I got my first letter about a smear test through the door when I was 19. Selfishly and foolishly I ignored it. I was too embarrassed, too proud, too uneducated to know what to do about it. I did not know fully what a smear test entailed, nor why I would need one and most importantly I did not know what it could prevent.
Now, at 22-years-old, I understand how pivotal it is to go for your smear test. I also understand how lucky we are to have the opportunity/invitation to go for one – especially here in Scotland where the age for smear tests has increased to 25. If you are below the age of 25 you are not permitted to go for a smear test on the NHS (which needless to say I think is atrocious).
When I discovered this I was slightly worried: why had I been receiving letters from the NHS through the door encouraging me to go for one from the age of 19? I was annoyed at myself for not going before. My cousin, aged 24, has been eager to go for a smear test in her 20s as she sadly lost her mother to cervical cancer. Would you believe me if I told you that she is not allowed to get one until she turns 25? Surely she would be a priority. I have no idea how their system works but I do know that it is unfair – dangerous – and needs to be changed.
I went for my very first smear test on the 23rd of January and I was so damn nervous about it. I had literally called up the doctors the day before enquiring about my smear after seeing an advert that triggered my guilt for not going (and also after a gentle cyber nudge from my brother’s girlfriend urging me to go). They offered me an appointment (to my surprise) the very next day. This was great because 1) I could not overthink about it for too long and 2) I would not cancel it and 3) I had an official appointment and this was really happening.
The waiting room was the most nerve-wracking part. I kept waiting on my name being called, and I shifted back and forth in my seat, nervous from the unknown of what I was about to encounter and even more uncomfortable from my botched shave the night before in a frantic panic and attempt at looking decent down-below for my smear test (honestly, I can’t stress enough how ridiculous this is, as the nurses could not give a damn about how you look downstairs).
I walked in to the room and my heart skipped a beat as my ex’s mum sat there behind the desk; I should note that she is one of the loveliest down-to-earth ladies you could ever meet but of course this was slightly awkward for me and added to my nervousness. She could not have been more kind, more welcoming, more soothing. She talked me through everything and continuously checked that I was alright.
It was literally over in two minutes. All that overthinking, procrastinating and worrying and that was it. It was over in a flash. You lay up on the bed, open your legs, get as comfortable as you can in that position. Then they bring out the apparatus that they use to open the vagina (so they can make a clear path to the cervix) and honestly they have changed the look of it so much over the years that it is now not intimidating or scary at all. It is clear, I believe it’s plastic, and they literally just put it inside you – now, if you are sexually active, this part should not phase you at all.
The next thing they do is open it out (much like the idea of a hair clip) and it just feels slightly uncomfortable for less than a minute; they take a sample from your cervix by brushing against it (with whatever it is they use – I chose not to look- I presume it’s a swab) and then THAT IS LITERALLY IT. It’s an uncomfortable 2 minutes of your life that could potentially save you so please, please, please go and get your smear tests done ladies. Talk about your experiences, encourage your friends and family to go, I’m writing this in the hope that I can encourage at least one other person to go for theirs!