I wanted to share my story as it's important for women to talk, discuss and compare experiences so we can better tackle and understand this awful disease and the anxiety and stress that comes with it. My story is thorough for a reason - I want to paint an honest picture of what it's really like to go through a colposcopy and all the horrendous hurdles some have to go through to overcome it.
So, I was due for a smear in March 2012, Stupidly, I missed it due to moving house, a job change and a relationship upheaval, you name it. All superficial reasons in retrospect and no reason to put off a smear or neglect your health but my reasons at the time.
In August of this year I finally went to have my smear at the walk-in clinic only to be told by the duty nurse that I didn't need one as my information suggested I'd had one in Dec '12. I politely challenged this of course but was told to go away.
Concerned about the mishandling of my information, I went directly to my doctors where they confirmed I needed a smear as it had been 5 1/2 years since my last and arranged to have one a week later.
Shortly after this, I got a bad urine infection which I was taking antibiotics for. This led me to endure horrible side effects such as night sweats, chills, dizziness and nausea.
Two days into taking these antiobiotics and already feeling pretty miserable, I received my results letter to say my smear had returned back abnormal with severe dyskaryosis. In short, I needed a colposcopy. Obviously, I found this hard to take in and with so little information to take comfort in, my mind went into overdrive.
I had no idea about my chances of having cancer. Admittedly, the effects of my antibiotics weren't helping me cope and I changed into an absolute wreck.
So I waited for my outpatient letter to arrive only to discover that they had sent it to the wrong address despite my original abnormal pap results letter being sent to my current address! It turned out that I had missed my colposcopy appointment and there were none others available for 3 weeks! This was a huge blow to me after so many admin hiccups and I felt hugely let down.
Suddenly, in a matter of two weeks, my life turned into a nightmare. After a few frantic calls and pleas to some lovely nurses, I was put on the cancellation list and thankfully an appointment turned up.
I'm cutting to the chase here when I say, that for me, personally, I found the Lletz colposcopy procedure to be bearable and largely painfree. A slight sting at best and I felt a bit wobbly immediately afterward but okay. The worst part was most definitely the waiting and my own negative experiences leading up to it.
After my op, my fears were temporarily diffused until doubt started to creep back in. I think I was lucky as I had no unusual bleeding, a few dark brown bits but no horrible gushing like you'd imagine. I had no cramps and little discomfort at all until at the end of week 3 when I stupidly went for an "innocent run". I ruptured heavily for 3 days and it was like having a constant heavy period. I felt I was back to square one as I had clearly disrupted the healing process.
The nurses tell you to wait for 6 weeks for the results which is agony! You can't bath or exercise which are my favourite stress relievers so I developed a chronic, clamp-like headache for 8 days, muscle cramp, achiness, anxiety - the lot.
I called my hospital where I had my procedure to see if my results were in and every time I was told I wouldn't be told anything over the phone. Strangely enough, I called at the end of week 5 and to my utter surprise, a clerk told me he had my letter in front of him. He said I had cin2, that treatment had been successful and to come back in 6 months for a routine check up. My response was, "so I'm okay?" The clerk suddenly got nervous and said, "err, well I'm not medical, call back next week" before hanging up the phone!
Floods of tears followed, a feeling of elation and relief and then I was just left feeling odd. For two months, I was a nervous wreck. I lost weight, lost my spirit, my spark - everything. After I got my letter to confirm what the hospital clerk told me, I felt so much better.
So listen up ladies, get smart, get educated and finally, don't panic.
My tips are as follows.
1, Don't google anything - It's so hard not to and admittedly I did as I wanted to educate myself but it was largely fruitless and fuelled more anxiety than aided.
These forums are what made the difference. A lot of info out there is misleading, harmful and completely unreliable. Call your doctor, get rational, rely on facts, Every woman is different. Some wishy washy, vague article is only likely to cause more distress, not comfort.
2, Try not to fret! Easier said than done but to remedy, keep yourself busy and keep your mind occupied. It's a long process but tell yourself, "if it does turn out to be the worse case scenario do I want to waste the next 6 weeks worrying?" No is the simply answer. Keep your mind and body healthy by treating it with respect and being good to yourself.
3, Finally, talk about it! Lots, don't keep it all in. De-Taboo it by eliminating the stigma surrounding smear/colposcopy worries by bringing in into the forefront of your consciousness. It really helped me recognise that I had a good chance of it not being cancer and something I could tackle and rectify before it advanced to anything too bad.
Good luck and best wishes to any lady about to have the Lletz or any other colposcopy procedure. I was constantly on this forum during my time of woe and it helped me enormously. I wanted to wait until my results came back to share my story and am so glad I can now as a healthy, happy woman in recovery. As horrible as the whole experience was, it's been a blessing in disguise. I will never miss a smear again and I have gone on to advise my female friends, family members and clients (I'm a support worker) about the importance of getting regular smears. Don't be ignorant to think you're immune and don't leave it down to chance as it takes 5 minutes every three years to ensure you have a healthy cervix. Not much to ask, is it?
Lastly, please recognise the incredible work that our medical professionals do to ensure we are all okay. They are mostly underpaid, overworked and undervalued. We need to change that. A little card of gratitude goes a long way.
Thank you all for taking the time to read this. I hope someone gains some comfort from it.
Abnormal pap result in Aug 14
Lletz colposcopy in Sept 14
Cin 2 found in Oct 14
Treatment successful, returning in March 15 for a follow up. :)