Hey, so I am Lois and I am a 21-year-old Midwifery student from Kent. You are probably thinking, what on earth is a 21 year old student writing about this for, well I have spent ages thinking about the best place to start but if my love for The Sound of Music has taught me anything, then we should start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.
I had the most amazing childhood growing up and I was so lucky to be able to have an incredible relationship with my grandparents, in fact I have always considered them to be second parents to my brother and myself. In 2012 my nan lost a very dear friend to cancer and we made a joint decision to get involved with the race for life. I still remember being confused as we were about to start jogging my nan was overcome with raw emotion, little did we know that this disease was already taking my nan away from me. It was only a couple of weeks later that we received the soul-destroying news that my nan had vaginal Cancer. I had no idea that this was even possible, within only a couple of weeks the cancer had spread. We sadly lost my beautiful nan 24th August 2012, roughly 6 weeks after diagnosis. My heart was shattered into a million little pieces and to this day not all the pieces have quite made it back to where they belong.
I remember returning to school after the summer holidays and the most common question I was asked was “what kind of cancer did she have?” and to this I would reply “Oh by the end it was just all over”. Although this was true, I can now reflect and say that actually I was just so embarrassed to say vaginal cancer. I was so concerned about what people would think of my nan and myself if I had said it out loud. It was such a taboo thing to say and when you are at school, everyone just finds the topic funny, however it is no laughing matter.
So what has changed I hear to you ask, well quite a lot to be honest with you, I am now almost 8 years older, have got a load more life experience and I am just going into my second year as a Student Midwife at Kings College London. The normal reaction when people find out I am a student Midwife is “ooooooo the babies” and yes whilst this is an amazing part of my job, it is a very minor part of it. Since becoming a student my confidence has improved so much and I am no longer embarrassed to say the word VAGINA out loud, but most importantly I have become an advocate for all women. No matter their age, race, religion and background. I see these incredibly strong and fearless women every single day, and yet the number of women I see who miss their smear tests or don’t chase their abnormal smears or just don’t even understand the results of them.
By now you are probably thinking. . . Lois just get to the point already! These women who can carry life for 9 months and then go through a potentially traumatic and long labours, are too afraid to get their smears. All women are so much stronger than they think they are and are capable of so much, and yet they don’t take care of their own bodies. Sadly, I have lived through the pain of losing someone from vaginal cancer and it has made such a massive impact on my life and the women I am today. Because of this experience I would never hesitate to get my smear when required, if I can inspire just one woman to pluck up that insane courage that I know she has, and she goes and gets herself checked then my job is done! I truly believe in the power of learnt behaviour, if a young girl grows up watching her nan, mum, aunties and sisters getting their smears and taking time out to think about their own health, then she will grow up to do exactly that. I would never wish for anyone to lose someone they love, and know one wants to leave a loved one behind before their time, so please, take 2 minutes out of your day and book that all important appointment and get yourself checked, it could just save your life and save the hearts of those you hold dear.
You can do it and you will do it so don’t ever be afraid, take a deep breath, walk through the door and you are already there. Be brave, Be powerful, Be beautiful.