Hello! My name is Sophie.
I’m usually an unemployed actor serving popcorn to the people of North London but since May 2018 I have been trying my hand at blogging. Specifically, I’ve been blogging about the almighty vagina.
My honest, sometimes gory and often cringey blog, Gash Gossip was birthed after I had a couple of run ins with pesky cervical abnormalities. Seeing as it’s Cervical Screening Awareness week I thought it would be best to drag it all up again! Jokes, I really love talking about it.
So let’s step into my trusty fanny time machine and go back to where it all began!
*Queue ‘Doctor Who’ music*
We begin in my tiny box room in Archway. I’ve just had sex and my sheets are covered in blood. Great. Not exactly the way to a new partner’s heart. I knew this wasn’t normal so off I went to the Sexual Health Clinic. Then to the doctors, then another doctor and another doctor before our time machine arrives at the Colposcopy Clinic in glamorous Dunstable, March 2018. I’m lying in a hospital recliner with another stranger looking in between my legs and I just want to know whether I have cervical cancer. You see, I’d already diagnosed myself via my online GP, Google: “Bleeding during and after sex and pain during sex can be signs of cervical cancer.”
So Doctor, please just get the bad news over with.
This fortunately was not the case. The consultant found a small cervical ectropion (which is when cells from inside the cervix form an inflamed patch on the outside of the cervix) which causes friction and bleeding. He was also able to detect what looked like abnormal cells, so a biopsy was taken. The results of the biopsy confirmed that I did indeed have moderate cervical abnormalities (CIN 2) and that I would need to decide whether I wanted to have them removed via LLETZ (large loop excision of the transformation zone) treatment or not.
Although I was thankfully not diagnosed with cervical cancer, all this information came as quite a shock. “Abnormalities? Cell changes? CIN 2, what? LLETZ, WHAT? WHAAAAT?” I was as dramatic as that long “whaaaaat” makes out, I’m an actor after all. But I was terrified, I had no clue what any of it meant. I was googling ‘CIN’ on the toilet on my lunch breaks and admittedly crying into glasses of wine.
I decided to have the treatment, which was performed via local anesthetic. The instrument used to extract the cells looked like a mini vegetable peeler which has put me off peeling carrots for life.
The results of the surgery then came back and stated that the CIN 2 cells removed had already gone down a grade (to CIN 1). All other margins were clear and that was the end of that. I then embarked on my 6-week recovery post treatment. This mainly involved cramps, bleeding, nausea, headaches, lying naked on my bed having hot flushes, the thickest night towels available, pajamas rather than clothes and heaps of chocolate. As well as anxiety, depression and the fear of getting cancer. So, you know, it was a really good summer!
A recent study shows the facts and figures of the fears, impact on mental health, impact on intimacy and sexual relationships, and recurring pain that some women have experienced post treatment as well as the common side effects. It shows that women do not feel prepared for the news or the various effects it has had on their lives post diagnosis or treatment. And boy can I vouch for this! It has taken me a long time to adapt mentally as well as sexually… I mean it just isn’t very sexy thinking of cancer every time you get jiggy is it?
Anxiety has always been a part of my life but since being thrown into a world of hospital terminology and letters from the Gynaecology ward, it’s become more present. This really has been a series of life changing events (again with the dramatics!) It is something that I have felt compelled to speak out about and it’s great to see organisations such as the Lady Garden putting information out there for those in a similar situation who may need some guidance.
Fast forward to now, June 2019 and it’s Cervical Screening Awareness week. I had my first, proper smear test at the beginning of the year and those results showed CIN 1 abnormal cells and positive HPV, much to my disappointment. So, it’s all still going on down there! It’s not an ideal situation but the difference this year is that I feel a lot more equipped to deal with it. I know what is going on, I have the knowledge and this knowledge is very powerful.
I cannot stress enough the importance of attending cervical screenings. Last year was a bad time, but it is nothing compared to what could have been had the cells not been detected at an early stage. The test really does save lives, 5,000 a year to be precise and 9/10 of the results received will be normal. Put it at the top of your ‘Hinch’ list. There’s nothing to fear, go for your smear!
I will forever continue to encourage women to talk more about their Lady Gardens, know their vaginas, know their bodies and know their normal. This is why I started Gash Gossip and continue to spam my newsfeed with vagina related posts. Talking about our intimate health is important and might just save our fannies. I want to give others the freedom and ability to share their stories, whether it be sensitive subjects or laughing about messy discharge mishaps.
Vaginas don’t have to be profound all the time, but we do have to look after them. After all, we only get one!