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,
And placed my cells in between ‘mild’ and ‘moderate’.
But to me it looked like this,
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,