When I turned 25 I booked my first smear straight away. My results came back in around five days which was quite alarming and the letter read that I would need to make an urgent hospital referral due to an abnormal result. I went for a colposcopy examination shortly after and was diagnosed with CIN3 (pre-cancerous cells of the cervix at a high grade level, also known as severe dyskaryosis). Whilst I was having the colposcopy examination I was originally advised that treatment could be performed there and then under a local anaesthetic, however after a more thorough observation, the pre-cancerous cells covered a large area of my cervix and it was decided it would be better and more comfortable for me to receive the LLETZ treatment under general anaesthetic. I under went treatment at the hospital two weeks later.
I was advised not to partake in any strenous exercise for around six weeks and to avoid any heavy lifting and sexual intercourse whilst I was healing. I was fortunate that the bleeding and discharge was fairly minimal, however it did last for 6 weeks. The discomfort was similar to period cramps and only lasted a day or two and was manageable with normal pain killers.
I received the treatment on a Friday, which meant I had the weekend to recover, however by the Monday I felt I still needed a couple of days to feel better and was able to be signed off until the Wednesday. I had spoken to my boss in advance of the procedure in case I needed time off, and I would highly recommend speaking to your boss/colleagues so you don't have the worry of doing it over the phone afterwards if needs be.
I waited patiently for my letter to confirm whether they had removed all of the pre-cancerous cells or whether I would need further treatment. This was a very anxious time and, although no news is good news, I was desperate to hear from the hospital. I received my letter four weeks later confirming that they were confident that they had removed all of the cells but I would need to return to the hospital six months later for another colposcopy.
The time passed quite quickly and I tried to put any negative thoughts to the back of my mind. Six months later I was back at the hospital where a 'white' area was still showing and there were concerns that they may not have removed all of the cells. They took a sample and sent me home and I awaited the good news; the area was due to healing and could be scar tissue. Due to my having high grade cell changes I was fortunate enough to be entitled to a relatively new test; HPV testing. These tests, which look for the Human Papillomavirus which causes 99.7% of all cervical cancers, came back negative to my relief. As a result, I was told I would be able to go back to the normal screening frequency – every three years.
I feel incredibly lucky that I didn't have cervical cancer, and it made me consider all the women who are less fortunate. That is why last year I trekked the Himalayas to raise money for Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust raising over £4400.00 for the charity. Jo's was a fantastic resource for me when I needed support and advice, and I owe it to all the other women affected out there to support them as much as I can.
Please donate now and help Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust reach and support more women like Harriett.