It’s Not Over Until My Vagina Sings!

It ain’t over until the fat lady sings. Yes that’s right, I’m still waiting for my vagina to open it’s lips and belt out either a bit of Diana Ross, “I’m Coming Out” or Whitney Houston, “I’m Every Woman”. That is when I shall truly know that my vag is okay and this ordeal is over once and for all. However, for the time being it is more like the scene in the Notebook when Noah (*sigh*) and Allie (*double sigh*) are smooching in the rain. Apart from instead of Noah saying to Allie “it was never over, it still isn’t over!” it is my fanny shouting at me. “It’s not over yet b****!” So, the vagina chronicles continue. Cue the opening titles!

Last week was my week of doctor appointments. 2 in a row. Now I know what you’re thinking, 2 is nothing, but in the space of 24 hours, talking all things fanny, well that’s pretty tough for your girl over here. I had to eat a lot of Mum’s Victoria Sponge to calm my nerves. With her by my side, we were back at the hospital at 8am on the Thursday. My hair was especially greasy for the occasion, scraped back into a ‘low pony’ (sxc) and I had the unnerving urge to fart every 20 seconds. Anyone else get uncontrollably gassy when the nerves kick in? Anyway, I was back to see my consultant to discuss the abnormal cell results and decide whether I was going to have the cells removed there and then or wait until October to have another biopsy taken. The nurses were scrubbed up ready to remove some cells with a large side order of sympathetic smiles as I walked into the consultant’s office.

My consultant is a no-sh** no-nonsense kind of guy, he had come prepared with a drawn out diagram to talk me through the results and what would happen next. His diagram looked like this,

Scale 1 - Edited

And placed my cells in between ‘mild’ and ‘moderate’.

But to me it looked like this,

Scale 2 - Edited

And I (obviously) just heard, Your cells are moderate, red alert, red alert, red alert.

He then talked me through the procedure of how they remove the cells. Brace yourself girls, if you’re squeamish, scroll down a bit because it is a pretty unpleasant image. They take a square like wire to the entrance of the womb where the cells are and scrape them off. Effectively, they would take a giant cheese slicer to my insides! This does gets rid of the cells (for now) but in doing so widens the entrance of my womb. The consequences of this could result in miscarriages and early labour when I have my 5 children (I want 5 children. 3 girls, 2 boys.) Knowing that I could be slimming my chances of successfully delivering was quite a big thing for me to hear. Of course, I have to put my health first and pregnancy comes with all sorts of other risks and complications sometimes, but I needed time to digest what had been said before I made a decision. As I’ve said before, the cells are not necessarily progressive, they could return to being normal in time. If I eat lots of broccoli, get 8 hours sleep a night and drink Berocca every morning, right?

I left the consultant’s office, got in the lift and started to cry. The little girl in me who used to be scared of the rain just wanted this all to stop! I wanted the cells to magically disappear into the atmosphere and for my vagina to turn invincible, grow a force field around it and finally sing “I’m Every Woman” at the top of its lungs! Alas, this was wishful thinking. I had a little stomp and a cry, my dad gave me a big bear hug when I got home tear stained and then I was ready to think rationally again. I went to speak to my doctor the next day to ask, “WHAT SHALL I DO BABE?” In fact, I knew what to do. Because ladies, and gents if you’re reading, here’s the crux of the matter. I believe I should have a smear test before deciding whether or not to have the cells removed and here is why…

The cells that are abnormal have changed because I have contracted the HPV virus, however, I don’t know whether I still have the virus in my body. If I do, I should definitely have the cells removed to stop them progressing further, if I don’t, that means my body has fought it off and is 70% more likely to also help the effected cells return to normal over the next couple of months. But the only way to tell whether I have the virus, is it to have a smear. I asked the hospital for one, they said no. I asked my consultant for one, he said no. I asked my doctor for one, she looked up to the heavens, took a deep breath, apologised profusely on behalf of the system and said no too. I would have to wait until I am the right age. I am still not 24 and 6 months, yet have been displaying concerning symptoms for 10 months now. My smear can only be carried out in 3 weeks and then I’d have to wait another 4 weeks for the results. By that time it will almost be October!

I decided that I have done too much waiting, my doctor and I agreed that I should have the cells removed to simply put my mind at rest. Although she agreed with all I had to say about having a smear, she said it was probably better for my brain to have some peace and quiet. Of course there are risks but she assured me that one procedure probably will not make much difference. She believed it was unlikely that my cells would progress from a CIN 2 to a CIN 3 but that it would be better to go ahead and get them out to be on the safe side. Agreed.

So, at the end of July, back I’ll go to the unit I know so well. I’ll put my hospital gown on, ugliest pants, legs in the stirrups and maybe I’ll ask them to play some relaxing whale music as they do some interior renovating to my womb. The procedure itself sounds simple, the area will be anaesthetised and the cheese grater will do it’s job. The aftermath will probably be a little less straightforward, heavy bleeding, cramps, no sex, tampons or baths for 6 weeks and the increased risk of infection. Great! Cannot wait! But hey, I’m being well looked after, I’m looking after my body and I think I’ve made the right decision in the long run. Waiting until October could have been fine but I don’t want to take any chances. Fingers and toes crossed the naughty cells don’t come back (EVER) but if they do I know I’m now in good hands. The Women’s Health Unit at the L&D have got my back and every 6 months the vag and I will take the lift up to the 3rd floor to check that no funny business is going on. One day I hope I can go to the 1st floor instead, the “deliver an ultra cute human” floor. Babies galore floor. I love babies.

Headway is being made, it is a marathon not a race after all but the slower the time it takes to get sorted the more aggressive the war between my brain and I becomes. The doctor did take my blood pressure at the appointment and said it was a little high, but then she noticed my fast heart rate, sweaty palms and the tears filling up in my eye balls, trying desperately not to over spill on to her desk. She knows I’m a lunatic. Every time I go back to the ‘gynae’ ward or step through the door to my GP office I do have to stop myself from completely freaking out (you would think I would be used to the sight of people walking around with blue plastic bags over their shoes by now, but no). This situation has taken a toll on my mental health. It has been a constant niggle for nearly a year and has eaten away some of the fun cells in my brain! I have been trying hard to conquer the demon and have actually found some stuff highly effective and relieving. I’m going to share them with you now.

Top tips for dealing with health anxiety:

  • Firstly and most importantly, speak to someone. I spoke to a mind coach about mine and he worked absolute wonders inside my brain. I think it is important to seek professional help when it starts to encroach on your life. It started off as little worries and has manifested into something quite difficult to shut out. I was also referred to a health anxiety group by the NHS to speak to others who are constantly worrying excessively about their health. I still haven’t plucked up the courage to go to one but just knowing that they’re there helps a little too.
  • Now for some more light hearted tips… Buy yourself flowers! Having flowers in my room always makes me feel lighter and brighter. You don’t need anyone to buy them for you, you go get yourselves some peonies!
  • Grab a friend and go on an early evening walk or plug in a good podcast and go on your own. I recommend The Guilty Feminist and Ctrl Alt Delete with Emma Gannon. My anxiety is often exasperated in the Big Smoke so a trundle to Hampstead Heath or Clissold Park always lifts my mood. Go and see some green and breathe as much fresh air as you can!
  • Yoga, yoga, yoga. There are so many good free videos on YouTube so you don’t even have to stray from your bedroom. Fightmaster Yoga and Yoga with Adrienne are good ones. I haven’t mastered meditation yet, I get too fidgety but find at least 3 minutes of stillness during my yoga practise which helps quieten the anxiety.
  • Treat yourself real nice. Whatever it is, whatever you’re saying “oh I really shouldn’t” to… just do it. Buy yourself that Snickers or the dress in the Oliver Bonas window. A treat a week (or day) is my motto.
  • Try and get out in the sunshine, read a book, do a crossword, write in your notebook, cook, bake, anything to give your other thinking brain a rest.

Top tips for going to the hospital if you’re completely cacking your pants:

  • Take your Mum. Take my Mum if you like, she holds your hand and asks the doctors lots of questions you’ve forgotten to ask. Failing that, take your best mate. I wouldn’t care if I looked a bit bizarre taking in 5 of my friends to have my bits looked at! I’m not too sure how they would feel about it however.
  • Wear breathable clothes. Preferably a top with no sleeves and your comfiest pair of jogging bottoms, the uglier the better. This way you will avoid major sweat patches. I was the sweatiest Betty on the gynaecology ward the first time. I learnt my lesson the hard way (pit stains).
  • Put on the biggest pants you own. Not only metaphorically, but physically. My ‘Colposcopy Pants’ are a faded black, practically translucent, baggy and not even Bridget Jones would pull them out of the drawer, they’re perfect. You can whip them off and on in seconds.
  • Stay hydrated. Hospitals always make me feel like I can’t breathe properly and I get clam-tastically sweaty so I drink a lot of water before my appointment to avoid passing out in the waiting room.
  • Listen to Beyoncé’s “Grown Woman” in the car on the way there. Or any Beyoncé song for that matter. Other good music that makes me feel like the biggest girl boss on the ‘gynae’ ward also includes: “Edge of Seventeen”, Stevie Nicks, “Believe”, Cher, “Piece of Me”, Britney Spears (thank you Rose for this recommendation!) and “Bette Davis Eyes”, Kim Carnes.

In the midst of my appointments I also finished reading “This Is Going To Hurt”, the diaries of a junior doctor by Adam Kay and boy did it help! I couldn’t put it down. Read it in 4 days. Never in a million years did I think I could read a book all about health, and trust me, this is explicit, triple X rated, stuff about health. Kay was a gynaecologist and obstetrician and so reading all of the goings on in other women’s vaginas was extremely eye opening, and sometimes hilarious (there is an incident with a Kinder Egg getting stuck up there as well as a chicken wing!) It provides giggles, gasps of horror, insight into the pressures and stress that the NHS face every day and it lists in detail conditions, procedures, general goings on of the female anatomy, in particular, the almighty vagina. I highly recommend it, especially for those of you who like me, can barely walk passed hospitals without getting the heebie-jeebies. You’ll be confronting your fears on every page.

That’s all for now, thank you for keeping up to date with my ongoing vagina monologue. Even though going to the hospital and receiving results is never an easy process for me, it feels so good to know that I have some of you there in spirit, cheering my name as I open my legs! Your comments on the previous blog have been fantastic, I’m so glad some of you have learnt from another ladies experience. There is plenty more where that came from as another lady is lined up ready to talk to you about her pesky ovaries so watch out for that one!

Sending you bundles of pussy positivity and vagina vibes,

Soph x

“I Know It Sounds Dramatic, But I Thought I Was Dying” – Endometriosis, Jess’s Story

Here she is, the first brave and totally fabulous vagina on Gash Gossip, Jess. *HI JESS* Today ladies, we will be chatting all things Endometriosis. En-do-me-tri-o-sis. What a mouthful. A condition that effects 1 in 10 women in the UK, is the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK and effects 10% of women worldwide, which is a whopping 176 million women. So you know, just a little bit important for women to be aware of. However, the more I’ve raised the topic to my gal pals, I’ve been greeted with quizzical, sometimes blank expressions followed by “Endometri-what now? I’ve never even heard of that!” A lot of women still don’t have a clue what it is or more importantly that they might be suffering from it. It could be playing a big part in young women’s lives during the monthly visit from Aunt Flow, during sex, and some are in crippling pain all the time but “it’s nothing dear, don’t worry about it”. Most woman are told to put it down to ‘bad period pains’ or being ‘stressed’. It is only through friends sharing their stories with me that I have learnt what it is and so today I am going to be your endometriosis godmother and hopefully raise some more awareness. 

 

So Sophie, please enlighten us! What is endometriosis?” Well, my understanding is this: the tissue that lines your uterus grows outside of your uterus and on other organs in that region… NHS.com, am I right? 

“Endometriosis is a condition where the tissue that lines the womb (endometrium) is found outside the womb, such as in the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Endometriosis mainly affects girls and women of childbearing age. It’s less common in women who have been through the menopause. It’s a long-term condition that can have a significant impact on your life, but there are treatments that can help.”

Close enough.

I’m a visual learner and fancy blogger these days and so have inserted a diagram to show where else the endometriosis can grow.

Endometriosis.png

So yeah, it looks and sounds pretty effing awful. Imagine your periods x100.

Now we’ve all been acquainted, let’s get back to Jess because if you’re still trying to get your nut around it and you’re looking for details at a more personal level then you’re in the right place.

How would you describe endometriosis Jess? 

“Um, f***** painful Soph?” 

Right, well we better get started then!

Let us set the scene. Jess is 14. She has a side fringe, blue hair at this point and loves Zac Efron. She’s just started the Big P. The moment in every girls life when they look down at their Spongebob knickers, see a red-brown-ish smear and suddenly they are thrust into woman-hood even though they still wear Spongebob knickers (just me?) Then the monthly dull ache in the pit of the stomach kicks in, followed by a churning sensation and the womb and bowel appear to be doing barrel rolls down a very steep hill again, and again. Horrible!

Here are a few other descriptions of period pain for you, which one most describes yours? Mine is normally a mixture of 1 and 4:

  1. “Imagine your emotions are placed on a keyboard, then someone is slamming their hands on the keyboard. All you want to do is sleep and sit on something soft.”
  2. “Like someone is grinding my insides into liquid and they’re leaking uncontrollably out of my vagina.”
  3. “Like someone glued and duct-taped the inner wall of my uterus and then started violently ripping it off. And on top of that, you have diarrhoea.”
  4. “I want to kill someone.”

But Jess’s are bad, to the point where she is over heating, sweating buckets, constantly pooing, vomiting and passing out, on top of all the other symptoms we know and love. She is missing lessons and spending a lot of time lying on the sofa in the nurses station at school with a hot water bottle strapped to her stomach thinking “how can I go on like this for the next 40 years? For so long everyone told me it was just something that will pass, no one ever really addressed it… maybe because I was an actress everyone thought I was being over dramatic.” 

Jess carried on like this for 4 years, taking days off school, refilling that trusty hot water bottle and curling up in a ball for a week of every month until the pain subsided. At 18 she marched herself to the doctors, pointed at her bits, and said, there is something wrong with me! “HELP!” (Sounds familiar). The doctor listened to her symptoms and suggested she went on the contraceptive pill, Yasmin. “It was supposed to be the good one!” As the doctor ordered, she did, for 2 years. During that time she was in a relationship with a man, so that came in handy and for the first time since getting her period, she wasn’t experiencing pain. IT WAS A MIRACLE! Yeah, but only because she was taking the pill back to back, stopping her periods from actually coming. Jess was, as I am, a firm believer that the female body needs to bleed. It should bleed when it wants to. Every month. I once tried to take the pill back to back and bloody hell, my body went into an absolute meltdown. My emotions had no where to go! I turned into the menstruating monster and vowed never to do that to my womb again. I guess for some women, that is not the answer.

Pressing fast forward on our magical life-remote-control and Jess, 20, has now moved to London, drives a little red car, has better taste in music and is in a same sex-relationship. Therefore, she made the decision to stop filling her body with unnecessary hormone, stop taking the pill and have some periods. Life was good. Jess brought her first sofas and cushions to match but her period pains were back with a vengeance and no remorse. “I was supposed to being going to a friends house and I remember the pain came on suddenly. It was so excruciating that I called 111. I genuinely thought something was seriously wrong with me. I could barely speak down the phone.” Jess crawled back in to bed, took some Co-codamol, closed her eyes and hoped when she woke up the pain would be but a distant memory. Not quite. Her usually reliable painkiller friend couldn’t even muster the strength to defeat the demons stamping in her uterus. It was time to make her first gynaecology appointment, because after some much needed Googling, Jess thought she might have Endometriosis.

Gynaecologist: A valiant, mystical vagina Queen or King who is willing to delve in-between our legs and explore our nether regions for us.

“I came away from that first appointment thinking, oh, I don’t have endometriosis. The gynaecologist had convinced me that I didn’t have it.” Jess had all the obligatory pokes and prods, as well as an ultra sound and internal exam “with a long stick that had lube on the end of it. Horrid. Plus it had been a while since anything that shape had been up there!” The gynaecologist explained to Jess that from what she could see everything looked normal and the scans supported this verdict. But! As often is the case with endometriosis, you cannot see it unless you have a laparoscopy. Only then can you determine whether your lower organs are in fact knee-deep in endometriosis.

Laparoscopy: “A surgical procedure in which a fibre-optic instrument is inserted through the abdominal wall to view the organs in the abdomen or permit small-scale surgery.”

The ‘gynae’ explained to Jess that she didn’t like doing the procedure unless she was 100% sure she was going to find endometriosis and that the best thing for her to do was to monitor it for 6 months or go back on to the pill. The pill was out of the question for Jess who had previously been on Roactuane to get rid of her acne, “I wasn’t going to jeopardise all that time I had spent trying to sort out my skin by pumping more hormones into my body. I was done with pills, hormones, things in my body that shouldn’t be in there! So I thought I should just suck it up and deal with the pain.” Which is what she did.

Cut to now, 2018, and Jess is 23. This is the penultimate chapter and turned out to be the last straw for Jess. A couple of months ago she was halfway through a civilised lunch with her girlfriend when out crawled the evil ‘endo’. “I got really hot, the sweats came over me and I knew I had to get out of the restaurant before something terrible happened. I’d come on my period that morning and I knew instantly what was going to happen.” 20 minutes later, after hailing down an Uber, Jess is throwing up out of the car door in the middle of Piccadilly Circus. “I was close to death. I knew then I had endometriosis and it was time to get my sh** together.”

So finally, we are here in the present day, at the final chapter. Jess has just walked in to Dr Andrew Kent’s office, a specialist in endometriosis. She has described her symptoms and he replies, “you need a laparoscopy. See you in 4 weeks.” Thank god for Dr Andrew Kent. Jess was lucky enough to have private health care on this occasion, so the waiting time for the surgery was short. I am unsure how long the waiting list is on the NHS but I have a friend who is still waiting for surgery and has been since January!

“The day of my surgery came and I was sooooo nervous. I hate needles and I had been watching too much Grey’s Anatomy. I wrote a note in my phone in case I died during the surgery because 0.8% of women do… what if I was that 0.8%?! I wanted people to know that I loved them and what song to play at my funeral. The surgery went well and yes, I did have endometriosis which has now been removed. I’m left with a scar in my belly button, one just above where my pubes start and the other to the left hand side, forming a little triangle. I am pain free for now and so happy I pushed for the surgery. Push for that laparoscopy is my one piece of advice! Because when you know, you just know.”

Jess was right to persist. WE KNOW OUR BODIES! Her right ovary was tucked in on itself due to the swelling that endometriosis creates and had got stuck to the side of her uterus – no wonder she was f****** vomiting in the middle of Piccadilly! She also had traces of endometriosis next to her bowel which would explain her IBS like symptoms.

Here is the formal post operation notes that she received:

She has a deep nodule of endometriosis involving the insertion of the left uterosacral ligament and her right ovary was firmly adherent to the side wall, possibly due to endometriosis. All adhesions were divided and the endometriosis excised with the Harmonic ACE.

(Jess and I had to Google most of these words too! E.g the uterosacral ligament.)

Jess is, for the time being, endometriosis free. Unfortunately it can grow back, in a couple of months, a year, 3 years. Until then Jess is enjoying life off of Co-codamol and relaxing at sweat free lunches with her girlfriend. She has had her first post-op period and she didn’t have the unnerving urge to poo or faint! Yay! It is down to her persistence, strength and knowing her own body that she is better. The more I delve into women’s health, the more evident it is becoming that we women have to take initiative when it comes to solving the problem.

As with most things, endometriosis probably has a whole host of symptoms and side effects which are different depending on the person. Every vagina is different and therefore so is every story. I would love to hear from more of you who, like Jess, have suffered with the condition or think maybe you might be. Jess’s symptoms mainly occurred whilst on her period, however I am aware that some women live in constant pain caused by endometriosis whether they are bleeding or not. Hats off to you all. You’re amazing.

 

For more information on the topic, I am directing you below to some excellent content that helped me understand the condition better too. I am not an expert, I’m just a vagina keeno (weirdo), I want to know all there is to know, spread the word and help raise awareness for vagina related issues. By vagina I also mean all of the female organs. It is all related, the vagina is our way through to discovery and knowing what is actually going on up there!

1. “The Lemonade Lab”(lemonadelaboratory.com AKA one of my oldest friends Gemma). My surrogate sister from the age of 4 and the woman I go to for all my vagina advice, sex tips, cake porn and general musings over her pretty Instagram and Pinterest. She gives some great tips for surviving endometriosis, specifically sex with endometriosis amongst other good, honest ‘endo’ chat.

2. “Oh my fucking blog” on Facebook. Her post about endometriosis is raw but totally brilliant. Her story is heart-breaking but she comes at it with such force you’re doing nothing but wanting to punch the air for her by the end of it! 

3. BBC Video’s that can be found on YouTube:

‘Menopause at 22’ – BBC The Social 

‘What Painful Sex Feels Like’ – BBC Three 

‘How endometriosis changed my life’ – BBC Stories 

As always, tell me your thoughts, feelings, inner workings of your brain and all your vagina needs, wants and mishaps! I love hearing about them as much as I love talking about them. Never be afraid of getting the answers you deserve and don’t settle until you are and your vag are happy.

Show your vaginas some extra love this week, Gemma from the Lemonade Lab recommends putting some coconut oil down there. Mmm moisturising and delicious!

Soph x

The Three T’s – Talking Talking Talking

Firstly if any of you get the reference in the title, then you are my spirit animal. If you didn’t, I still like you and I’m glad you’re here, but I just question whether you have been living under a rock. This Country. BBC. Go and watch it now! Because this post is going to be all about the three T’s, “talking talking talking”. (Thank you Kurtan for the inspiration.)

We’ve all established by now that I like to chat about my minge. Your minge. My Mum’s minge. I have no filter when it comes to bodily functions and I never have done. My friends and family know that I am going to let them know exactly what is going on in my body at least once a day. Mainly for reassurance that I am going to live to see another hour but also to ease off the niggling anxieties that creep into my brain on a regular basis. Here are just a few examples (soz for the gory details):

Example A

On the phone to Papa D: “Dad, I’ve got to go, I need to try and do a poo. I didn’t manage to have one this morning because I was hoovering and I think I might be constipated anyway. Maybe I should get myself some Fruit ‘n Fibre or prune juice. I’ll let you know, speak to you later, love you!” 

Example B

On the WhatsApp group to my girls: “Oh my god I am having the heaviest period of my life ladies. The rivers of Babylon are constantly flowing and my ovaries feel like they are exploding everywhere! Already been through 2 tampons. Send help and Kit Kat Peanut Butter Chunkies.”

Example C

Text message to my best friend: “Okay so, I just stood up in the bath and the window was wide open, I banged my head and shouted at it for hurting me. I then decided to get out because I started panicking that I would faint. I’m now lying on my bed in my dressing gown and think I’ve started feeling sick. I’ve just looked up the symptoms of concussion on google and now I’m convinced that that is what it is. My head hurts and I think my vision is blurry. I can’t go to sleep tonight in case I don’t wake up. Anyway, hope you’re okay and your audition went well today! Cba to be concussed. Xxx”

Those are just a handful of the bombardment of messages my poor loved ones receive from me. Yes I am a self confessed hypochondriac. But over the years this has become quite the issue. My anxiety around health has been a constant battle between my brain and I and it reached a point in my early 20’s where it was stopping me from living my life “normally”. If a family member was in hospital, I would either sit in the car and wait or spend the whole visit trying to block out the noise of beeping machines rather than being present in the room. I would have panic attacks in my GP’s office. My heart would race in the waiting room so that when I got in to the doctor’s chair and she took my blood pressure it was sky high. I would then have a full blown meltdown, tears, snot, the lot. I found a lump under my armpit that turned out to be a swollen gland, but spent the whole morning imagining what my life would be like with breast cancer. Any tightness in my chest and I’m having a heart attack or there is a problem with my lungs. A head ache is a tumour or a bleed on the brain. And once I fainted after doing an Insanity workout at 6:30am in the morning and didn’t exercise for 6 months after in fear that I had an un-diagnosed heart condition. Yup! Those who know me are shaking their heads vigorously. I’m a wee bit silly I will admit that. However, I do think there is something to be said about the way we are conditioned to talk about our health and the issues we may be encountering, in that we are told not to talk about. Is is no wonder some of us have white coat syndrome or are terrified of our own bodies. Either it is TMI or appears weak and wobbly. So most of the time we suffer in silence and let the fears manifest, become irrational and ridiculous. Example D: Me!

I haven’t been able to change my worried ways, I’ve come to terms with the fact I’ll always be a Worrying Wendy BUT I have learnt how to shut Wendy up when she is not needed. It is simple. Talk. Talk to your heart’s content to whoever will listen and I guarantee those fears and worries will subside. This is the whole reason Gash Gossip was born. After months of stewing over what was happening inside my body, a lot of crying myself to sleep and finding it generally hard to be a happy person day to day, I decided enough was enough. If I was feeling this pain, so should everybody else… nah I’m joking of course! But I knew I couldn’t be the only one. I needed to reach out to people who were also telling off their vaginas for making them miserable. I wasn’t wrong. I have had messages from some of you either just wanting to chat which is fab or you have been going through some really challenging stuff downstairs. I’m here for you ladies. I have been positive and upbeat on here so far which has really helped me handle my situation but prior to Gash Gossip’s birth, I was (I hate to say it) extremely negative. I selfishly thought I was the only one having trouble and that all of the worst possible things that could happen were going to happen. It was pants. But, continuing to talk about how I was feeling channelled all of my negative energy and made it positive. Opening my mouth and sharing all my most personal mental and physical states is the main reason I feel good again. I felt good when the results came through. I feel good about moving forward. I feel good about my gash. I even feel good about going back to the hospital in 2 weeks time. And those feelings are all pretty new to me.

Although this blog is of course dedicated and in honour of the vagina and all those that have one, this is a problem for both genders. We don’t talk about our health enough, let alone our sexual health. That needs to change. I have been having a lot of crazy pipe dreams about what this blog could potentially do for people and for the way we look at sexual health. I’m going to share those things with you now. Let me know if you think I’ve missed anything out that you want to see change too. I reckon we can do it if we do a whole lot of gossiping. It may take us a while and I may not get to sit Theresa May down to talk about fanny, but in the words of Cher, “Believe”.

  1. Let’s talk about lowering the age restriction on smear tests in England. In Scotland the age you receive your first test is 20. In England it is 25.
  2. A better quality of sex education in schools. Amen! Revisiting age groups as they transition through the school system with lessons dependant on age. One lesson at the age of 9 is not enough and as fun as putting a condom on a banana is, it would have been far more helpful to know about what the hell is going on inside my cervix.
  3. Sexual health workshops in schools. Integrating sexes where appropriate. Sometimes I think it would be beneficial to know about each other’s organs, not just just our own and learn not to feel embarrassed about talking about them in front of each other. I really want to create some specially designed Gash Gossip workshops and for that I need a troupe of my very own Fanny Friends who too would be interested in hosting workshops with me. They would be for girls of all ages to talk to them frankly and openly about their vaginas, sex, female masturbation, contraception, the list goes on!
  4. A talk surrounding HPV. For every girl receiving the HPV vaccination, there should be a consultation with a specialist about exactly what HPV is, how it can be contracted, what strain(s) the vaccination protects against, how many strains of the virus there are, the dangers of contracting the virus and how best to speak to your sexual partner about it. This would be one of the topics in the Gash Gossip workshops without a doubt.
  5. Erasing taboos around sexually transmitted disease. We should be careful and aware not ashamed.
  6. Keep pressing the issue that menstrual products are STILL not tax free and classed as a necessity. Why? In the words of the Guilty Feminist Podcast ladies, Jaffa Cakes are classed as a necessity so maybe women should start shoving them up their when Aunt Flow visits instead!
  7. More research into the effects of the contraceptive pill. What harm is it doing to our bodies? If it causes post-coital bleeding after a certain amount of time, why aren’t we letting young women know that? Does being on the pill for a prolonged amount of time effect our bodies to the point where our cells are changing without us knowing?

Phwoar. It is going to be quite the task, and I’m sure some of you you will have some more suggestions to add to the list, but my god am I feeling positive about pussy right now.

 

In my case it was my vagina that prompted me to open up a conversation, but I hope that this helps other people with other parts of their body whether it be boobs, bum, brain, balls to speak up and connect with others. Sometimes our bodies do their own thing and it can feel like we have no control, but we cannot live in fear of them doing so. We have to try not to freak out when they start changing, we have to keep calm and carr…. No. I’m sorry I cannot use that phrase. Instead I’ll use what my Mum always says to me, which I think she stole from a fish, “Just keep swimming.” I’ll add on to that. “Just keep swimming and just keep talking.” Because there will always be someone to listen. Talking talking talking and we will get there, I can feel it in my bones!

Throwing not only pussy positivity at you today, but all the positive vibes I can muster.

Soph x

 

The Results Are In, Always Trust Your Gut!

Before we get into the serious stuff, I just wanted to take the time to say a MASSIVE thank you for all your messages about my first post here on Gash Gossip. Without getting too emosh, I cried happy tears for the first time in a long time. Me and the vag felt a lot of love. I really did appreciate you all taking the time to read it and offer your feedback and suggestions. It meant the world. Keep the messages coming and let me know if you have anything you’d like to chat about. Now on to Part 2!

Does anyone else get the sweatiest of pits when they have to speak to the doctor? My best friend ran the marathon a couple of weeks ago, the hottest marathon in history I might add, and I can guarantee I broke more of a sweat listening to the dial tone on my phone waiting for the doc to pick up, whilst my bezzie looked cool as a cucumber at mile 26.

It had been 4 weeks since my colposcopy which meant the results were in! I could have rung on the Monday morning but I chickened out 4 times. Something about waiting for results completely freaks me out, I don’t have the courage to open the letter or hear what the doctor has to say because I always think the worst, so, I put in place my best avoidance tactics and bury my head in the sand. It’s madness I know, I just prolong the misery and torture. But Tuesday morning was D-Day. I had the boyf and my friends bugging me to “just do it for goodness sake.” As I held the phone to my ear I shakily asked the receptionist at the surgery to read out the results. I started pacing up and down the work office. I needed a nervous poo desperately and the sweat was dripping. This was probably more of a job for the doctor, but mine was away until Friday and I couldn’t wait any longer. She started opening the letter, very slowly, it was like waiting to find out if I’d answered the right question on a quiz show. Then at the other end of the phone she said, “So you’re pregnant?” I nearly choked on my own saliva, “NO?!”, I bloody hope not. Is a 24 year old waiting on colposcopy results not normal I thought? And then I thought, in the words of Pamalaaaaar from Gavin & Stacey, “OH MY CHRIST!” Am I pregnant?!/I haven’t prepared for this news at all/I don’t have any money/My room is too small/I’m going to pass out/I can’t even afford to buy branded cereal/I don’t have ANY savings/I don’t have a credit card/My Dad is going to kill me/My Mum is going to cry/My Dad is going to kill me some more if I’m not already dead.

I’m not pregnant. Turns out a 24 year old receiving colposcopy results was a little unusual for this particular receptionist and that was just her initial response. The results themselves, well, these are the only words I heard down the phone: “satisfactory”, “HPV”, “low grade cells”. I asked the lady to please repeat them again, hoping to hear and understand more, but again, “satisfactory”, “HPV”, “low grade cells” seemed to be the only words coming out of her mouth. 

I said thank you, she said “No problem sweetheart the doctor will ring you on Friday to discuss”, I said thank you again, she said “No problem sweetheart”, again, and that was that. The reel of thoughts after this phone call was a tangle of negativity I’ll be honest. I couldn’t help feeling crest fallen, a part of me was hoping they would find absolutely nothing, this would all be over and my vagina and I would skip happily away into the sunset. Then I started feeling resentful. This has been an ongoing battle for 9 months, waiting for swab after swab, returning to the chair with my legs wide open, pointing at my bits and saying THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG IN THERE I KNOW IT, pleeeeease do something about it and I was right! Yes! I knew there was something “wrong”. I knew in my gut more tests should be done to double check everything. Trust your gut ladies. As I’ve said before, we know our bodies, we should have the confidence to stand up to anyone who tells us otherwise.

And then, as with all medical related news, there was the inevitable wave of irrational thoughts. “How long before I die?”

1. Satisfactory: What does that mean? Acceptable not outstanding is what it means. My cervix is not perfect, but at least it is up to scratch. It’s reasonable. When I googled satisfactory for some more specific definitions, this came up, and I thought it was quite apt: “(Of a patient in a hospital) not deteriorating or likely to die.” So that’s good. Very reassuring.

2. HPV: So what do I do now? How long have I had it for? Can you treat it? Why didn’t this show up on any of the swabs? Will my body fight it off? What even is HPV? I seriously don’t know what it stands for. Is that bad? I know nothing about it. Zilch. How long before I die?

3. Low grade cells: Cells. Cells. Cells. Cells. Cells. CELLS. Cells. Cells. Cells. CELLS! Bad bad bad cells. BAD! Oh god, this is bad… BAD.

Having now had time to digest the results and speak to my GP, I feel a little more relaxed. But now I play the same waiting game as I wait to hear from the Colposcopy Clinic themselves. The team at the clinic have a sit down meeting each month to discuss all results and put a plan in place for each patient. I believe from the results that I have contracted the HPV virus but will need more information from my consultant before I divulge further. I am going to refrain from reading the internet in the meantime! The low grade cells they have tested will either need to be removed or monitored every 6 months. Which is a positive! They will keep a close eye on me and everything going on down there and that is a small victory after all the pestering I have done. Although I have had to do a lot of persisting, I want to say that I am not sure anyone is to blame for what seems like a slow response. The NHS have been fantastic in supporting me; I couldn’t have asked for kinder nurses who talked to me about dogs and the Edinburgh Fringe, not that the two were related, to stop me crying. It has just taken us all a while to get to where we are now and that is why I cannot express enough how important it is to trust your instinct and ask for answers. I am so glad I did. To make it clear, the abnormalities they found are not responsible for the initial problem which was post coital bleeding. The bleeding was caused by the ectropion, most probably caused by the contraceptive pill. The cells they found have been found as a result of taking a closer look at the ectropion during the colposcopy, without which, I would have only found out about them during my first smear test, which will not be until I am 25. 7 months from now. 7 months too long in my opinion. As I mentioned before, I asked my local surgery for a smear test and given my symptoms I thought it would be a no-brainer, sadly given the age restriction on smear tests this was not possible. BUT there are other avenues girls, and we owe it to our vaginas and ourselves to pursue pursue pursue until we get all the answers we need. We may be under the age threshold but our vaginas are just as important!

 

In the process of writing this post I received the letter from the clinic explaining what happens next. I now have a decision to make. Either I opt for having the low grade cells removed or they continue to monitor them. To be honest ladies, I don’t know what to do! That feels like a big decision to make on my own with no real explanation yet of what is going on in ye old cervix! So I have requested a face to face appointment with the consultant at the clinic to get all the facts. I’ll be going in with my notepad, pen and of course my fanny side-kick, Mumma D, to really find out what an earth is going on. At the moment I am confused, a bunch of words on a page is not much help for me and my fanny to make a rational decision on what step to take next.

Seeing as I like to share, I thought I’d write down some of the notes from the official letter so we are all on the same page here. Look out for the key words I mentioned earlier, see if they jump out at you too!

“Colposcopy satisfactory, HPV changes low grade abnormalities, biopsy CIN2.

Management Plan: On a background of post-coital bleeding and a biopsy showing CIN2, you have 2 options:

1. Monitoring with colposcopy, smear, HPV test & biopsy in 6 months time. It is reassuring that 40% of women will clear the abnormality upon regular monitoring.

2. Loop excision treatment to remove the abnormal cells.”

Thankfully, I decided to start gossiping about all my gash related problems and maybe some of you have already been in this situation and can help a girl out. WHAT DO I DO? Has anybody else had low grade cells found and or removed? And although it may be a little personal for some of you, has anybody else found out that they have contracted the HPV virus? I was told by my doctor that it is extremely common and by the age of 40 most women will have come into contact with virus, but I have no idea how, when, why I have come in to contact. I thought because I had those vaccinations back when I had a side fringe and wore dream matte mouse, I would be protected from it. Apparently there are different strains of the virus and the vaccinations only protect against some of them. I wish I had been told that!

The more I learn about my vagina, the more I realise how much I didn’t know, wasn’t taught and definitely was not prepared for. I am really starting to question WHY? So I’ll be marching into that Colposcopy Clinic with my pen poised, my biggest big girl pants on, ready to pick their brains and then I’ll be back to share my findings in Part 3. But don’t worry, if you’re already getting sick of hearing all about me *drum roll* our first guest on the Gash Gossip is ready and waiting to share their story too! Watch out for a double whammy of goss coming soon.

Keep trusting that gut and don’t fanny about when it comes to your fanny. If you think something needs checking out, go and check it out!

Lots of pussy positivity,

Soph x

Welcome to Gash Gossip!

Hello everyone and welcome to Gash Gossip. A blog dedicated to your gash, nunnie, poonani, fanny, yer bits, vagina, that word beginning with C that nobody is allowed to use but I secretly love and use too frequently! Firstly yes, I’m reclaiming the word ‘gash’, I’m sorry if it puts you off your breakfast, maybe put down your corn flakes now because this is going to be like the vagina monologues, BUT NOTHING LIKE THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES. My name is Sophie, I am 24 and this is my broken, but still just about fully functioning vajayjay. This idea has come from my own recent experience with my vagina playing up in an unexpected and frankly unpleasant way. At the start of a fresh, new and exciting relationship, I was having the time of my life, too much gin, late nights, great sex and postcoital bleeding…. Yup. That buggery (this is a good example of when I would use that naughty word I’m not allowed to use!!!) At first I thought nothing of it, change of willy and all that, even the doctor’s were at first convinced it was the penis’ fault and recommended lubrication, but as the bleeding continued the panic and fear inside was rising until I was fully convinced I had cervical cancer. I’m going to stop there for a second. This is not going to be a place committed to talking about cancer, it will probably be spoken about at some points because of its importance with regards to women’s health and my own very real fear. There are plenty of wonderful other platforms set up for help, guidance, and awareness, this just isn’t one of them. My main reason being is there are a lot of other vaginal related issues that women face all of the time, and guess what, no one is talking about them. I want to see positive stories as well as the doom and gloom. Thus the Gash Gossip ethos was born! I do not want this to be a place of scaremongering, it is not the place where you can type your symptoms into the Google search bar (we’ve all been there!) nor is it your GP’s office, it is simply somewhere where we can talk about our vaginas in any which way we want to, express our concerns yes, but just enter into honest conversations so that we don’t feel alone on anything we might be facing downstairs. I want to put the Positivity back in Pussy, the Magic into Minge and the It’s Fine! back into your Fanny…. Well I’m going to try.

My aim is to have a chat with different women, with a range of ages, experience and stories to tell, to hear what they have to say about their own vag, any experiences or pearls of wisdom they can impart, and hopefully begin talking about the stuff that we usually don’t like talking about. I will also be writing about my own vagina’s current journey. I’m going to rip the band-aid off and say private parts no more! Let’s chat! I would love this to be a comfort to some women, maybe even a place of learning, and most importantly, I hope it brings you some joy. I’m sure there will be some funny anecdotes along the way. I believe there are women out there afraid to turn to a friend and express a concern or simply chat because even saying the word vagina in public makes us squirm a bit. I’ve found that when explaining my idea to some of my girlfriends I’ve actually mouthed the word “vagina” rather than the words that normally prelude that, e.g f****** or c******* (there’s that word again.) So I am just as guilty and here to erase those little taboos.

So without further ado, I’ll go first. I’ll try to keep it short and sweet to ease us in, but these stories sometimes require gory detail so here is your first TMI warning. If TMI is not your thing, I give you permission to click off now.

As I mentioned, I was bleeding after sex. It wasn’t painful, uncomfortable, nor was it an excessive amount of blood, but it was enough to notice something wasn’t quite right. After a visit to the sexual health clinic, three visits to my GP accompanied by numerous vaginal examinations and swabs, I was told I had developed a cervical ectropion. Cervical what I hear you say? YES! Exactly! I didn’t know what one of these was either and still find it tricky to explain when asked. Insert Wikipedia description here!

“Cervical ectropion (or cervical eversion) is a condition in which the cells from the ‘inside’ of the cervical canal, known as glandular cells (or columnar epithelium) are present on the ‘outside’ of the vaginal portion of the cervix. When at a routine check up, it can be seen by the doctor when a vaginal examination is done. The area may look red because the glandular cells are red. While many women are born with cervical ectropion, it can be caused by a number of reasons, such as: hormonal changes, taking ‘the pill’ and pregnancy.”

I was told this was quite normal for someone my age, as I am changing, so are other parts of my body. I was told it was nothing to worry about and that it would most likely go away on its own. I felt satisfied with this response from my GP. I must quickly add here that I am a big fan of Dr White in Bedfordshire. She has been so kind during this process and has helped me with my health anxiety, which has made this particular situation quite difficult for me to deal with. So much so that I haven’t signed up to a new doctor even though I’ve moved away from my parents home and GP surgery. I still make the £15 trip from London so as not to have a complete melt down in the doctors waiting room. Anyway! Staying on track, the worry hadn’t gone and the situation, 6 months down the line, had not improved. We all know our bodies better than we think we do, we know when something isn’t right, so back I went to bug my GP even more and that is when she referred me to have a colposcopy. Immediately I thought F***. I am dying. I must add here that I had previously been refused a smear test that I requested because I’m not yet 24 and 6 months, I’m 24 and 4 months… I know. We’ll come back to that at a later date! Cut to now. I’ve just had my colposcopy. Some of you may not know what one of those is, I certainly didn’t know the proper terminology. It is where a specialist looks at your cervix with a camera to get a closer look at what’s going on. Like a colonoscopy but for your fanny! Palms were sweating, I felt sick, I was white as a sheet and I had to get my Mum to come into the room and hold my hand as I lay there in my bright blue hospital gown, legs splayed out, looking and feeling like I was about to give birth! I look back at that moment now and laugh at myself, but at the time I was a blithering, emotional, nervous wreck. There were a lot of tears that day. Terrified tears. I was bloody petrified. I thought for sure the gynaecologist was about to turn my world upside down and tell me I had cancer. Especially when he looked up over the paper sheet separating us, and said, “I’m going to have to take a biopsy”. He had found some abnormalities in a collection of cells on my cervix and they are currently being analysed…. even writing that down makes me feel a bit queezy. I can’t think about it too much otherwise I go into panic mode. BUT! Positive thinking positive thinking positive thinking. So that is essentially where I am with my vag. I have been persistent with getting to the bottom of it, badgering my GP and requesting a smear test to dot the I’s and cross the T’s and now I’m finally getting some form of results and hopefully an action plan will be put in place.

What about YOU guys? Has anyone else experienced the same thing? Any mildly funny first time colposcopy stories out there to share? Did anyone look at the monitor so you can look at your own cervix? I couldn’t. My eyes were fixed firmly on the ceiling or my Mum. The nurse did say to me, “Are you sure you don’t want to? It might be the only chance you get to look at it?” I smiled weakly and said, I’ve never been so sure on anything in my whole life… but thank you! I have some more rather intimate details, but I won’t over load you with them now. We’re only just getting to know each other!

My nunnie’s journey to recovery continues as I await these results but also because of the many other weird and hopefully wonderful things that are going to occur down there over the next few years. I want to talk to as many women out there about what they are encountering and follow them, help them, lend an ear, as they go through it feeling hopefully a little less alone because that is how I’ve felt during this process so far, all on my larry! After all, vaginas are on the most part normal, they give life, they change, they develop, they react, just as we do, and hopefully this blog will not only help us out, but them too. Please do get in touch if you would like to come and have a cup of tea (or gin) and chat. Or if you have any suggestions on what to discuss/what you would like to hear spoken about, write to me. Here is a little list of things I’m already keen to talk about and if you feel like you could shed some light on any of these topics, I would love to hear from you.

  1. Endometriosis
  2. Polycystic Ovaries
  3. Contraceptive Pills and Other Contraception
  4. SEX
  5. Smear Tests and Colposcopy’s
  6. Sex Education in School
  7. Hysterectomy’s
  8. Sexual Health – STI’s & HPV
  9. Periods
  10. Pregnancy
  11. What do we actually know about our vagina’s
  12. All the things we don’t know about our vagina’s
  13. What do men know about the vagina/What SHOULD they know
  14. The general taboo of talking about our bits!
  15. Health Anxiety
  16. Talking to your partner about sexual health
  17. Menopause

You can find me on Twitter @sophiedessauer! Tweet or message me your suggestions and let me know what you think. Please be kind! This is a place of positivity, help, empowerment and hopefully we’re going to have a couple of laughs.

No matter your age, story, even if you don’t have one yet and just want to gossip about ya’ gash, natter about your nunnie, I’m here, ready and waiting so without further ado… Bring out the Fannies!