I Live Streamed My Smear Test
Anna wanted to do something brave to save lives...
Staring at my test results, my heart thumped.
‘What does it mean?’ I asked the doctor, panicking. I was in my mid-20s, and a routine smear test had found abnormal cells. Do I have cervical cancer?
Am I dying? It was terrifying.
My doctor explained that abnormal cells aren’t harmful, and often go away on their own.
But, without treatment, there was a risk they could eventually turn into cervical cancer.
‘This is why it’s important to have a regular smear test,’ the doctor explained.
I needed laser treatment to cauterize the abnormal cells, and a colposcopy to examine my cervix.
After, to my relief, I was given a clean bill of health. Relief! But I knew that the simple, routine cervical screening could have saved my life.
As the years passed, I got married, had three boys – Rocco, 11, Diggory, eight, and Ozzy, six – and never missed a smear test.
I couldn’t risk not seeing my boys grow up. They were my world. Me and my best friend Katy Pullinger, 37, had even set up a parenting blog online called Hey Mummy together.
Katy had two girls, and we’d post videos online about parenting and baby issues. It really took off.
We painted my garden shed, gave it a revamp, put in a sofa… And we’d use it for recording video blogs – known as vlogs – about anything from baby reflux to 3am night feeds - anything to do with children and child care.
Eventually, our vlog got picked up by popular parenting Youtube channel, Channel Mum.
‘They want Hey Mummy to join their team!’ Katy grinned.
We were so flattered. It felt great providing comfort and a support system for mums everywhere.
Then, earlier this year, my phone rang… It was Cathy Ranson, Editor of Channel Mum. ‘Would you consider having a livestreamed cervical screening?’ she asked.
‘A smear test, live on the Internet?’ I gasped, stunned.
As part of its Woman Behind the Mum thread, Channel Mum wanted to stream a woman having a cervical screening test to prove it was simple, pain-free – and vital.
And to encourage women who’d not been tested – whether through embarrassment or having missed an appointment – to book it in as soon as possible.
‘I’ll have to think about it,’ I told Cathy.
After all I’d been through following a smear test, I knew how important it was to get the message out to other women. Still, it was an intimate examination. I worried that some would find it too shocking to watch being carried out live online. Could I really go through with it? ‘What do you reckon?’ I asked Katy. ‘Should we do this?’
Katy wasn’t sure either. It would be me in the ‘hot seat’, while Katy would interview the gynaecologist.
We went online, researched the facts. And the more I read, the more shocked I became.
A huge 75 per cent of cervical cancers could be prevented if women would just take up the screening. Yet figures showed one
It was an important message THOUSANDS OF WOMEN HAVE VIEWED THE VIDEO
in every four women invited for a test in England last year failed to attend.
When Jade Goody, 27, died of cervical cancer in 2009, she’d really raised awareness.
There’d been a big spike in the numbers of women booking to have smear tests.
Yet, in the last two years, the numbers had plummeted.
‘These women are risking their lives,’ I told Katy, shocked.
Still, I needed to get my family’s support, too.
My mum had concerns about the shock factor of the idea.
‘There must be other ways to raise awareness,’ she said, sounding worried. Only, a few days later, she called me back.
She was about to go to the funeral of a friend who’d recently died of cervical cancer.
‘I think you should do it,’ she said. Her friend had suffered unexpected bleeding, been told to go for a smear test, but she had put it off.
But, by the time she was eventually diagnosed, it was already too late to save her. Heartbreaking. So I called Cathy. ‘I’ll do it,’ I said. So, in March, Katy and I went to the BMI hospital.
Top gynaecologist Tyrone Carpenter would be carrying out the procedure. I was nervous, but determined. And, as the camera started rolling, I lay on the bed, with my legs in stirrups. My nerves dissolved and I felt far from embarrassed. As Dr Carpenter carried out the test, I talked the online viewers through it. I wanted to show everyone that I wasn’t in any pain.
‘It’s not comfortable, but it’s certainly not hurting me at all,’ I said as he inserted the speculum and took the scrape.
‘It just feels like a tiny brush inside me.’
In less than five minutes, it was done. I was still nervous about the public reaction, though. But I needn’t have been. Women were incredibly supportive, and the test was watched live by 13,000 people.
Since then, the video’s been viewed thousands more times, and we’ve had positive comments from so many women.
‘I have a fear of pain and dying – but, after watching your video, I’m ringing the doctor in the morning’, one wrote.
Another e-mailed saying she’d have ignored the letter telling her she was due a smear test if it wasn’t for us and our video. And, when she did have it, the test found abnormal cells. ‘You might have saved my life,’ she later wrote. I swelled with pride. ‘We’re making a difference,’ I beamed at Katy.
Now, I’d urge all women to get regular screenings.
It’s simple, quick and painless. And it could save your life.
To watch the video yourself, go to www.heymummy.co.uk and search ‘smear test’.
I was nervous about the public’s reaction
So proud to make a difference with Katy
Jade Goody inspired more awareness
“You might have saved my life,” one woman wrote
Viewers followed every step