And Now For Something Completely Different

Something I believe everyone can relate to: test results. In this case a Cervical Smear. Delightful subject I know, but bear with me. Everyone in the UK has some kind of regular health test, even if it’s self adminstered lump checks – Chaps, if you don’t already, check those testicles and your breasts. Every 3 years women get called for a Cervical Smear. I have always been scared of these – not because they hurt (though they have on occasion – rough nurses, wrong sized speculum) but because my Mum had Cervical and Ovarian Cancer. When I was 7 she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cervical Cancer and given a Radical Hysterectomy, including the removal of one ovary. She was 40. They told her that she had had the Cancer since I was in utero. The year before, her mother, my ‘Granny Grunts’ had died of Lung Cancer. The pile up of Cancers affected me deeply and selfishly. It took Mum 6 weeks to recover, she had to re-learn how to urinate (but she was very lucky she was not left incontinent – in the 80’s that was a common side effect of Hysterectomies). At first she had to go for check ups every 3 months, then 6 months, then yearly, then 2 yearly. By the time I was old enough for my first Smear, she’d stopped going. She was lucky she didn’t need HRT, she didn’t go into Menopause etc. but it was the end of her sex life. 3 years later her sister died aged 47 of Lymphoma.

At the moment, Cervical Cancer is not believed to be genetic. Some Cancers are. All of my Maternal family have died of Cancer. My Great Gran had Bone Cancer, my Gran (her daughter), Lung. Her Brothers had Throat, Ear, Brain and Breast. My Aunt died of Lymphoma, and last year my Mum’s second Cancer, Lung, got her, 28 years after the first. So, while the specific Cancers may not be Genetic, considering my already interesting genetic inheritance, which comes from that side of the family, I am ever aware. This year I shall be 36 and without my Mum for my Birthday. I booked a Smear. The Nurse asked why I wanted one, as I only had one 2 years ago. I told her that by my age my Mum already had her first Cancer, and that I don’t have her now because of the Second. She got it immediately. Today I got my results and I am clear. I had wondered why I’ve been so nervy, so anxious and not sleeping or eating the last days. It wasn’t just because I’ve not heard from the DWP, not just because I’m living on £50 per week from my 71 year old Dad, in his house, but because I was waiting for my results.

So, get your tests people. Boys and Girls, check those breasts. Check your balls, go for Smears. Odd moles, lumps, aches, pains, tiredness, bowel problems – all of it. Family history or no. If you have an Old Man in your family, make sure he gets his Prostate and Bladder checked*.

Post Script: When I was 20 and had my Gallbladder taken out, the surgeon thought I had Cancer. He told my parents but not me. I only found this out about 3 months ago. It explains why my Parents behaved as they did – got so stressed they nearly Divorced (and my Mum was an ardent Catholic) and allowed me to have my first real Christmas Tree (my operation was December 15th).

* I currently have 2 male members of the family (they married in) who have or have had, Prostate and Bladder Cancer. So if the Old Man in your life has problems urinating, make him go to the Doctor. It’s not nice – the tests and biopsies, but it’s better than dying. Yeah, he’ll walk funny for a bit, but Hell, Shit Happens.


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