It was really hard waiting for my second colposcopy – far harder then the operation and subsequent recovery. My experience has shown me that if you talk to those around you, you will find mystery pockets of support from other people you didn’t know you could access!