If you’ve been following me for a while you will know that I have previously attempted to go for my cervical screening, however on the day it was cancelled. I received my invitation for the test a while ago but kept putting off booking it due to my anxiety. It was not the test that made me anxious, more the idea of having to go to the Doctor’s surgery at a certain time and wait around for my appointment.
Once my other appointment had been cancelled I immediately booked another, I didn’t want to give myself the opportunity to back out. The next available appointment was on Wednesday 22nd May at 10am and I booked it.
What I did to make myself feel less anxious –
There are a number of steps I took in order to curb my anxiety. To begin with I asked my partner if he could get the morning off of work to come with me. He’s very calm and therefore I thought he would be the best person to come with me!
I then did lots of research to find out how the test is carried out. I watched videos, looked at diagrams and read other people’s blog posts on their experiences. This meant that I was fully prepared for the test.
Wear a dress or a skirt to reduce the amount of undressing. This also will allow you to remain somewhat covered during the test. I wore the dress in the picture above (from H&M), I felt less exposed having to only lift up my skirt and so would recommend it.
Wear a panty liner in case you experience some spotting after. I didn’t but I wore one just in case!
I read a blog post in which the lady said the most awkward thing about the experience was knowing where to put your knickers. I am an awkward person as it is so I decided to plan ahead and tucked them into my shoe.
The actual test was fine, however the anxiety leading up to it was quite bad.
The anxiety –
The Night Before:
The day before the test I was fine, it wasn’t until bed time that my mind began to race. Eventually I decided I had to try and get to sleep and so I put my book down and switched off my light. As soon as my eyes were shut my mind became my worst enemy. I suffer from emetophobia (you can read more about it here) and once my eyes were shut I kept having flash backs to when I had Norovirus last October. I tried to ignore it but they were becoming worse and worse. Eventually I gave up and switched the light back on. I spent 5 minutes on my phone as I felt so shaken by the flashbacks. Once I felt a little bit better I decided to try out some meditation. I’ve been using Headspace Free Trial and really loving it, unfortunately I cannot afford the subscription fee so if anyone knows of any similar but free apps please let me know. During my A levels and first year of university I did some yoga – the meditation aspect of it kept me calm and got me through my exam periods. I have found that meditation helps to clear my mind enough to ward off the anxious thoughts. I haven’t been doing it for very long so I’ll write a separate post on my experience at a later stage.
The Day of the Test:
I set an alarm for 8am to give myself time to shower, put my make up on and do my hair. I feel at my most confident when I have spent time on my appearance and so I wanted to ensure I took the time to do so today. For the first hour I felt okay, I could feel the anxiousness there but it wasn’t too bad.
As the time to leave edged closer I began to get increasingly anxious. I had some breakfast and a couple of sips of tea – I didn’t want to risk needing a wee! I could feel myself beginning to get really anxious, I wanted to cancel the appointment and go back to bed and cry. Thankfully it was only 15 minutes until my appointment and so instead of running away we got in the car. It took us 5 minutes to get there, I know I should have walked but I think I would have turned round and gone home if I had more time to consider it. I checked myself in and sat in the waiting room with my partner next to me.
The waiting room was busy which only contributed towards my anxiousness. Thankfully I only sat there for about 10 minutes, however it felt like the longest 10 minutes of my life. There were a couple of occasions when I decided I had to just leave, I couldn’t do this. I was hot, my heart was racing and it felt like the most horrific thing ever was about to happen. I took a deep breath and tried to concentrate on the techniques Headspace had taught me. Soon enough my name flashed up on the board and I felt my anxiety almost disappear – in a few minutes time I’d be walking back out, there was no backing out now.
The test –
As soon as I walked into the examination room I felt at ease. The nurse was lovely, she immediately locked the door to ensure that nobody could walk in during the examination. I told her I was feeling quite anxious and so she kept chatting to me whilst she filled out her information. I’ve recently changed pills and she was asking me about why – I explained I felt the previous one had been having a negative impact on my anxiety. The nurse was really encouraging and told me to let them know if I had any problems and we would continue to change my pill until I found one that worked for me. Although this was not directly related to the test it was nice to know that the nurse understood how important my mental health was – unfortunately some medical professionals do not.
Once the nurse had finished inputting the relevant information she asked me if I had any questions. I had done extensive research and so did not. She then asked me to remove my knickers and lie on the bed, whilst I was doing this she talked me through the procedure. I was grateful to have something to focus on rather than what I was doing.
Once I was correctly situated on the bed she began the test, she talked me through each stage and kept reminding me to tell her if I was in any pain or discomfort. It was a little uncomfortable and I had slight period-like-cramps. Before I knew it the swab had been taken and the examination was over.
During the examination a speculum is inserted, which is then opened up to allow access to the cervix. Once this is achieved a swab is taken with a small brush. You can read about the test in more detail here.
Once the test was over I redressed and the nurse explained to me what would happen to the sample – it would be sent off to be tested for HPV and the cells would be checked for any irregularities. She also informed me that in some cases the test can be inconclusive due to an insufficient sample and in which case I would have to have another examination carried out. The nurse then told me I should receive my results within two weeks.
That was it, it was over and I was walking back out of the Doctor’s surgery. I was in and out of that room in just over 5 minute,s which included all the chatting we had done! If I’m honest I felt a little bit silly about how anxious I had been. The test was perfectly fine, a little embarrassing but I kept reminding myself that this nurse had probably done hundreds, if not thousands, of these before.
Other than a few period-like-cramps and a little backache I had no lasting affects.
I’m very glad that I went ahead and had the test done. Fingers crossed that the results all come back okay!
Please go and book your cervical screening.