Smear tests, cervical cancer, and how I feel about it

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Smear tests, they suck don't they? Stupid tests where someone sticks something into your vagina to check that you don't have cervical cancer. It's invasive, uncomfortable, and can sometimes take 10 minutes. 10 whole minutes with a metal device stuck inside your vagina holding it open so a nurse can poke around to "take a swab" and send it to a lab.

It's one of the many reasons it sucks to be a woman.

But here's the thing about smear tests - they can save your life. 

How do I know? 

Because they saved mine.



My Story so far


A routine letter I get every few years arrived and, as usual, I delayed booking my smear test. Being poked and prodded is not my idea of fun, even if it was a test that could save my life. To be honest though I'd never really thought of it that way before, it wasn't "saving my life" it was just a stupid test I had to have that came back clear every time.

Except this time was very different. 

After booking my smear test (after much nagging from the Hubby) I went to the doctors and it took about 5 minutes. The test was over in no time and all was done with... or at least I thought it was. Three weeks to the day later I received a letter that told me about "high grade dyskariosis". Abnormal cells had showed up on the test and I needed to go to the hospital for further tests and possibly treatment.

The internet helped me more than the information sent by the hospital and I learned that it was a fairly routine thing. Many women have abnormal cells and most of the time it ends up being nothing. I went to the hospital not really thinking anything was wrong.


At the hospital I had a LLETZ treatment, the doctors cut away some of my cervix so they could test it. They sent the biopsy off to a pathologist who would take six weeks to look at it and send back the results.



The LLETZ procedure, while slightly painful, wasn't too bad. The doctor (a lady) was very nice and discussed what she was doing the whole time. The nurse in the room chatted to me to try to distract me from what was happening. No woman likes being prodded at with metal devices but it wasn't as bad as I'd imagined.

The recovery from the procedure is six weeks and there are various restrictions to the things you do afterwards, like no exercise for 2-3 weeks. It was frustrating being restricted but it was necessary so I just got on with it.

In the six weeks while waiting for the results of the biopsy I read a lot about the procedure and the kind of results you get. The NHS website was helpful, as was Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust which the NHS refers to. On that site I learned that having the treatment reduces the risk of cervical cancer by 95%, so I was fairly sure I'd be okay.

Having "high grade dyskariosis" does not mean you have cancer, it just means there were abnormal cells detected that could, over time, develop into cancer. That's why you have the treatment - to prevent cancer from developing. 

Five weeks after having the LLETZ treatment I was sent a letter asking me to go back to the hospital to "discuss results". When I received that letter I felt like I'd been punched, the wind knocked out of me. I hadn't been expecting to have to go back, I thought I'd get a letter saying everything was fine and no other treatment was necessary. 

I was worried and all kinds of scenarios went through my mind, some of which were rather scary.

It's at this point that I started reading about cervical cancer. It had suddenly become a real possibility and I needed to know about it. About a week before my appointment to discuss results I hit the internet...

On the Cancer Research website I learned that more than 52% of cervical cancer cases are diagnosed in females aged under 45 and 1 in 135 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer during their lifetime. In 2014 there were around 3,200 new cases of cervical cancer in the UK - that's around 9 cases diagnosed every day. These stats were not helping my stress levels. Add to that the fact that you have an increased risk of developing cervical cancer if you have taken the contraceptive pill for more than 5 years (I took it for about 15 years) and if you've had children, I was getting quite nervous.

Then I looked at other stats, like how 19,000 women were still alive at the end of 2006, up to ten years after being diagnosed with cervical cancer. It is something that can be treated fairly easily with surgery (depending on the stage) and the survival rate is good.



The Hubby came with me to my appointment, I was quite nervous to learn what they'd found. When we were called in we went into a small room where the doctor began talking about the results of the test. He began by saying they had found precancerous cells in the biopsy which they'd taken so there was nothing to worry about... but he wasn't finished. 

They had found cancer.

My heart thumped in my chest. My legs went to jelly (luckily I was sitting). Tears threatened to roll down my cheeks. 





  • Cancer affects all of us, whether you’re a daughter, mother, sister, friend, coworker, doctor, or patient.

Jennifer Aniston





How had this happened?


The doctor told us more... they had found two areas of cancer but they were very small (0.3mm and 0.5mm) and could be seen under microscope. He (the doctor) said he was confident they'd found it all and took it out, but just to be sure I'd have to have another LLETZ treatment so they could inspect the biopsy to make sure there weren't any more areas of cancer.

So that was it, I had/have cervical cancer.

As I write this post I have just had my second LLETZ which was a LOT more unpleasant than the first, in fact it hurt. I put this down to still being tender from the first treatment. It has been two weeks since the doctor told us about the cancer. I'm obviously in recovery again, another six weeks of restrictions, but this time I'll be going back to the hospital in 3 weeks to discuss the results and next steps. The next steps depend on the results and how I feel about it all.



How do I feel?


This is a difficult one because I really don't know how I feel. Hearing your name in the same sentence as the word 'cancer' is terrifying but at the same time they may have already cut it out. I don't know how I'm meant to feel about that. On the one hand it's a good (okay, great) thing they've already cut it out but what if they haven't?

My head is a mash of emotions. 

I'm scared, in case they find more cancer. Having to have further treatment, having to explain to the boys what is happening, just writing this makes tears well up in my eyes. I can't think about it without my heart pounding and my stomach flipping. 

I'm relieved they found what they did and got rid of it. As far as I know the cancer is all gone and thanks to the doctors and the procedure I may be cancer free. While I had/have cancer it hasn't effected my health at all and other than having to go through a little surgery (LLETZ) everything is okay. 

I'm worried about further health implications. What does this mean for the future? Am I meant to keep a look out for anything else strange? I know I'm at increased risk of developing it again in the future but what about other issues, other cancers? These are questions I'll have to ask my doctor when I see him next. 

The weirdest thing though is knowing that I had/have (see? I don't even know which to use!) cancer but that it might already be sorted. I don't feel like it's as serious as having to go through chemotherapy yet I have been diagnosed with a cancer. How are you supposed to feel about that?



Next steps


As I said, my next steps depend on the results of my most recent LLETZ and the advice of the doctors. My last discussion with the doctor was a lot more serious than the last and he made it sound like I might want to choose to have a hysterectomy. Without knowing much about it how can I choose to do something like that?! Yes, I am done with having children but that can't be the only difference it makes can it?

At the moment I am just waiting to see what happens and hoping no more treatment is necessary.



So why did I write this post?


I wanted to share my story with you to stress how important it is to go for your smear test.

I am 36 years old. I have two children and am happily married. I didn't consider myself at risk of cancer. I thought, despite being overweight, I was healthy and I didn't have any symptoms or indications that something might be wrong.

I can say now that the smear test really did save my life.





  • What does not kill us makes us stronger. 

Friedrich Nietzsche





Cervical cancer wasn't even on my radar but thanks to the smear test it was found and dealt with.

The point of the smear test is to find those cells (be it abnormal cells or cancerous ones) and get rid of them before they become a problem. If left the cancer can spread to surrounding organs and then is a much bigger problem. 

Going for that smear test really can save your life. 

Book it now.

Please.


via GIPHY


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50 comments:

  1. Oh lovely I'm so sorry to hear you're going through this. Thank God for smear tests. I had high grade a few years ago and had to have a colposcopy. Thankfully they got rid of my precancerous cells but it petrifies me every time I go now. But this is why it's so so important that we do go. They are, literally, life savers. Thank you for sharing this to make people aware and I wish you all the best. #ablogginggoodtime

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    1. Thanks Jaki. I think that no matter how scared you are you still have to go, it really is a life saver. It's a tough and strange time but hopefully it'll all be over soon. I just hope that this post encourages women to go for the smear test. xxx

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  2. Oh Hun I'm so sorry I didn't contact you again. I just presumed everything was OK. I hope they have got everything and I am here for you if you need to talk ❤️ take care of yourself and rest. Thank you for sharing such an important post with us at #ablogginggoodtime ğŸŽ‰

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    1. It's no problem Catie, it's all kind of been a blur. When the doctor told us I think I just went through the motions, like I didn't really hear it? Plenty of rest at the moment, I'm still in a bit of pain from the procedure so am making sure to take it easy. Thank you for being such a brilliant and understanding friend. 😘

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  3. Oh Morgan!!! I am so sorry to read this. I can totally see why you're so confused about it all - it must be so hard when you don't know if you still have it or not. I am sure it is a very frightening time. I sense from your words that you feel bad for panicking or worrying because your cancer isn't "bad" - I want you to know that you have every right to feeling knocked for 6 and don't worry about how you "should" or "shouldn't" be feeling. Just deal with it how you need to deal with it, and I'm sure your lovely family are rallying around you. I really hope that it is good news and that it is all resolved quickly xx #ablogginggoodtime

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    1. You're right Lucy, I do feel bad for panicking. It's such a strange thing. I know that my cancer isn't "bad" but it *is* still cancer and that's pretty serious. The Hubby has been brilliant and keeps telling me to take it easy. Yep, I'm hoping for a quick resolution to it all. xx Thank you.x

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  4. CRikey Morgan - how frightening. Thank God you went for that smear and I can't thank you enough for writing this post to encourage others to do the same. I too have had the excision treatment on abnormal cells, so I know how scary even that stage was. I'm probably the only person who was turned away from a smear appointment because I was trying to go too regularly.
    Sending all the love, and keep us posted xx
    Thanks for sharing with #coolmumclub

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    1. Thank you lovely. I know, I can't believe I delayed it and that certainly won't happen again. I just hope this post will encourage others to go for their smear, it is the entire reason I wrote the post. If I can help one person then I've done my job. xxx

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  5. Thanks for sharing - it's so important to get your smear test. I've had a few irregular smears and colposcopies but so far no more invasive treatment, but I know I need to keep on top of it. I'm glad your doctors caught the cancer in time - hopefully you have inspired other women to do the same. #abloggingoodtime

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    1. Thank you hun, I hope so too. Having the colposcopy wasn't bad, it was the second LLETZ that has been most painful. 3 days later I'm still taking pain killers occasionally. But I'll get there, and like you said, they got the cancer in time. :)
      😘

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  6. Ugh! I feel like such a div saying I hope you have had a good week earlier on Twitter...I am so sorry. Thank you for sharing and sending big hugs to you! How scary! Good luck.
    Smear tests are so important. I have one every time I get the contraceptive implant changed in my arm every 3 years xxx

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    1. Oh don't be daft Kim! You had no idea and I knew that - it's fine. And anyway, apart from the news it was a good week! 😉 Actually now that I think about it, even with the stuff it's been a good week - the doctors are doing their best and may have got it all and that's good right? So don't feel like a div! 😉
      Thank you lovely. xxx

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  7. I'm glad they caught it in time. Sending hugs! Wishing I could do something practical to help.
    Thank you so much for sharing as it may help others. When Jade Goody's story broke, there was a huge increase in women taking tests and this has dropped off again.

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    1. Me too hun! Thank you so much. To be honest there's not much that anyone can do apart from the doctors and they've already done their bit. I just hope they're done! 😂
      Of course I had forgotten about Jade Goody, I do hope that my post helps raise awareness again.

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  8. Thanks for sharing such an honest post. I also had LLETZ after my first baby and both have been prem since which maybe was from that. It's so important the age for smears is brought forward for younger women. #thatfridaylinky

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    1. Yes I believe that is one of the possible side effects of the LLETZ. I agree, they should be brought forward for younger women. Thank you for stopping by. 😘

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  9. Oh you are so right! And thank God you got that test! I actually had an abnormal pap smear once, years ago, and had to get a LEEP. I wonder if that's the same thing as your LLETZ? Just called something different in the US? It was terrifying at first, but I am definitely cancer free. I might not be if I hadn't been getting regular pap smears. I hate getting the test, because, well, (at the risk of TMI) my cervix is very sensitive, and it actually hurts when they swipe. I hate having that speculum holding my vagina open too. Ugh! But it is worth it, and totally necessary. I haven't had a mammogram yet. I really need to schedule one though, as I'm 40 now. #thatfridaylinky

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    1. That sounds about right Nicole, they're probably the same thing. Yes, I'm so glad I got the test when I did, I dread to think how bad things could've got if I'd put it off any longer! Yep, schedule those health checks. The quicker they can catch anything the easier it is to battle. :)
      Thanks for stopping by. xx

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  10. Oh wow,sorry to hear about all you have been through :( I hope everything OK with you next scan Morgan. I can't even imagine of all the worry it has caused you. I hate going and my last one I delay for about 6 month, but them remember how important they are and went. I get so scared just going to the doctors, my leg will not stop shaking.

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    1. Thanks Claire. xx It is rubbish going to the doctors for it, I totally agree. I always get a nervous tummy and can't wait for it to be over.

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  11. I lost my mum to ovarian cancer when I was 18. Mum was just 50 years old. Smear tests are vital and every eligible woman should go for their test. As you say, it can help save lives. Thanks for linking up to #ThatFridayLinky

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    1. Oh I am sorry Emily, and yes I agree every eligible woman should go for their test. Thank you for stopping by. xx

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  12. I am so glad that you eventually booked the appointment and went. I delayed my first smear test last year for ages until my oh told me to just book it and get it over with. Mine came back fine though. I'm so sorry that you are going through this but at least it has been caught early and I hope everything comes back clear on the next results. Sending lots of love to you and your family #pocolo

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    1. Thanks so much Jade. That's the thing isn't it? Usually everything is fine, and you begin to wonder what the point of the test is when everything is always okay. That's certainly how I was starting to feel. However, now I see the importance again. It's just a shame it took this scare to make me see it! xx

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  13. Such an important test hope is all ok for you Thanks for linking to the #THAT FRIDAY LINKY come back next week please

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    1. Thanks Nigel. xx I'll try to come back next week. :)

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  14. Wow, thanks for sharing your story! I'm so sorry they found cancer and really hope they removed it all with the LLETZ treatment. I had never heard of this treatment. I had my first smear test last year, as they start them at 30 in the Netherlands. They have since changed procedures here so that you can do a mini-smear yourself and it will be tested for HPV first and you won't get an actual smear test unless you're HPV positive. You can also still choose to have the doctor's smear test but then they'll still test for HPV before testing for abnormal cells. I didn't find my smear test nearly as unpleasant as I'd expected and, as you say, it saves lives. #PoCoLo

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    1. Definitely. Really it's just 5 mins being uncomfortable in exchange for the possibility of saving your life. I think that's a pretty good deal actually. It's always interesting to read how other countries do it, I didn't realise it was something you could do yourself! xx

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  15. Oh my goodness you poor thing, that must have been horrendous but such a good thing that you have blogged about it as it is a reminder to us all how important it is to have the tests. I have been putting mine off but I will ring and book mine tomorrow. I really hope you are okay and recover fully soon xx

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    1. Thanks Nikki, and I hope you did book that appointment. The weird thing is blogging about it made me feel a little better too, I've always said blogging can be cathartic and it certainly was in this case. If I can help another woman by making her go for this test early enough then I'll be happy. Such a simple test and after everything I've been through lately it's not something I'm bothered about anymore! xxx

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  16. Oh Morgan I am so sorry to hear this!!! I'm petrified of them... the actual smear test itself isn't the part I hate, its the waiting for the results, Im such a worry wart and always think the worst so thats the worst part for me... incase something isn't fine down there... but luckily I found a lady at work who needs to see her GP for another reason and we've both agreed to face our fears.
    sending healing thoughts your way! #bigpinklink

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    1. Thanks hun. The waiting for the results is rubbish, I totally get that. To be honest I usually put it out of my mind and forget about it until I receive the letter saying everything was okay. From now on though I'm sure I'll be eagerly awaiting the results. I'm sure things will change for me because you have to have more regular checks after you've been diagnosed with cervical cancer. I'll find out more at my next appointment. Thanks for the healing thoughts. xxx

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  17. Morgan I'm so sorry to hear your news. Thank goodness you went for your smear though. It's so brave of you to share this important message to everyone. It's so important to get checked out regularly. Sending strong mama vibes to you xoxo

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    1. Thanks for the mama vibes Talya! This experience has completely changed my attitude towards the smear test, obviously. I did think of them as a really annoying waste of time, now though I see they saved my life! xxx

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  18. That must be so confusing not knowing that you had it until its gone, but also not knowing if it's completely gone! I had to have lletz a while ago and thankfully the biopsy was fine - but no one told me about the exercise thing so I did a 10k charity run the next day. Not. Fun. I really hope they've got it all - thank heavens for smear tests!! #bigpinklink

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    1. It really is hun. It's so hard to put into words how it makes you feel. Oh goodness - a 10k the next day?! You're one brave lady!! It's been a week since my second LLETZ and I'm still very sore. I can barely walk up the road to school, never mind do 10k!! Indeed - thank heavens for smear tests. :)
      xx

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  19. Oh lovely, I am sending you big hugs and thinking of you. I am glad that you went for that test and hopefully you don't need much more done to get the all clear. Here for you x

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    1. Thanks so much Susan. Luckily I had a call from the Doctor this week to say it's all clear. Yay!

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  20. Absolutely Morgan! I was waiting for some nerve-wracking, potentially life-changing results a few months back and nothing can really calm you properly before you get that result. Just as nothing else matters when you get the amazing news that everything's okay... so important to write a post like this. So glad you're okay and thanks for hosting #pocolo

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    1. Thanks so much Carol. It really is a stressful time, but I'm so glad everything is okay. It is such an important test, that's mainly why I wrote my story because I want people to see it CAN save lives. :)

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  21. Oh Morgan, I'm so sorry to hear this. I really hope you get the all clear when the final results come back. Although I can't understand what you're going through, I can empathise with a lot of the thoughts you've expressed here-shock, and uncertainty-will they test you more regularly now? I hope the Drs counsel you through the next stage, and your options, really well. Thanks for raising awareness of how flipping important it is to go for your smear tests-I always book mine as soon as I get the letter, as I'm scared of this one, and really how silently it can creep up on you. All the best, please let us know how you get on. Much love xxx
    #bigpinklink

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    1. It is shocking how silently it creeps up - I had absolutely no idea, no symptoms. Yes, I'll be tested every six months for a while and then if everything stays clear it will go to every year. Thankfully the Doctor called me to give me the all clear recently, it was a huge relief. Just follow up appointments now. :)

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  22. I'm so sorry to read this. I can't even imagine how confusing and upsetting this is for you to find out something like this. But thank you for sharing, having you smear is one of the most important things you can do. I am up to date with mine but I always go regularly after finding abnormal cells a few years back but thank fully it was nothing xx #pocolo

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    1. Thanks hun. It's a scary time but thankfully I've now been given the all clear. Just lots of follow ups. xx

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  23. Really sorry to read this Morgan. What a horrible stressful time for you. I can't imagine what you're going through. Really hope they've got it all and the next appointment goes well for you. Will be thinking of you xx

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    1. Thanks Susie, it has been a tough time but I've been given the all clear thankfully. Lots of follow up appointments but I'm hoping that'll be it now. ;)

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  24. Oh Morgan, I am so sorry you've had to go through this. I had to have treatment for abnormal cells about 4 years ago and even that was a scary time. It really is so so mportant to have regular smears. My last one was really uncomfortable but it really is only a matter of minutes (although she had real trouble finding my cervix!). I hope all future news is good news lovely. Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

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    1. Thanks lovely. Yes, it's been a stressful time but hopefully it'll all be back to normal now. :)

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  25. Oh hun, sorry to read this but so glad they caught it early. I have that letter on my table, I'm going to book it tomorrow X #PoCoLo

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    1. Thanks Steph. Me too! I dread to think what would've happened if I'd delayed that test! xx

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