Just in time
For Gemma Anderson, 34, from South Shields, this was the most important test of her life…
Sitting alone in the doctor’s waiting room, I was shaking with nerves. It will be OK, I thought. It’s just a simple procedure.
I was 32 and was in for my first ever smear test.
I’d been putting it off for years, thinking it was going to be a painful, embarrassing experience.
‘I feel healthy anyway,’ I’d said to my husband George, 36. But he insisted. ‘Please just book a test,’ he’d pleaded with me weeks before. ‘Do it for me?’ I thought about it more, but was still so scared of the whole thing. My
friends would often bring it up, too, and they couldn’t believe I’d never had one.
‘It’s over so quickly and it doesn’t hurt at all,’ one said.
So eventually, I relented and booked myself in. But now, I was so nervous. Going in to see the nurse, she told me to lie back on the bed and open my legs. This is a bit awkward, thought, embarrassed.
It was slightly uncomfortable, but I just closed my eyes and thought about something else. ‘All done!’ the nurse said a few minutes later. ‘That was quick!’ I cried. I even felt a bit silly for putting it off for so long. But, two weeks later, I received a call from the doctor to say that my results were abnormal and that I needed to go to the hospital for a biopsy. I knew that biopsies were fairly common, so I wasn’t that worried when I went to the hospital. But when they called me back to discuss my results, I knew something was wrong. And I was right. ‘You have a tumour on your cervix that’s between 4cm and 7cm,’ the doctor said.
I clutched George’s hand, terrified.
‘But we caught it early and the cancer hasn’t spread,’ he went on.
‘We should be able to get rid of the mass with a radical hysterectomy.’ My head was spinning.
I’m only 32, I thought. Now I won’t ever be able to have children… George and I were devastated. ‘I should have done the smear test sooner,’ I cried.
But for now, I had to deal with what was facing me, so in September 2016, I underwent a hysterectomy.
Luckily, the operation was a success and doctors had removed the whole tumour.
Today, I still have to go for regular check-ups to make sure the cancer hasn’t come back, and George and I can only have a baby via a surrogate.
It was a huge blow, but to be honest, I just feel lucky to be alive.
If I’d have put off my smear test for any longer, my tumour would have grown and I would probably be dead by now.
I want to encourage other women to have a smear test regularly and not avoid it. I’ve realised now how important it actually is.
Having the test saved my life, and I want to help others before it’s too late.
Why had I put it off for so long?
We still hope to have a family
I needed a hysterectomy