Here is Megan’s second blog for us, you can catch up with her first here!
I managed not to get too worked up about my colposcopy before it actually happened. It was nearing the end of term so the work was piling up so that was the prime focus. Even in the waiting room I was busy squirrelling away at my work.
Eventually my name was called and the nurse lead me through, I should mention here that in an attempt to make me feel better about the wait she told me that the reason was that they’d had a ‘couple of people faint this morning’ – which FYI is in no way comforting when I am yet to have the procedure!
I was questioned about allergies and disabilities and when we were through with that she left me in another waiting room.
It was the first time I had stopped to think about what it would be like. I’d read the leaflets but not associated them with me and now, sat in a waiting room awaiting a stranger getting up close and personal with my cervix and I started to get nervous, not much time to get worked up though as the doctor then called me – Name, D.O.B, address and then an explanation of why I was here and what the procedure entails.
It was this point that she told me that my extended period probably had nothing to do with a polyp or ectropian, leaving me to wonder why the hell I had taken the time out of work to not find out why I was bleeding?!
After the explanation and ‘any questions?’ moment, I was lead to strip my bottom half and adorn one of those super-attractive-arse-out gowns. The room was not what I had imagined, but they never are. Just so that you all know, almost all procedures (minus an initial viewing) are not done in private-probably-only-one-other-person-could-fit-in-here type rooms, no no they’re in a you-could-almost-throw-a-party-in-here-theres-so-much-space size rooms, and sometimes it feels like they are. There were 2 nurses and a consultant in there as I began to shimmy into the stirrups, moments later and vag out and another nurse opened the door and walked in.
The consultant was lovely, trying to distract me with the help of all the nurses ‘What course do you do?’ ‘Ooo what kind of engineering?’ ‘I really like your nails, did you do them yourself?’ But nothing can distract you when you know everyone in the room can see your vulva. It’s at this point I had the obvious thought ‘Should I have shaved for this? Or at least trimmed?’ but then I’m sure these guys have seen worse than lazy pubic hair choices.
The bed was raised up till I was vag to eye with the consultant and we were away, speculum in and opened wide. To highlight the ‘abnormal’ cells they wipe your cervix with vinegar which is not as bad as it sounds and at that point I got to have a look too!
This was the point my day went from oh bummer I’m gonna miss some working time, straight to pre-cancer. There was no polyp, as my GP had thought, however there were some abnormal cells which can be pre-cancerous. Pre-Cancer? I’m not sure if there is ever a good moment to tell someone you think they may have pre-cancer, however, I am fairly certain that a point at which they don’t know what that means and have no way of googling because they’re flat on their back vag out for at least the next half an hour in varying degrees of pain is not remotely near a good moment.
A nurse brought over the screen and pointed out the irregularities, a ring of white cells on an otherwise pink, healthy cervix. Now, seeing as I had abnormal cells it was now biopsy time, hurrah! The doctor had already gone through what this would entail but she went through it again as she knew that everything she’d said had left my mind. At this point, what I really want to say is ‘the biopsy was fine! you all have nothing to worry about if this happens to you!’
Instead I will say this, my experience was not great but I would do it again for the sake of my health.
The doctor told me the plan while she collected her biopsy tool (aka. Cervix scissors). The nurse then repeated it, ‘I will count to three and on three cough as hard as you can!’. I’ve got this right, nothing hard about coughing.
*Cough* – PAIN, something has grabbed my cervix and hasn’t let go! Is it not over yet?
Consultant ‘Could you repeat the counting’
*Cough* – More pain, it’s still there’
Consultant ‘Does that hurt much?’
Very high pitched me – ‘Yeah, hurts quite a bit’
Consultant ‘Almost there, and again’
*Cough* – Still there?! The deal was one cough!
Consultant ‘And once more’
*Cough* – She’s out, the cervix scissors are out, I might cry.
I get the, ‘ooo are you okay?’ ‘Does that still hurt’ ‘You’re doing a really good job’ from all angles and I try not to cry while asking ‘Is that it now?’
Nope need to take one more, they do check if I’m okay with it but I suppose when we’ve got this far….
At this point my legs are shaking and I just want them to get it over with so I can leave but this feels like it’s taking forever. The openness of my vagina is making me feel deeply uncomfortable and the whole situation is starting to make me feel a little sick.
Consultant ‘Right could you count for me again’
One – don’t cry
Two – don’t cry
Three – don’t cry
*Cough* and it’s done, she’s out, one cough this time as expected thank goodness!
The pain is distracting my mind as they tell me how well I did and how I was being impressively stoic as the first biopsy was quite tricky, then she’s telling me what good strong vagina muscles I have – not the weirdest compliment I’ve ever had.
Before you leave, if they have biopsied, they apply ‘silver nitrate’ which cauterises the wound (aka. stops you bleeding). This felt like the longest bit as I sat there shaking in pain, holding back tears, noticing how cold my cervix was getting. The silver nitrate comes with its own type of discomfort but this was a more familiar cramping that I could deal with.
Finally, the procedure was over but before I had time to run into my changing room and cry, she talked to me about the ‘what’s up’ of pre-cancer. It is in no way cancer, just like a mole or lump that can either clear up on their own or just need removing before becoming cancer. That’s good news I guess. At upsetting appointments like these it is almost critical that you write down what it is that they tell you they find, or take a friend or family member to listen for you. Luckily at this one she gave me a leaflet so my memory could take some time off.
I spent the rest of the day in pain, the kind of period cramps where you really don’t want to get out of bed pain but mixed with an acidic feeling. I also had ‘pre-cancer’ repeating itself in my head. I went to this appointment hoping for nothing and I got a very clear not-nothing. I moped through to my afternoon work appointments went home and took to bed like Mrs Bennet. I have been here ever since (mind it’s only a few hours later it’s not like I’ve been here for days).
1 in 20 women get an abnormal result at the cervical screening test.
Of those 6 in 10 have abnormal cells.
Of the remainder, less than 1 in 1000 women who have a colposcopy have cervical cancer that requires immediate treatment. As much as I’m trying to ignore it and think positive, I sit there in 2016 and had to recognise that anything could happen.
So far in 2016:
Odds of Brexit – 3/1
Odds of Trump winning the election – 5/1
Odds of Leicester city winning the premier league – 5000/1
…Considering all of these happened my 1000/1 weren’t looking too good!
Since I wrote this I have had a great deal of time to google pre-cancer (aka. CIN) and find out all about it. I have also had my results…… There are 4 different grades, most common, and the one I have is CIN 1. It’s the best kind to have from the looks of things, usually clears up on its own after a couple of years, so may not have even been found if I had waited till 25 to have my first smear. It is hugely demoralising to be diagnosed with anything, especially when you have no way of curing it.
Problem is, there is no big story here, nobody cares if you have pre-cancer and rightly so! Bar the repeat colposcopy it will probably have very little effect on my life. This is all good news and yet I am struck with a familiar feeling. If nobody that I know has gone through this, then how will they ever be able to empathise that this procedure and diagnosis have crushed me. Yet again I am having to emotionally come to terms with something that from the outside doesn’t look so bad. I feel like shouting into a void, but then, I suppose that’s what blogging is for!