Wow…

…I think the only way to start this post is by saying a MASSIVE thank you!

Thank you to everyone who has read my blog and shared it on Facebook/Twitter, and an even bigger thank you to everyone for their lovely messages of support. I didn’t really know what to expect when I decided to share it with the world but I can honestly say that, so far, it’s been a very positive experience. If you’ve shared it for me on Facebook or Twitter and I haven’t thanked you personally then please accept my apologies – I’ve been trying to keep up with it as much as possible but fear I might have missed some when I’ve been at work. 

After publishing the blog last night I’ve had a lot of people sharing similar experiences with me, which once again shows me just how common abnormal results can be, and I have also heard from people who have already made a step to book their tests. That is exactly what I hoped would happen. If I know that it’s encouraged even one person to get tested then I feel like I’ve done what I set out to do.

I also wanted to use this post to tell you a little more about Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. This is a European wide initiative intended to provide information and raise awareness. In 2010, 20% of women in the UK did not take up their invitation for cervical screening. There might be lots of different reasons for this – maybe it’s an embarrassment or an inconvenience. I will admit that I was one of those people who did not accept my invitation for screening. It was something I always thought I’d get round to but just never did. It wasn’t a big importance for me but perhaps if I was more aware of the screening programme and its benefits I might have been more inclined to make that appointment.

The focus of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week 2013 includes raising the awareness of exactly how the screening programme might help to prevent cancer, as well as looking at the symptoms and emphasising the importance of early detection.

Cervical cancer is one of those diseases that can be present with or without symptoms but there can be some common signs. Things like;

  • abnormal bleeding
  • post menopausal bleeding
  • unusual discharge
  • discomfort/pain during sex
  • lower back pain

That being said, early stage cervical cancer can quite often not have any symptoms at all. I personally did not experience any of these, which is why screening is so important for that early detection. I will say that I had a gut feeling about how my results would come back, and I wish I could explain how I knew but I guess it’s just a case of knowing and listening to your own body. Please don’t just wait for these symptoms to appear. Take advantage of the opportunity to get tested and catch any changes as early as possible. The earlier you do, the easier it should be to treat.

If any of you would like some further information, the charity Jo’s Trust has a great website. Take a look. 

http://www.jostrust.org.uk/

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So, to the point of this blog…

Let me tell you a little bit more about what’s being going on with me recently…

In October I went for my first cervical smear test. This was a year and a half later than I probably should have gone and I only went because I was given a bit of a guilt trip after joining a new doctor’s surgery.

A week after the test I was sent a letter in the post telling me that my results had come back as severely abnormal and I was being referred to the hospital for a colposcopy appointment for them to get a closer look.

I spent the next 3 weeks waiting for my appointment and Googling scare stories – the leaflet they send you is not as reassuring as it could be!

At my colposcopy appointment I was explained a little more about what my smear results meant. They use a scale of 0-6; 0 means the cells are completely normal and 6 means there are cancerous cells. Severely abnormal cells (like my results) are at a 5 on that scale. I was put at rest by being told the gap between 5 and 6 is a big one and the benefit of the NHS cervical screening programme is so that they catch cell changes early and remove them before they become cancerous.

I’ll not go into too much detail about what happens at the colposcopy – it’s not a dignified experience in the slightest. However, the nurse agreed that she could see abnormal cells and chose to remove them there and then by using the LLETZ procedure. This is basically a way of cutting out the area of the cervix where abnormal cells have developed. These cells are then sent away for testing and the usual time scale to find out the results is 4 weeks.

9 days later… I received a phone call from the hospital saying they had my results back and needed to speak to me right away. Getting that phone call so soon set alarm bells ringing and, credit to the nurse, she was honest with me when I asked if that meant it was bad. She explained to me they had seen something suspicious in my results and it would be better to talk to me about it in person.

At the hospital I was told there were some cancerous cells in the part of the cervix they’d removed. Not news that anybody wants to hear! On the plus side [if there can be one!] it was a very small area – 1mmx8mm. The cancerous cells were also right in the centre of the removed area, which suggested they had already removed them all. Even so, I now needed to be referred to a multidisciplinary team at another specialist hospital and I had to wait for them to discuss my case. It was possibly the longest 5 days of my life!

The decision from the specialist hospital was that they wanted me to have a repeat LLETZ procedure so they could ensure they had removed all of the abnormal cells with clear margins. Although I hadn’t enjoyed the first LLETZ, I’ll be honest and say I’d prefer they did this and be 100% sure than leave it and not be certain it’d all been removed. The only thing was I had to wait another 5 weeks to let my body heal from the first time around [I thought 5 days was a long time to wait!].

I had my 2nd LLETZ procedure on 27th December – putting a little bit of a downer on Christmas. I was lucky that the hospital sent my results off as a priority so I didn’t have to wait too long. A week later I received a phone call to let me know the results had come back clear, all the abnormal cells had now been removed and they couldn’t see anything suspicious. Phew!! I can’t tell you what a weight that was off my shoulders. I now have to go for 6 monthly check-ups for the next few years but it’s a small price to pay to make sure I’ve kicked cancer’s ass!

I’m not writing this blog as a way of getting any sympathy. In fact, I think I’ve been quite lucky that I went for my smear test when I did and have caught things before they developed too far. This week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week [20th-26th January 2013] and all I wanted to do was to share my experiences in the hope that it might at least encourage one person to have the smear test they might have been putting off.

I’ll try and put a few more posts on this week to share some more information but that’s it for now. Thanks for reading guys.

Here I go…

This blog has been set up for a little while now but to start off with I was just staring at a blank screen and then I forgot about it all together. I joined the blogging world out of curiosity after reading posts from a couple of work colleagues but, other than making my account, I’ve just found myself wondering how people even know what to write blogs about.

I’ve had a bit of inspiration recently, though.

Over the past few months I’ve had a bit of a health shock and with that has come the realisation that it can help to talk [write] about things – something I’m not usually very good at! I’m not writing the blog as a way of helping myself but more in the hope that it might help other people and raise awareness of something I’ve recently found to be quite common, although I knew next to nothing of it a few months ago.

A wise friend told me recently that writing it down can show others that it’s possible to get through things, no matter how scary they are. So, Miss Skinner, let’s hope your words are as wise as they sound…