I don’t know if it was related to what had happened with my grandma but a few years after she’d gone I started to feel anxiety about my own health, specifically breast cancer. I’m not really an anxious person, I don’t like flying and always had tummy aches on the morning of exams but that was usually the extent of my worries. Whether my concerns were related to what had happened with my grandma I’m not sure, but over the next ten years I found a number of lumps and bumps and had multiple scans and biopsies, always to be told they were bits of fatty tissue and some people just had lumpy boobs. By the way girls lumpy boobs are apparently heredity so sorry about that.
The thought I might one day have cervical cancer just never occurred to me. It wasn’t on my radar and looking back I think there are two main reasons for this. Firstly it wasn’t really something you heard about, I was so much more aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, it’s much higher on the public’s agenda and rightly so as it is far more prevalent. The only person I’d ever heard of who had cervical cancer was a celebrity called Jade Goody who tragically lost her battle with the disease in 2009 and in doing so thrust it into the public consciousness. After this, the number of women who attended their smears shot through the roof, however this was fairly short lived and in recent years the number of cases has sadly increased. The second and probably the biggest reason was, in my head, the fact I’d had numerous smears and they’d all been fine meant I’d just written it off. I had no idea that smears unfortunately don’t pick up every case and I clearly was one of those who slipped through the net.
It was September 2013, the start of a new school year. While on holiday in America we’d taken advantage of the cut price sports wear and I’d bought myself some new trainers, shorts and training tops, the plan was to get myself into shape once I returned home. To this day, most of it is still upstairs in pretty much the same unused state. The first week back at work I started as I meant to go on and headed to the gym after school. I listened to music while I completed a not too rigorous first workout on the treadmill. It felt good and I after I finished I headed back to the changing rooms to get showered. As I removed my clothes I noticed a small but significant amount of blood. Now this was something that had not happened before, I was in between periods and they were normally like clockwork, I knew I wasn’t pregnant, something wasn’t right. While we were away I’d already thought about going to the doctor to ask about the fertility issues we were having, perhaps this was related.
I booked an appointment and around a week later I went in to speak to the doctor about what I’d been experiencing. She didn’t seem overly concerned, especially about the not getting pregnant bit, but she did think further examination would be a good idea. Unfortunately due to poor monthly timing she couldn’t do it there and then and so she asked me to book in to see the nurse the following week.
Despite having a clear smear test only a year earlier the doctor had suggested that another would be a good idea. After a little small talk with the nurse I hopped up onto the bed and braced myself for the speculum. Although this doesn’t hurt in the slightest, no matter how many times I’ve had it done, I have never got used to it and my body still tenses with anticipation. The nurse looked up, a panicked expression on her face, she said she needed to get the doctor and left the room quickly. Moments later the doctor arrived, looking agitated that she’d clearly been interrupted between patients. She examined me carefully before informing me calmly that there appeared to be something on my cervix that shouldn’t be there but in all probability it was a polyp. She’d seen lots of these before and it was more than likely nothing to worry about but as it was quite big I needed to have it removed and so she booked me in to see a specialist under the two week referral process.
I soon as I got home I Googled polyp, as a side note never do this, Dr Google is not a rabbit hole you want to fall into and almost always end in sheer panic. This time however the descriptions I read agreed with everything the doctor had said and the symptoms I’d been experiencing. They appeared to be fairly common and easy to remove with minor surgery. I rang grandma and she told me that when she was younger she’d had them too, maybe like lumpy boobs polyps were also a family thing. I felt relieved, Google had also thrown up a number of things that were pretty frightening and didn’t bare thinking about but the doctor seemed pretty confident in her assessment so I pushed them to the back of my mind. All I needed now was the specialist to confirm in two weeks time and I could get back to the treadmill and more importantly baby making.