I guess this post should come with a trigger warning, and also to say to my mother in law and my Dad, who read my blog, that I will be talking about my, ahem, “lady bits” so please feel free to skip this, and head to an update about the kids instead… you have been warned.
There has been a lot in the media, around encouraging women to have their cervical smear check done. Something that is very important, to check for any abnormalities that could be a cause of cervical cancer. I am not going to give you science or facts, you can go read about them in far more coherent fashion on Jo’s Trust, a site that is campaigning for women to be proactive about their health.
This blog post IS NOT anti smear checks. I am very pro women having them done. It’s important. It’s not worth skipping them. I currently have a friend in real life going through treatment for cervical cancer.
However, I have seen a lot of chat and posts on social media telling women “not to be a diva about your beaver” and to just go and get their check done. I get why people use humour and light hearted things to try and motivate women, but it made me angry.
You see, a smear test is not just a case of popping to your GP or clinic, it’s an appointment where you have to go a certain time of the month, in your cycle, and you have to lie on a bed, and have a total stranger insert instruments into your vagina, and then scrap cells from your cervix, to send to be examined. It is about as intimate as someone can get with you, as a woman, and for many, many women, it is something that can be very hard to face and it’s not about being a diva. It is quick, and for most women it isn’t that painful, but it’s not pleasant and it is something that is normal to feel embarrassed about. The nurse or doctor should be professional, as gentle as possible and reassure you and get it done quickly.
But, it isn’t that way for all women, and for some of us, a cervical smear is HARD to face and I watched women in a group on Facebook dismiss the fears and anxieties of women, talk us down and tell us to “get over ourselves” and that “a few minutes of pain” is better than cervical cancer.
Yes, a few minutes of pain is of course, preferable to cervical cancer.
But for me, and many other women, it’s not about that.
You see, I have damage down there. I went through an incredibly traumatic birth, and damage was done to my cervix, and vaginal canal, and I had to have surgery to repair that. I still have scar tissue there that can be problematic. A cervical smear for me HURTS and is painful for a few days afterwards. In fact, I take a dose of valium and muscle relaxants now, to go and have my smear done, because the pain and anxiety is not manageable otherwise.
Other women who have had trauma or surgery, or who have been assaulted, also find having a smear test beyond the normal “few minutes of discomfort”.
Please don’t shout us down. Please don’t tell us we are being “silly” or that we need to get over it. Please don’t say that because it doesn’t hurt for you and you aren’t bothered, that I need to feel the same.
Please also don’t tell me that a prostrate examination in men is just as unpleasant. I have seen them done, they cannot be compared to a cervical smear when you have had trauma or surgery.
As an ex nurse, I am very pro women making sure they look after their health. If the idea of a smear fills you with fear, you can and should talk to your GP or practice nurse, and tell them about your fears and let them help you to find a way for you to have it done, in as manageable way as possible. It is important to get it done, regularly. However, I know, from my own experience that it’s not always as simple as going and getting it done, so I will get angry when women don’t support other women and talk down those of us who find it a painful or difficult experience.
Please don’t tell me or anyone else I am being a diva about my beaver. How about some solidarity? If we want women to attend smear tests, and prevent cervical cancer or catch it when it’s in it’s early and treatable stages, we need to help and encourage women, not talk down to them and patronise them.
Also, don’t call bits of my body silly names. I am not 12…. 😉 It’s a cervix and a vagina, not a furry animal that lives in water and builds dams!