In an almost satisfying irony of timing that I wasn’t aware of until much more recently, it turns out that January was Cervical Cancer Awareness Month (or at least it was in the US). I, for one, was acutely more aware of cervical cancer in January than I had been previously.
What’s more, 25th – 31st January 2015 was Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (and please read all about the brilliant things that Jo’s Trust did for it, including their SmearForSmear campaign, here). Again, I had no idea about that until afterwards as I was a bit busy having MRIs and that sort of thing. According to Jo’s Trust, 1 in 3 women aged 25-29 do not attend their smear tests, and 8 UK women are diagnosed every day. I am simultaneously shocked by, and part of, that statistic.
I know I’m not the only person who often puts off (sometimes permanently) going to the GP about things. It’s not that I’m afraid of the doctor, but rather a mixture of not finding time to go (like everyone else in the world I am always SO busy) and also feeling sure that whatever it is will probably go away and I don’t want to Make a Fuss.
It’s an odd way of looking at it when you think about it. GPs are there for exactly this reason, and choosing not to go and see them for fear of wasting their time is ridiculous. I mean, the worst (or best!) thing that will happen if you do go and it turns out to be nothing out of the ordinary is that they’ll send you on your way with a clear mind and a sense of relief. They’re not going to put you in the stocks in the middle of the town square and make everyone who passes point at you and shout “Shame!”. Just in case that’s what you were worried about.
Before the most recent one in December, I had two previous (and clear) smear tests (two at my age because I started earlier than usual due to going to university in Scotland). As these were fine, I wasn’t in any particular rush to go when I got the letter saying my next test was due. Not because I didn’t want to, or was scared – I know from experience that it is very quick and a little uncomfortable at the VERY worst. Just because I hadn’t found time – and although I knew I had to do it, it seemed more like a formality than anything else. Obviously I wouldn’t have cancer!
Even when I had some slightly unusual symptoms, it still took several months before I actually went to the GP, and even then only really because my boyfriend told me to. Because I didn’t want to Make a Fuss. You know what happened next (and if you don’t you can read it here).
I’m ashamed to say that even then after that bombshell, I hadn’t learnt my lesson! After the biopsy, I spent quite a few days umming and ahhing over reporting other symptoms. Eventually I went to the GP and she immediately prescribed me antibiotics for the infection I clearly had. I scolded myself for not going sooner – as soon as I thought something might be wrong. Again!
Four weeks after my main operation, I had some strange stabbing pains in my abdomen as well as various other symptoms. Although I was pretty sure it was just to do with the healing from the surgery and therefore nothing out of the ordinary, I decided that this time I would Make a Fuss. Various samples and swabs were taken and my urine sample came back growing E. coli. The doctors prescribed more antibiotics. But even if they hadn’t and it had been just normal pain from the healing process, I would have been right to Make a Fuss.
So this is my heartfelt plea to you ladies (and gentlemen!): if you think something might be wrong, MAKE A FUSS! Because actually, you’re not really making a fuss at all. And it could save your life.
March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and The Eve Appeal are running a fantastic fundraising and awareness campaign called Make Time for Tea. Awareness of ovarian cancer is even worse than cervical, so please do spread the word and make sure you are aware of the symptoms yourself.
Caroline Crimson x