6. The Phone Call

I had pretty much forgotten about my LLETZ, life was returning to normal. Work had been busy. The show had been a success and was still running, we were 2 venues down with two more to go. I was still feeling delicate but I was back running my workshops and managing to have more freedom in my movement again. I still wasn’t allowed to have baths, or sex, which was inconvenient but the count down was on.

It had been just over 2 weeks since my LLETZ. It was Friday afternoon. I was all excited as I was heading to Newcastle later that evening for Belta Blues. I had a list of things to do, I was being super productive… cracking on… until… BUZZ…

My Fitbit was going crazy. I had a call. Unknown ID. I don’t usually answer my phone at work but it was in my hand…


“It’s blah blah blah from the hospital. We’d like to see you at the hospital on Monday at 2pm are you available?”

“Um, hold on a minute please.” I stuck my head around into my boss’s office. “It’s the hospital. They want to see me at 2pm on Monday. Am I available?”


“Um… hello, yes. 2pm on Monday is fine. Thanks. Do I need to bring anything?”

“No. That’s booked in. Come to the Gynaecology ward and you’ll be seen there. Thank you. Bye.”

“Thank you. Bye.”


What the fuck just happened?!

The hospital rang ME to book an appointment. Usually I’m the one asking for doctors appointments. Or normally I have to wait. This is Friday. They want to see me on Monday. At the hospital. Holy fuck. Why the fuck do they want to see me?

I promptly burst into tears.

My boss came to see if I was OK. She gave me a hug and sent me out for lunch.

The doctor had said after my LLETZ that they would be in touch in about 6 weeks. That was meant to be it! What now?! What else can possibly be wrong?

I stepped outside. It was a really nice day. Tears were rolling down my face. I left the theatre and started walking into the centre of town. I rang my mum. No answer. I rang my best friend. “Please will you come with me to the appointment?” “Of course!”

My mum rang back. “The hospital want to see me on Monday.” “Do you want me to be there? If you want me I’ll be there.” Music to my ears. I would’ve loved my Mum to be there but the logistics were a nightmare. (And in my gut I knew there would be another time I would need her more. I’d rather have her there for that.)

Cancer? That was the worst case scenario wasn’t it? But what does that even mean? Was I going to die? Was I going to have surgery? Was I going to lose my hair? I’m 30 years old. 30 year olds don’t get cancer. Am I completely over reacting? I am getting the wrong end of the stick? What was going to happen on Monday?

I was terrified. I was confused. The pit of my stomach had fallen to my feet. I was going to be positive. I was going to dance the weekend away in Newcastle with my lovely friends. I would come back and face the music on Monday. Rosie would come with me. She could take notes. It would be fine.

That weekend was filled with joy and cuddles and uncertainty.

I met beautiful people, amazing role models and made friends for life. I had wonderful dances. I drank the drink and ate the food. I took fantastic classes. I had to sit out of one, it was focused on hips… my hips and I were not in the frame of mind to be moving freely so instead I sat and read everything I could muster about other people who had had “the phone call”. I was still flat and tired after my LLETZ and soooo sick of sanitary pads but I was getting there. I travelled home that Sunday night with a full heart. I felt so loved and so supported.

Public Cervix Announcement

100% of cervical cancer is preventable.

I thought I’d be knackered on Monday from lack of sleep and worry but I wasn’t. I woke up ready. I didn’t know what I needed to be ready for exactly but I was ready.

The hardest thing is not knowing, anticipating what could be said. Running through all of the scenarios in your head. Not having the knowledge or information to know what might come next and knowing that no one but my doctors with the results of my LLETZ had any answers for me.

I didn’t tell everyone but it wasn’t a secret. I spoke to my friends openly. I was tearful. They say a problem shared is a problem halved. I think they are quite right. Find support. Find someone to sit with, to talk to, to share your worries with. Do not sit tight and hide how you feel. Be open. Feel worried, have a panic, then calm down and try to find the patience or distraction you need. The answers will come.


Steph x



5. After The LLETZ

adjective: shellshocked
  1. suffering from shell shock.
    • shocked or confused because of a sudden alarming experience.
    • “he told shell-shocked investors that the company needed still more money to survive the year”

I left the treatment room and found my Mum in the waiting area. I was so tearful. I couldn’t help but try to hold in what I was feeling.

The question “Well, how did it go?” was met with a “Fine.” response. I knew I just couldn’t physically say anything or I would end up in a puddle of tears on the hospital waiting room floor.

I was a given a flyer by the doctor explaining the LLETZ. It’s pretty vague.

I got to the car. I just wanted to cry. We then realised we hadn’t paid for our parking yet. I speedily said “I’ll do it.” Grabbed some change and jumped out of the car. I walked into the nearest official looking door and looked around for the pay machine. I’d walked into the Macmillan unit. It was a miserable day outside but walking into that waiting room sucked any energy I had left completely out. I knew that I never wanted to be called into THAT waiting room. I escaped outside and found the parking meter. Shoved my coins in and returned to in the back of the car.

Any answer I gave had to be extremely forced. It may as well have been extracted with a crow bar. I smiled and gave lighthearted answers but inside I was MISERABLE. I doubt I hid it very well from my parents. My tears streamed silently down my cheeks as I sat in the back of the car.

Public Cervix Announcement
Women who have had a cone biopsy or LLETZ are at slightly greater risk of miscarriage and premature labour, before 37 weeks, because of their weakened cervix.

We found a cafe to sit in on the way back. It was drab. I’d heard good things but it was pants. The day was misty and even the outstanding view was downcast and mediocre.

My parents drove me back to the theatre. I wandered up the street to Boots and bought sanitary pads (tonnes of pads) paracetamol and ibuprofen. I was uncomfortable but not horrifically so. I just felt extremely delicate, and tired – wiped out. By the time I’d wondered slowly back to the theatre the adrenaline had kicked in. I greeted the actors with a smile. I chatted to my boss and co-worker in the dressing room. I played down the whole experience. I spoke humorously about it. We all laughed at the fact that I wasn’t allowed to have sex for 4-6 weeks. It was lighthearted. I was in full on “make everyone else feel comfortable” mode. I have discovered this to be my default mode… as soon as shit hits the fan, I try to make everyone else feel better. The ultimate distraction technique.

The show was about to begin. I went upstairs. I mingled… badly, I always mingle terribly at performances, small talk is not my thing! I watched the show, I cried silently throughout most of it. I was so emotional, and it was also fantastic. I was so proud of the actors, all of whom had worked so hard to get where they were, I had worked hard to help them get there. Barriers were being broken. A full cast of learning disabled actors rocking the stage with a brilliant show, I was buzzing. I was also fucking exhausted!

My mum and dad were there and some friends had travelled to see the show. Drinks were in order and I was happy to see my friends and spend some time with them but I was exhausted and overly quiet and sore and SO ready for my bed.

When I got back to my sofa bed that night I had a cry. I was just completely overwhelmed and finally releasing some of what I’d been holding in that afternoon.

In the morning I woke up feeling like SHIT! My parents were leaving to head back to Northern Ireland, I was sore, I was tired, I had to say goodbye. I told work I was running late and headed in for shortly after half 9. I sobbed on my way into work.

I was running a class, other workshops were running simultaneously. There was no cover. This was a very physical class. I wasn’t up to it at all. I sat out for most of it “observing”. By 3 o’clock when my pupils had left I was done. I returned to my office and was informed by a colleague I had to move excess stuff in the store to make way for the set to be returned after the performance that night. Nowhere had I been informed I would be in so much pain. I was completely unprepared for how I was feeling and because of that everyone around me was unprepared to respond to me in a helpful manner. There was no way that I was going to be able to move the stuff in the store. I just wasn’t physically capable.

My boss had seen me briefly that morning and we’d not had time to have a very much needed chat. I felt isolated and alone and sore and also a bit useless and like a spare part. The frustrating thing is that with prior warning and organisation on both my part and my employers – I didn’t need to be there. But I was. And I was working my ass off. The show came and went and I helped do the get out. For you non-theatre practitioners out there, a ‘get out’ is when you get yourself and everything out of the theatre. Set, costumes… everything. I helped to carry. Nowhere had I be informed that I would bleed so much and so heavily.

Basically that whole day after the LLETZ was fucking miserable.

Nicole Kidman as a grieving mother in film 'Rabbit Hole'

I drove home in tears at 10.30/11 at night. My housemate was amazing. She promptly fed me wine and chocolate and helped me send a message to my boss saying that I was not coming in the next day.

That night I slept soundly. In my own bed (yay)!

That weekend I was shattered. It took me quite some time to physically gather myself together. I can’t remember when I returned to work… it may have been the Tuesday. If I had known and considered how affected I was going to be by the LLETZ, both physically and emotionally, I could have taken some time… but I didn’t know for certain that I was going to get the procedure. I’d only guessed. There wasn’t a huge amount of information regarding the after effects of the procedure. Women put up with a huge amount. Even the average period is pretty unpleasant. I would guess that if most men felt that same under the weather rubbish feeling they would take time off work, never mind if it was accompanied by cramps!

Basically, I had a rubbish experience. I’m not suggesting that this is everyone’s experience. I’m sure there are women who come out of the procedure and are fine but it is also OK to be not fine.

Feel what you feel when you feel it.

I wasn’t allowed to have a bath or go swimming for 4-6 weeks. I wasn’t allowed to have sex for 4-6 weeks. All things that, for me, are definite defaults when I am feeling rubbish. Epic fail.

I’m not the only one who had a shit time. This woman sums it up pretty succinctly :- notsosexinthecity.com

Unfortunately there are lots of women out there, like me, who have to scrabble around for bits of information which should be a) readily available and b) thoroughly researched. Once again, women are put to the bottom of the medical pile. This is unacceptable!

Steph’s After LLETZ Top Tips

  1. Tell your friends. Have a support system in place. (If you are one of these ovaryfriends be super nice to your mate, maybe cook them dinner or bring a film over. Help them to relax and offer them a shoulder to cry on. Give them support as they mourn that part of their cervix.)
  2. Take time to recover after. Stay off work until you feel ready to return.
  3. Short walks in the countryside are good. Get some fresh air but take it easy!!
  4. Eat nice healthy and hearty food. It will help! Have the things you like but don’t overload on crap, because when you do go to crap your bowel will press against your tender cervix… owch!
  5. Have a good cry. Don’t hold it in. Be brave and be sad!


Continued from 3. Colposcopy…

My legs were wide open, sitting in the stirrups and the very chatty nurse was asking me some silly question about the weather. The stern doctor was approaching me with what looked like a rather large needle.

The most bizarre thing about this procedure was that I got to see it all happen, live, magnified and in HD. The colposcope was still in place and they had left the monitor on, right beside my face.

Public Cervix Announcement

The most common treatment for CIN2 and CIN3 is loop diathermy also know as LLETZ – Large Loop Excision of the Transformation Zone (LEEP outside the UK – Loop Electro-Excision Procedure). Its aim is to remove all the abnormal cells from the cervix.

Now I’ll admit to being a bit morbid and possibly even masochistic at times. I actually like injections. Well not like as such, but I find them fascinating. I quite enjoyed going and getting piercings when I was younger, much to my parents horror. They didn’t approve of the nose stud, or belly button bar or whatever new addition I’d decided to get that day at the end of term but I used to love watching the needle go through the skin and I found it never hurt quite as much as I thought it would.

Anyway… the injection for the local aesthetic wasn’t bad at all. It was much the same as when you go to the dentist and you have an injection in your gum.

The doctor then produced a strange wire thing, which was one of these (I think)…

Exhibit A


This is basically a heated wire that cuts through your flesh and removes a nice neat little chunk of your cervix so you can be cancer free and fanciful.

Once said flesh is out of the way the doctor will then cauterise the wound they have just made. For me, this was the GRIM part, watching and SMELLING your own flesh cooking. Seeing lovely pink body tissue inside you turning from rare to very well done. GRIM!

Sheesh kebab! YouTube is great but it’s also awful. I just watched some other people’s LLETZ procedures. It’s fascinating and they are actually all very different… but they are all slightly grim. Grim was my word for the LLETZ. There’s nothing particularly pleasant about it. You’re having a chunk of your cervix cut out… well if you’re me you are. I was genuinely surprised by the size of the biopsy they took. I had just assumed they’d be removing a few teeny tiny cells (and in many people that is the case) but what I saw was them taking out a big chunk of flesh. I’d say it was maybe the same size if not a wee bit bigger than a flying saucer…


I didn’t think my cervix was THAT big!

The whole procedure seems slightly medieval. I can’t help but feel that if it was a procedure for a man they would have adjusted it to be slightly more pleasant for the participant. Women’s health is such a taboo. It doesn’t get the research and funding it needs and frankly deserves. I’ll rant about that more a bit later on…

So the procedure is over. It didn’t hurt much as such. It was a bit uncomfortable being poked around down there but the chatty nurse was nice… she may of even held my hand. I can’t remember, because she talked so much! Quiet nurse had been skulking about for the past few minutes. She’d lost the syringe they’d used to inject me earlier. She asked the doctor if he knew where it was.

All three of them started looking around the room and I was told not to get off the chair. I did have a brief moment where I prayed that they’d not left it up in there somewhere. Finally they found it on the shelf under where I was sitting. I was told to get out of the chair extremely carefully so as not to touch it. This, I’m sure, made for entertaining viewing as I was trying to get out of the chair making sure I didn’t stand on a syringe I couldn’t see whilst holding a massive wad of tissue paper between my legs. I waddled to the changing room where I was able to get cleared up. Getting a LLETZ is a bit messy.

I was asked if I’d brought any pads. I hadn’t. I was handed a HUGE pad. I may as well have put a nappy on or folded up a thick fluffy towel and shoved it in my pants. When I finished getting dressed I went back into the room and was directed to sit beside the doctor. For the first time since I’d met him I saw him smile. He said that he thought he had removed all of the abnormal cells and he was pleased with the procedure. He would send the biopsy to the lab and they would be back in touch in a couple of weeks with the results.

I was told not to have go swimming, have a bath or have sex for 4-6 weeks… (ah ha). I was handed a pamphlet with information about the LLETZ procedure. It was very vague. I felt sore but relieved and slightly tearful. I thanked the nurses and the consultant and bid them fare well.

I went out into the waiting room to find my Mum.

Bear in mind that the whole procedure from chat, Colposcopy, LLETZ to another chat took about 20 minutes. As I sit and try to remember it now it seems like it lasted a LOT longer.

3. Colposcopy

I was apprehensive about my colposcopy. The run up to it was an extremely nerve wracking time. I’m not very good at waiting for things and it is even more difficult to wait when you’re unsure of what exactly you’re waiting for.

My heart was in my mouth as I drove to work that morning. I hadn’t slept particularly well. A combination of being nervous and sleeping on the sofa (my parents were visiting and I’d given up my comfy bed and cuddly new duvet for the sofa bed).

It was opening night. I was not performing in this show but I was part of the producing company. My colposcopy was scheduled for 2pm. Doors opened at 7.30pm. All I knew for certain about that day was that at 7.30pm, I would be sitting in the audience watching the show with my fingers, toes and everything crossed. My mum and dad had driven over from Northern Ireland to watch the production. It had been the biggest date in my calendar all year. I’d celebrated my 30th birthday a month early because it clashed with rehearsals. I’d passed up a holiday because it clashed with rehearsals. I’d passed up spending time with my family because … yep, you guessed it… it clashed with rehearsals. Was it ironic that my colposcopy ended up being scheduled the same day as opening night? It wasn’t ideal by any means but I decided to stick with that date because:-

a) I didn’t want to delay finding out exactly what was going on down there.

b) My mum and dad were visiting Huddersfield to see me. They’d not travelled all that way to accompany me to the hospital but as soon as they heard I had an appointment there was not a chance of going alone… and for that I am very grateful! I was nice to know they were there for support.

c) I wasn’t teaching any classes that day. I could have the afternoon off work to go to an appointment, even though it was opening night, they could work around me.

Public Cervix Announcement

Around 4 in every 10 women who attend a colposcopy have a normal result.

My mum and dad collected me from the theatre in the centre of town and drove me out to Calderdale Royal Hospital. I’d not spent much time in Halifax but it felt even stranger and slightly more scary having to travel to a hospital that wasn’t my local one. It took ages, traffic was GREAT *insert eye roll here*, but we arrived in plenty of time. Dad stayed in the car and Mum and I navigated our way round the hospital to the Gynaecology Department.

We waited… and waited… and waited and then I was called in. I left my Mum in the waiting room.

Upon entering the room I was surprised to see the stirrups. Stirrups were always something I’d associated with American hospital dramas – Grey’s Anatomy, Masters of Sex, E.R… I didn’t think we used them in the UK but well, now I know better.

I was asked to sit down beside the doctor. He was on the computer. He said “Hello”, shook my hand and got straight to it. He was extremely matter of fact.

“Do you know why you are here?”

“I had a smear and they found severe dyskaryosis, what ever that is” *nervous laugh* I look at the two nurses who are there *another nervous laugh* Ha ha, yes aren’t I witty and in control…

The doctor asked me questions – When was my last period? Had I had a smear before? Did I want to have children?… etc etc

When he was ready I was directed to a small room where I took off my shoes, my tights and my knickers. I’d been advised to wear a dress by a friend. I was really glad I had. It saved my dignity walking back into the treatment room.

I was asked to climb into the stirrups. I am not elegant and rarely graceful so I highly doubt I came off as a pro.

ross stirrup

The doctor came over and began to insert the speculum. Straight away one of the two nurses became extremely chatty and started asking me about work. I found myself legs akimbo, talking about work and opening night and training people with learning disabilities to act, whilst some grumpy dude I’d only just met was digging around in my vagina. Work was the LAST thing I wanted to talk about at that moment in time. I will never forget lying back talking about it and thinking “Wow, work has officially taken over my life!” What I would’ve liked was peace and quiet but I suppose the nurses aim was to have me as distracted and relaxed as possible, and let’s just say she definitely achieved maximum distraction.

In what seemed like a very short space of time the doctor said “Hmm, you have quite a lot of abnormal cells. Would you like to see?”

“Oh, yes please!”

They turned on the monitor that was sitting beside me and I got to look at my cervix. Not something you get to see every day! It looked a bit like the one on the right:


The doctor had applied some dye which showed what he said were abnormal cells. He said he would like to remove them now if I was happy to have treatment. I replied “Yes, that would be fine.” in a smiley cheery voice while inside my stomach completely flipped. I was upset in one sense because obviously something was wrong but I was also pleased – they’ve found something. They are going to remove it and then this will be all over and I’ll never have to think about it again.

And so I was given treatment then and there. All I had to do was lie back and think of England/Ireland/Herzegovina… basically anything but the large injection about to go in my doot.

To be continued…

in 4. LLETZ…





2. After The Smear

I’m writing this blog at the end of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. There have been loads of posts on the internet, there have been stories on local and national news and there have been hashtags galore. Great! Women need to be more aware of the dangers of cervical cancer and also how easily preventable it is. There was lots of talk about “smear fear”, women being embarrassed to go for their smear. I’m sure that is the reason many women do not attend their smears but I’m sure there are many who do not attend because they are scared about the next part…

What happens after your smear?

Well I had my smear test, soon followed by my 30th birthday. I was cracking on with this being older and more sensible malarkey. Work was extremely busy preparing for a production, I was busy attending blues dancing events at weekends with my friends and I was navigating the choppy waters of an off on relationship I was having with a hot dentist. I had completely forgotten about my smear test.

One afternoon I received a voicemail on my mobile from my doctor’s surgery.

“Hi this is Sue from your GP surgery. The results have come back from your recent smear test. They found some abnormal cells. You will be receiving a letter from us in the post. Just letting you know there is absolutely nothing to worry about. Please give me a call if you have any questions. Please, please don’t be worried because there’s nothing at all to be worried about.”

Now, I like to think I’m a reasonably intelligent woman. I am aware that abnormal cells are found all the time. I thought “Oh it was probably just too close to the end of my last period, it’ll have botched the results, they’ll have to do another test.” I was calm, I was collected. I was at work, I had to be professional. But, however intelligent or not I may be, I think it’s only expected that if someone leaves you a voicemail specifically telling you not to worry that there’s a large part of you that begins to worry.

If someone tells you “don’t think about pink elephants”, you automatically start thinking about pink elephants. It’s human nature.


I promptly forgot about this call, as I was at work (and I’m also extremely easily distracted), until I got home and found a letter sitting by the door. It was this letter.


High grade (severe) dyskaryosis? What the fudge is that? Coloposcopy? Pardon?!

Google instantly became my best friend! I’ll not try to explain it myself… I’ve inserted a link for your perusal where you can get the real info from the experts.

NHS Cervical Screening Results Link

A few months prior to this, a Facebook friend had posted about her experience receiving abnormal results from her smear test. I was super impressed by her openness! It was refreshing and informative and I think reading that discussion contributed to me thinking about getting my own smear and for that I will always be grateful (THANK YOU! You know who you are!).

So in search of some answers I also went on Facebook and asked my lovely friends about their experiences of a colposcopy. I couldn’t believe how many women I knew had been through one.

Here are some words that they used :-

  • uncomfortable
  • investigation
  • biopsy
  • painful
  • unpleasant
  • injection
  • burnt off
  • HPV
  • local anaesthetic
  • camera

Sounds great, right?!

Actually, from reading people’s posts I felt relieved. Loads of wonderful women I knew had been for a colposcopy and lots had had further treatment and none of these women had talked about cancer. These women worked hard, had families and busy social lives. A few had had children recently, so obviously that didn’t affect anything. There didn’t seem like much to worry about, but I could not get over how many women I knew had been through this experience and this was essentially the first I’d ever heard about it! Crazy biscuits!

Public Cervix Announcement

Having a cervical abnormality does not mean that you have cancer. It means that you have changes in some of the cells in your cervix that, if not treated, might develop into cervical cancer in time.

I’m quite a positive person. I definitely see the glass as being half full but when it came to trying to figure out what all of this meant and what might be the next step for me I think I was quite pragmatic. I tried to get informed. I read as much as I could from as many sources as I could. Jo’s Trust (link) was extremely helpful. When looking at all the options I decided to look at the best possible outcome and discarded that, I then looked at the worst possible outcome and discarded that. I then found something that sat smack bang in the middle and decided to expect that. At least then I wouldn’t be shocked, surprised or unprepared if I didn’t get the best possible scenario. It also meant I wasn’t panicking about the worst possible option because I had something realistic to focus on.

From other people’s experiences I deduced that I would probably need some sort of treatment. There was talk of women receiving letters saying they had moderate dyskaryosis and they had the abnormal cells removed so I figured that if I had severe dyskaryosis it was very likely that I might have CIN 2 or 3 and would be having either a biopsy or a LLETZ performed.

Best Possible Option – get my doot looked at and be sent home… it was a mistake, nothing to see here.

Worst Possible Option – CANCER! I am going to die a slow and horrible death.

Middle Ground Realistic Option – doctor has a look and decides to remove abnormal cells either by LLETZ or cone biopsy.

A few days later I received a letter from the hospital with the date for my colposcopy and the countdown began…

The worst part of this process was waiting. I’m not very good at waiting. Patience is definitely a virtue that I possess in limited amounts. If you do receive a letter explaining you have abnormal results my top tips are:

  1. Talk about it. A problem shared is a problem halved and all that… You’ll be surprised how many women you know have had the same experience. We should all talk about getting our smears and other examinations more.
  2. Inform yourself. Load up on information. There is plenty available online and it isn’t all doom and gloom.
  3. Don’t jump to the worst conclusion. Abnormal cells can mean soooo many things. Don’t panic. You are in the system, make sure you attend your next appointment and find out exactly whats going on down there.

Isn’t science great?! In the UK we are extremely lucky to have these screenings available to us for free! I know it’s a pain in the doot (literally), but go get your smear test. It’s worth it and if you receive a letter like mine please know that you’re not alone. There’s an army of us out there fighting our own little battles and if you go looking you can find a lot of support!

Steph x

1 . The Dreaded Smear Test

No one likes going for a smear test. Having some random nurse sticking things up your doot is not every one’s idea of fun. Well, unless your nurse happens to look like any of these, (hopefully there’s something here for everyone)…

But unfortunately, for some bizarre reason, hiring strip-o-gram worthy nurses is not at the top of the NHS’s priority list right now. Hmph…

Every woman in the UK from the age of 25 is eligible for a smear test every three years, up until the age of 50 when it then changes to every 5 years.

I had no symptoms. Let me repeat that, I HAD NO SYMPTOMS!!!! I went for my smear test because I had been sent a pink letter (probably because I hadn’t attended my last invitation for a smear) and I was about to turn 30 and it seemed like a grown up, sensible thing to do.

Public Cervix Announcement

1 in 3 women (aged 25-29) do NOT attend a smear test when they are invited.

Why did I not attend my smear before?

  • I was working away from home
  • I wasn’t able to take time off work
  • It didn’t seem important
  • I wasn’t having any symptoms
  • I heard other people say they didn’t enjoy it
  • I was on my period when I did have free time
  • I thought I’d be asked load of questions about my sex life
  • Cancer was something that happened to other people, other older people
  • I’d been turned down for a smear test before when I was younger (either 23 or 24)
  • The only person I’d heard of before who had had cervical cancer was Jade Goody, and I’m nothing like Jade Goody.

To be honest it doesn’t really matter what the reasons were. I didn’t go when I was invited. End of. Can’t change it now.

I’ve been trying to think of other reasons why you might not book/go for your smear test.

  • If you were a man. There’d be no point. You don’t have a cervix. Sorry! This is an all girls club, but every man knows a woman they care about. It’s important you encourage your friends, wives, mothers, sisters etc to get a smear test.
  • If you hadn’t shaved your legs
  • If you hadn’t shaved your doot
  • If you had scruffy underwear on
  • If you weren’t registered with a doctor
  • If you didn’t want someone looking at your doot
  • If you couldn’t get childcare or find time to go to the doctor
  • If you had one before and it was fine, you think you don’t need another one
  • If you think the speculum is huge and scary and you have a small vagina
  • If you had a bad experience before
  • If you’ve had a traumatic sexual experience
  • If you forgot about the letter
  • If you mislaid the letter
  • If you think your doot looks strange
  • If you don’t like women looking at your private parts
  • If you don’t like men looking at your private parts
  • If you’re scared that they will find something abnormal. Ignorance is bliss.

Well I can tell you that in this occasion ignorance is most definitely not bliss. This fact has resonated with my Mum the most. On Christmas Day she grabbed me and hugged me and said “We could be celebrating together today and still be in complete ignorance of it all.” How scary is that?!?! I could have been at home, with my family, eating brussel sprouts and drinking a gallon of gin and been completely oblivious to the tumour that was growing inside me. I could easily have been completely ignorant until I did start having symptoms. They caught my cancer in Stage 1, this is still in the early stages. They were able to remove it. I can still have children (if I want). I still have an intact womb and hormones that are doing what they should be. I might have been dealing with menopause, or radiotherapy, or chemo, or having to face the fact that I might have a lot less time on this earth than I had imagined.

My Smear Test

I rang the surgery. “Can I book in for a smear test please?” I made an appointment. One week later I left work mid afternoon. I got in the car. I drove to my doctors surgery. I parked. I signed in by pressing the funny tap screen thing where I always think I’ve pressed the wrong button even though it just asks your date of birth and the first letter of your surname. I sat in the waiting room and read my kindle. The sign beeped and told me to go to Room 4. I knocked on the door. The nurse told me to come in. I sat down. She smiled and said hello. She asked if it was my first smear test. I said yes and felt a little bit ashamed. She explained the smear test. I nodded. She told me to go behind the curtain and get undressed from the waist down and lie on the bed. I went behind the curtain. I got undressed from the waist down. I debated for a moment whether it would be rude to leave my socks on or not. I took them off. I left my clothes in a scrunched up pile on the chair. I lay down on the bed and ripped the paper covering, because that always happens. I covered my uncovered bits with a blanket. The nurse asked if I was ready for her. I said yes. She came to my side of the curtain. I wondered if it would matter that I had only just finished my period the day before. I was suddenly aware that I hadn’t shaved my legs or anywhere else for that matter. Horror! I then silently concluded that the itchy regrowth of hair was not worth it if sex was not involved. She asked me to put the soles of my feet together and relax my legs. I did. She got the speculum and faffed around doing whatever she needed to do with it. I thought I could’ve at least folded my clothes neatly on the chair, she’s going to think I’m really scruffy now. She inserted the speculum. I tensed up and thought “Ahhh this is so awkward!” The nurse did not seem as if it was awkward in the slightest. I then realised, that no, this is not awkward. The nurse got the long plastic brush and she shwooshed it around a bit (technical term).  It scratched a little but it was no worse than scratching yourself on a bramble or a cat or what ever one might casually scratch themselves on…”That’s it. All done. I’ll leave you to put your clothes on now.” That was it?! That took no time at all. It took longer to get undressed than it did to do the actual smear! I got dressed. I went and sat with the nurse. She explained what she’d just done. I marvelled at how quick it all was. She said that I’d receive a letter in a few weeks with the results. I said “Thank you, bye.” I went home.

I went to bed (because that’s the best place to be when you should be at work but your not). I had a headache and felt a little uncomfortable. I watched an episode of Outlander. My best friend came home. She asked how my smear went. I explained that I was amazed at how quick it was. She also marvelled at how quick it is. She said “It’s so important. I have some friends who have had abnormal results. They had to get treatment.” I said “Wow, I’ve never really heard about anyone’s smear test before.” And then we went dancing, cause that’s how we roll.

Ladies! We need to talk about smears more. We shouldn’t be ashamed of them. They should be a normal part of every day conversation. They save lives. It should be as ordinary as putting fuel in the car, buying toilet roll or scanning your laptop for a virus. BORING stuff, but it should get done.

It is a choice. You do not have to get a smear. But you have the option, FOR FREE! Plenty of women around the world do not have that option. Also, don’t be like me and have the ‘it won’t happen to me‘ attitude. It did happen to me. My smear saved my life. Simple. Go get checked!

Steph x



Hi, I’m Steph!

2017 began as a pretty average year for me. I was 29. I was living with my best friend. I had a job I enjoyed. I had lots of friends and a pretty good social life. I was on the hunt for a decent boyfriend and enjoying the dating game. Life threw me a few curve balls every now and again but I was usually able to get back on track pretty easily. Nothing that a major rant, a bottle of wine and a good dance couldn’t solve.

The big ’30’ was looming ever closer and I kept thinking…

“Steph, sort your life out!!” I wanted to be thinner. I wanted to be fitter. I wanted to earn more money. I wanted to have my own place. I wanted to be in a steady relationship. I wanted to be a grown up. I’d managed to cruise through my 20’s with minimal responsibilities and maximum fun. I wasn’t unhappy, but I definitely wasn’t content and I couldn’t help but wonder “What’s next?”

Taking destiny into my own hands I started to get myself organised.

  1. Tidy room – check
  2. Book car in for MOT and service – check
  3. Organise bank statements – check
  4. Book in for smear test – check (Well why not? The letter was at the bottom of the pile of bank statements.)
  5. Cook a healthy dinner – check
  6. Early bed – check

This adulting malarkey wasn’t so bad. I’d have this nailed for 30… or at least, nail it when I turned 30.

But as always, life had different plans…

  • 6th September 2017 – Smear test
  • 11th September 2017 – 30th Birthday!
  • 18th September 2017 – Letter – found abnormal cells, severe dyskaryosis
  • 27th September 2017 – Colposcopy and LLETZ
  • 16th October 2017 – Diagnosed with cervical cancer, Stage 1 B Grade 2 (Squamous cell carcinoma)
  • 26th October 2017 – MRI and X-ray
  • 6th November 2017 – Surgery (Cone biopsy and pelvic lymphadenectomy)
  • 20th November 2017 – Results from surgery came back ALL CLEAR
  • 6th December 2017 – Review with surgeon
  • 21st December 2017 – Move back to Northern Ireland… ready to start again.

Turning 30 didn’t quite turn out as I had expected. There have been a lot of changes. I no longer live with my best friend and I no longer have a job. There’s a little less of me than there used to be and there’s no longer a tumour growing in my cervix.

I have learned a lot about myself. I have learned that getting your smear test is really important. I have learned that I’m not as invincible as I thought I was and I’ve learned that life can change in a moment, making your priorities shift completely.

The last few months of 2017 were bittersweet. In some ways I am really unlucky, but in other ways I am INCREDIBLY lucky and I am so grateful for all that I have!

There will always be people luckier than I, and unfortunately, there will be plenty who are less fortunate.

Public Cervix Announcement

more than half (52%) of cervical cancer cases in the UK are diagnosed in females under the age of 45

Cervical cancer can be treated if caught early enough. I didn’t think I needed a smear, I thought I was too young for it to affect me. I was wrong. A smear test saved my life. Go and get yours and tell all the women you love to get tested too!

In this blog I’ll be sharing my story. I hope it helps…


Steph x