Ending a stigma. It’s easier said than done, right? End the stigma or #endthestigma is a community launched in 2017 targeting mental health awareness. An excellent community I have previously used to help with my negative thinking patterns and anxiety at the time of a health scare I was experiencing.
My health scare was possible cervical cancer.
I am by no means the first person to raise this and countless women before me have discussed and printed their story in this area of health and how it should be normal to talk about. But unfortunately the message still needs help in order to sink in. I’m proof of this.
Each year 3,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in the UK and in 2018 930 females were diagnosed in Australia. Sexually active women aged between 30 to 45 are the highest risk.
So what is the best way to combat this? The good old smear test. A smear test isn’t as bad as people imagine, it takes minutes and could save your life.
I emigrated to Melbourne, Australia, for work nearly 2 years ago as a healthy 29 year old female. I was originally living in Manchester, UK and working in an acute healthcare setting so I was pro-active when it came to health checkups. I felt happy, settling into my new job and life in Melbourne, so my health checkups we’re pushed back a little. I felt fine, so that’s ok, right?
I finally found the time to do a routine health check and everything was all good. It was just the routine smear test to go, which was only 2 months late anyway. The age to have your first smear in the UK is 25 and I had my very first appointment on my 25th birthday, so being 2 months overdue was out of character for me.
I attended the appointment and didn’t give the results a second thought. Then the phone rang. It was my gynaecologist requesting further investigation by means of a colposcopy, biopsy, swabs and another smear. I was reassured I was now in good hands (which I still believe) and these tests are necessary as we need to be vigilant.
My mind went west.
The anxiety started and my thought pattern was like nothing I had experienced. I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone. Out of shame? Not to worry them? Humiliation? Looking back I feel a little silly for not telling my close friends and family. Not to mention my family who were over 10,000 miles away. In the end a small handful of friends knew the loose details but I could hardly bring myself to say ‘further investigation’ ‘gynae’ ‘the big C’. I didn’t recognise myself.
Thankfully further tests were carried out and I was given the all clear. I had to have the words ‘you’re completely fine and healthy!’ said to me to actually believe it. I hadn’t failed my friends, my family or myself and especially not women. I was one of the lucky ones, but there are women being diagnosed every day who aren’t.
The people at GAIN (Gynaecological Awareness Information Network Inc) are here to help. GAIN is a non- profit organisation run by volunteers who dedicate their time to creating a world where every woman has the opportunity, knowledge, confidence & support to obtain optimal gynaecological & sexual health.
As someone who has now been through this, it’s an awful feeling when you hear a potential diagnosis of cervical cancer and its even scarier awaiting results – believe me when I say your mind will wander. If you know of anyone needing guidance or support through this challenging time, please assure them its ok to talk about it and they are only a phone call away.