I Live Streamed My Smear Test

Anna wanted to do some­thing brave to save lives...

Pick Me Up! Special - - News - Anna Cribb, 40, Dorset

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.