Being a woman is a complicated series of biological events. We don’t have it easy. From breast formation to the dreaded periods. After enduring the hormonal shifts every month during our child bearing years we get to top it all off with the menopause. We are so lucky. Your fanny is either sopping wet from a leaky bladder or dry and itchy from when it all shrivels up on you. The body’s polite way of telling you that your baby making days are long gone.
The vagina is a mystery to most women. Unless you are in the healthcare profession the chances are you’ve only ever seen your own. That’s if you ever bothered to look. I wonder how many women have inspected their own vaginas? I remember growing up not knowing whether certain aspects were normal? The aroma, the discharge and the flaps were all aspects I hoped were the same on everyone else. It was not something that was discussed and remember this is pre-internet times so I had never looked at any pornography (still haven’t Mam I swear).
Once I became sexually active I remember hearing something about a smear test. I had no idea what this was. During a visit to the doctor he recommended that I pop in to the lady doc to have one after presenting with a number of infections in the area.
It turned out to be a notable experience. I walked into the room that had way too many windows present considering I presumed I was going to have to take my pants off. There were blinds on each one but they’d seen better days. The doctor explained to me what was going to happen. She showed me the speculum and explained that this would hold the walls of my vagina open so that she could see the cervix.
SEE THE CERVIX??
Armed with a basic working knowledge of the reproductive systems I wasn’t aware that the cervix could just be seen! I had visions of the doctor heading up there with caving equipment and a head lamp in search of this destination.
She showed me the rather lengthy swab that would do the work for her and I withdrew my offer of a compass to help her get the job done. She allowed me privacy to undress and get up on the bed and I couldn’t decide where I should put my slightly worn knickers. Leaving them on the ground just seemed like something my mother would scold me for. I put them in the pocket of my pants and put them over bar at the head of the bed.
She went to the bottom of the bed and told me to put my ankles together and to drop my knees to the side. I can now only see the top of her head as she prepares for the procedure. Prompting me to relax I give it my all and allow all tension to leave my body as I lay there wishing that I had shaved my legs. The doctor inserted the speculum and the next sentence has never left me. She looks up at me from my own vaginal area and in a middle eastern accent exclaims.
Oh my Miss Brophy, You are very relaxed.
I think I uttered words of gratitude at what I imagined she thought was a nice thing to say to someone as I put back on my clothes. It was a sentence that I could have done without but the point is, that was the only thing that was awkward about having a cervical smear. It was all over in a matter of minutes and after a few weeks the results came back clear and I had a clean bill of health until I was due my next check up.
This is European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and they’ve launched a Pearl of Wisdom campaign with the #sharethewisdom to encourage those between the ages of 25-60 to book in for a free check. Each year 90 women die from cervical cancer and Ireland’s CervicalCheck aims to reduce these numbers.
There really is nothing to fear. You may feel embarrassed and reluctant. It may be uncomfortable for those of you who aren’t champion vaginal relaxers like me. I can assure you the tinge of cringe that you’ll feel will be worth it when you have the peace of mind knowing that you are being proactive with your health. It could literally save your life.