Not on purpose as such, just, I put it to the back of my mind and subsequently forgot about it for a good 6 months.
January 2015 rolled around, Daniel and I had been separated for quite a while and I wanted to get myself checked out, you know, down there. Then I remembered: 'Shit Megs, you didn't ever go for that smear'. So I booked them both in for the same week.
The thought of the smear test didn't bother me too much. I'd been poked and prodded down there over the years and I knew it would be over in a flash.
And ladies, seriously, it'll take you longer to whip your knickers off than it will for them to actually carry out the procedure. For the sake of 30 seconds of hating your life and screaming inside 'OH MY GOD STOP LOOKING AT MY VAGINA, IT'S MINE OKAY?' it's totally worth it. It didn't hurt at all and those nurses see so many vagina's, it's really no biggie.
Within two weeks I'd received my results. The news wasn't perfect.
I had HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), which is transferred via sexual intercourse, but isn't a STI (confusing) - most women are infected with it at some point in their lives and it'll usually clear up on it's own; there are over 100 types, but mostly there will be no symptoms. Basically it's nothing to worry about - it's like the flu for your vagina (but way less gross).
I also had medium-grade dyskaryosis, i.e. slight changes to the cells on my cervix - yay. Like with HPV, more often than not they will return to normal by themselves, but sometimes, they'll develop and can eventually end up leading to cancer.
Because I had both HPV and Dyskaryosis it meant I had to go to the hospital to have a biopsy, so they could test these pesky cells and make sure that there wasn't anything more sinister going on down there.
This experience was slightly more invasive, but I got to sit on a massive chair with leg stirrups, so: silver linings.
The nurses were incredible. One was holding my hand whilst the specialist talked me through exactly what was going to happen. She explained that the way the NHS word the letters were a bit naff (I think she meant to say totally shit) and that there really was nothing to be worried about at all. Because I was worried, actually. They'd told me I had two things wrong with me as if it was as casual as having milk with coffee. The letters themselves didn't really explain what all these long words meant and were super clinical, so I had to google everything, meaning I was anxious to say the least. But the consultant was absolutely brilliant and made me feel at ease - she was factual, but kind.
She used a teeny tiny camera to take a look at my cervix in more detail, told me to cough so she could nip off a cell or two to send off for testing and that was it. Done.
I felt a bit faint afterwards with a slight tummy ache, they gave me an industrial pad the size of a nappy (y'know to stop any messes after the biopsy) made me stay with them until the colour returned to my cheeks and sent me on my way. Apart from feeling a bit tender, it was nothing, really.
When I got back from Bali I had a letter waiting in my room. It told me that I had Grade 3 CIN (Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia) which in a nutshell, is when there are changes to the surface cells of the cervix. It's not cancer, but can increase the risk of it developing. Like with HPV and Dyskaryosis, there are no symptoms, you can still continue to have sex and live a normal lifestyle (hence the real importance of smear tests, you'd never know without them).
In total, there are 3 grades of CIN, which I've nabbed off the Macmillan website for your reference :-)
- CIN 1 – this is when one-third of the thickness of the surface layer of the cervix is affected.
- CIN 2 – this is when two-thirds of the thickness of the surface layer of the cervix is affected.
- CIN 3 – this is when the full thickness of the surface layer of the cervix is affected.
Scary, but SO important.
The procedure involves the doctor spraying an iodine solution over my cervix, to highlight the cells and then using LEEP to remove the CIN cells. I know it wont be the best experience I've ever had, I'll feel a bit rough and sorry for myself/cervix afterwards - but it's a small, teeny, tiny price to pay for the risk of what could happen if I didn't go at all.
This little operation could be potentially saving my life.
Once it's done I'll have to go back every 6 months for a repeat smear, just to make sure everything is okay.
So the real point of me getting up-close and personal today? Is to say that if you received your letter and thought 'meh, maybe I'll give that a miss' - Please don't.
Look after yourself and don't let the fear of feeling a bit self conscious about your private bits put you off saving your body some serious health issues.
It's more than worth it.
YOU are more than worth it.
Oh and just as an FYI, I don't have any STI's, either. YAY.