Get Swabbed for Cervical Health Awareness Month

This week, I want you to think about your cervix. If you don't have one of your own to think about, I want you to think about the cervix of someone close to you. Why? Because January is Cervical Health Awareness Month! It's the most common cancer found in women under 35 (in the UK), and an ounce of cervical cancer prevention is worth a pound of cure. I know, because I had a hysterectomy in 2007 to cure my cervical cancer.

Cervical Health Awareness Month has put me right back in 2007, the year I found out that I had cervical cancer. In 2007, I hadn't had a Pap smear, let alone a physical, since the Palinode and I were married in 2001, and, truth be told, I avoided them. Due to various personal issues, which I'm not going to get into here, the whole stirrups-and-speculum thing with a doctor all up in my business was triggering for me, and I preferred to skip the whole affair rather than go through stirrups/swab/cry-in-the-bathroom-on-my-way-out routine.

Let me tell you, though, if you wait long enough, relatively minor and easy-to-cure conditions can end up turning into cervical cancer, and that once yearly swab can turn into impressive numbers of medical professionals being all up in your business. Hell, I spent a couple of afternoons with my cervix being broadcast on a big screen TV in a surgical theatre to an audience of several people. "This must be what shooting porn gets to be like after a while," I thought, "only without all the fun parts."

Compared to that, the Pap smear is NOTHING. It's well worth the minor amount of fuss to find pre-cancerous conditions with relatively minor treatments, because leaving it go too long can have you end up on the wrong end of the cancer spectrum, which is why I'm now out both a cervix and one uterus due to cervical cancer.

Oh, and lest you think that there's a bright side to hysterectomies, like not getting your period anymore, let me enlighten you. You know how people who have a body part amputated sometimes experience Phantom Limb Syndrome? Well, my uterus is my phantom limb. I still get menstrual cramps about every other month from a uterus that doesn't even exist anymore, which is, yes, the stupidest thing any of us have ever heard. Also, it's a bit of a kick to the psyche.

So, I want everyone and the people they love who are in the possession of a cervix to hop up into their doctor's stirrups and get that thing swabbed on the regular, because one of the best and proven steps that someone can take to prevent a cancer is to have a Pap test. I had no symptoms of cervical cancer prior to diagnosis, so it's worth the appointment, even if you feel healthy. Some doctors suggest doing it every year, and some every few years depending on your age and medical history, but I say why not make it an annual party, like a birthday present to yourself to ensure you keep having more birthdays?

Cervical Cancer Information

Pap test fact sheet,
Keeping Your Cervix Healthy, Canadian Women's Health Network
Cervical Cancer, Mayo Clinic
HPV and Cancer, a National Cancer Institute Factsheet

So, make an appointment and go get swabbed! It saved my life, and it could save yours. You're worth it. — 2012 Word: Light Series #2

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