Don’t Fear Your Smear — Get It Booked!

On November the first, I was booked into my first Smear test since having my son. I’ve had them before — being 31, I’ve suffered my way through two or three of them so I know the usual routine. It’s awkward, a little uncomfortable and usually over in five minutes so I can go on my merry way.

As I lay on the bed, legs akimbo and trying to ignore the nurse poking around in my most private of places she did something that made my stomach drop through the floor. She said “Oh.”

“Oh.” Isn’t something I want to hear in most circumstances, never mind when someone is peering inside my body. “Can I go get the Doctor?”

I was in no real position to argue, so I ended up waiting on the Doctor and her to come back while trying to occupy Baby Button — my appointment was just before his playgroup so he was a little antsy. When they returned, I was asked to get into position again, this time with an audience.

“Ah, you have a lump, I’ll refer you to the gynaecologist at the hospital.”

And that was that. No explanation of what it could be, no reassuring words.. I admit, I was a wreck. I gibbering to Mike and my family over the phone, convinced that my days were numbered. I can’t explain the dread you feel, the disgust you have towards your own body… I felt like I had been let down. Now, I have anxiety on the best of days so I know my reaction was extreme, but it was such a terrible feeling.

Anxiously, I waited three weeks for the appointment to come through. It was the longest three weeks I’ve had.

Waiting in the hospitals Gynaecology department, it was a dreary wait. Grey walls, lots of people looking fidgety and worried — it didn’t really scream ‘you’re going to be okay!’. Worse, there was no phone signal so I soon joined the fidgety, worried looking masses. I read the posters three or four times, met a persons eyes awkwardly and then just gave up and sat staring at my boots.

When they called my name, my stomach dropped to the floor and I accompanied a nurse who was actually pretty smiley considering what she gets to stare at all day. When the Doctor saw me, she smiled and asked me about what the nurses had said at the surgery.

She was appalled they’d left me with the words ‘you have a lump’ — it even said that on the notes they had referred to the gynaecologist.

“You have a lump.”

Is there anything more terrifying to say to a person? Never mind a new Mum who has anxiety on her notes anyway! Any reassurance from the nurse or Doctor who saw me in that first instance would have made those three weeks of waiting so much easier, but instead I was a wreck.

I get it. Some people don’t believe in ‘sugar coating’ nor want it. But there is a huge difference between sugar coating some news, and showing empathy.

I was asked to go into a bathroom and take my trousers and underwear off, before popping a hospital gown on. Then, led to a chair which had foot stirrups. Once settled with my feet in the stirrups and my bum on the edge, my dignity curled up and died as the chair raised four feet in the air — my most private parts now eye level with (again, an amazingly smiley) Gynaecologist.

She started having a shuffle around inside, and finally let out a little sigh; “I’ve found ‘the lump’. It isn’t on your cervix, it’s just behind — and I believe it’s nothing but a cyst.”

She asked if she could get a second opinion in, and brought in another Doctor. He had a look and confirmed it was a fluid filled cyst and that while I could have surgery to have it removed it should just clear up on it’s own.

As it wasn’t bothering me or causing problems, I opted to let it clear on its own — surgery sounded a bit drastic, and I’d already stressed myself out enough the last few weeks. One thing I’ve learned though, is that this is the exact scenario that highlights just how important your smear test is.

A few weeks after this appointment, my smear test results dropped through the door.

All clear, see you in three years.

I guess I’m documenting this story to really push those who aren’t certain, or those who are nervous to go to their GP and get the test booked. My story could have gone another way, I’m blessed it wasn’t anything serious but there was an anomaly and the only reason it was found was through my smear exam. Do not neglect yourself.

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