It’s probably worth taking a moment at this point in the proceedings to talk about symptoms and looking after yourself. Now, I’m going to focus on Cervical Cancer here because that is obviously my area of expertise shall we say now…
However, the title of this post relates to anyone with any niggle about their health, be that their physical or mental. If you don’t feel “right”, if something is niggling you or you catch yourself thinking about it more than you feel you should: Go to the doctors, talk to a friend, get it out there. Just do it! 9 times out of 10 they are going to look at you and say you are fine; that’s great. My doctor once said to me recently on one of his lovely weekly calls to me to check in (I have to take a moment here to stress how lucky I have been with my medical teams both at my local GP surgery who are the ones that call me every week and at the hospital I am treated at. Good relationships with your doctors make all the difference when you are scared and facing such massive decisions about your life. So moral of that story – be lovely to your GPs people!!) that the best bits of his day are actually when people DO waste his time. If he gets to say to someone “nope, actually you’re fine”, far from being annoying, it’s a relief he said. When you think about it, if it were you, surely you would much rather tell someone they are fine than they are not any day!
So, on to my little expertise…
First thing I hope is somewhat obvious- don’t miss your smear. That is not cool ladies, you are dicing with the Cancer Devil and believe me it is just not worth it!! Yes it is slightly uncomfortable but to be perfectly honest the main part of that is that we tense up and you have some seriously strong muscles down there. You know how people say women are strong; I reckon it comes from deep inside us in the muscles of our vaginas!
Also, you would surely much prefer one lovely nurse (who, by the way, has probably already looked at about 5 or 6 vaginas that day and is so bored of looking at them that unless you’ve got a unicorn up there doing the hoola is just going to take your swab and go on her merry way) to take a look than a whole team of doctors gathered around your lady bits surely?! There was a time back in March 2016 where I joked that if a medical professional walked into a room I now just dropped my pants!
My second point (rant maybe, soz about that I didn’t realise I had so much to say on this topic!) is quite simply to trust your instincts; if something doesn’t feel right it’s probably because it’s not!! I’m hoping you all know the typical symptoms: bleeding between periods or after sex in particular, change in vaginal discharge, changes to periods but… for me it wasn’t really those things. After having surgery previously I had always had some discomfort; weird bleeds they were just “me”. What I hadn’t had previously was this pressure (it felt like my sister and other friends I’ve got have described they felt when pregnant, and their beautiful babies were having a little party on their bladders). This pressure I later found out was because the tumours that were growing were pressing on my bladder and my womb was actually stuck to it. A delightful sensation as I’m sure you can imagine!
The other thing was I just generally felt unwell a lot of the time. I’ve always been cautious to tell people this for fear of creating mass hysteria, especially as my diagnosis came in the thick of winter when everyone around me had constant coughs and colds. I can’t really describe what the “unwell” was, I just generally was getting very run down, catching everything that was going and had a number of strange illnesses like this crazy rib cage inflammation that before this year was THE worst pain I had ever experienced – urgh if you’ve had it you’ll know what I mean. I now know that that was because my body was already fighting pretty hard. That’s the thing, your body isn’t passive to cancer. From the moment it starts your body goes “woah now buddy what ya doin'” and it starts trying to get rid of this beastie on its own – usually it fails.
Moral of the story: trust your instincts. Go to see that doctor about the mole you were a bit worried about but never got round to checking; talk to your friend about how down you’ve been feeling; don’t “forget” to have your smear or your mammogram or any other number of the tests that our health service offer us.
I’m sure some of you are thinking well, she is saying this but she obviously went too late because look at how much treatment she had to have. But, that my friends is my point. If I hadn’t gone when I did I would be dead now, no question about it! My cancer was particularly aggressive and considering the rave it had whilst I was on treatment this year, without it I would certainly have been gone by now. And that is a scary, scary thought. A quick trip to the docs- not so much!
Anyway back to the main story I go (I did warn you about the tangents)…