Since all I do is write about being 25 and IMO the most significant thing that happens to you when you turn 25, if you have a vagina, is getting your cervix scraped, it makes sense to me to document my first experience just because. For anyone lucky enough to have never seen a speculum, remember at school when you put two Pringles in your mouth to make a duck’s beak. It’s basically the lengthier, less tasty and less hilarious medical equivalent of that.
I know, I know, I too have been wondering why something as sexy as a speculum isn’t used more regularly in porn.
You guys probably all know that I think I’ve got cancer at the best of times, so there’s never an ideal time to get swabbed for malignant cells. Low on the list though, is a Friday morning at the end of a long week, when you need a wee.
I began writing this in the waiting room of my doctors surgery. State of mind: trying to make myself as aroused as possible so it hurts less (only half joking). But I’m surrounded by old people, a blood pressure machine and a woman breastfeeding. There’s not a lot of scope at the NHS. It’s got to be said, I know you’re short of funding but a Brad Pitt cardboard cut out wouldn’t go amiss.
So I’m having all the bad thoughts obviously. Is it like giving birth and will I need stitches after? What if I’m not actually flexible enough to fit in the stirrups? (Actually though – if it makes me more flexible please get me in there now.) Where does the voice that calls out the names actually come from? Just think of The Secret, Emma. Healthy cells, healthy cells, healthy cells. Normal cervix, normal cervix, normal cervix.
Forty minutes later (clearly my nurse likes to play hard to get) I’m inside. (She’s not…yet). We’re talking. Like a first date (at least what they tell me) where you know there will ultimately be penetration but you go in for a bit of small talk anyway. I’m on the bed. We’ve got onto the subject of arts funding. What can I say? I take my work to bed with me.
This is 100% worse than losing my virginity. As I spread my legs it occurs to me again that there’s still no Brad Pitt cut-out and this is the least enthusiastic I have ever been. What if my zest for life never returns? What if it’s sealed up in the pot of my hopefully benign cells and gone forever?
This nurse is so nice but seriously, stop asking me about work while you’re inside me. Hasn’t anyone told you it’s wrong to mix work and vaginal probing? Oh wait…your work is vaginal probing. On a positive note it turns out the best possible way to perfect mindfulness is a smear test. It’s apparently the one time I am completely in the moment.
It’s not peaceful. It’s not relaxing. I might be a bit sick.
Now it’s over. I do feel fine really, maybe like 19% violated, but no more panicked and astray than normal. I may have told the nurse I loved her for treating me nicely giving her in all honesty not that inaccurate an insight into what I was like when I was single. (Ed, my
hostage boyfriend, worries this bit makes me look a bit fragile. Thoughts on a postcard?)
As I walk to the bus stop some builders yell at me from some scaffolding. Clearly I’m giving off some sexy post-swab vibes. Turns out getting swabbed gives you the courage to yell back at men in fluorescent jackets who catcall. My only regret is not telling them I’ve just had my cervix scraped, just to put them off for life, but I am still secretly pleased they called me ‘that blonde’ and not ‘that ginger.’
I’m a bit devastated that they didn’t use the stirrups. Now I’ll never be a gymnast. I was also kinda hoping for a free Lucozade and Club bar after, like when you give blood. Next time I’ll try to bleed more.
All in all, now I’ve had a cup of tea and feel like my pelvis definitely isn’t permanently damaged, I’m pretty content with how it went. On a scale of 1-10 on the ‘Is it worth it to know you’re cancer free?’ scale it’s definitely an 11. Realistically, as a growing woman, it’s not the worst thing that our vaginas are going to go through in life and the desire to live a long and happy life and to experience everything the world might throw at my cervix is the reason I’m gonna get my smear test every year. Cancer can piss off.
Ironically when I arrived at Victoria station en route to work, cervix intact, the entire building was being evacuated. The words ‘exploded’ were being thrown around lightly and all I could think amidst the chaos was if my ‘lucky reason’ for not being on the tube at the time of a terrorist attack is because I was having a smear test that is bloody terrible because I’ll be indebted to a speculum for the rest of my life.
A smear test and bomb scare in the same day guys = not the one.
Turning 25 is scary. Living in London is scary. Cancer is scary. Smear tests are scary. But you just do it, you know? Croissants were of course invented as a post-scrape reward and coming through on the other side of all that fear and vagina-displaying you feel pretty good about yourself. I’m grateful to be swabbed because it’s vital. I’m grateful the security threat was just an unexploded WW2 bomb and no one died. Plus I got quoted in The Metro, hi bucket list. I’m happy I can spend the rest of my weekend with my head down and my legs shut having checked off one major item on the to-do list for age 25. Because I’m worth it.
Girls, if you haven’t spread your legs yet, go get swabbed and tell me about it after. X