Emily Baldwin @astroemz on Twitter is going in for a loop excision next week to remove pre-cancerous cells from her cervix. As she says it’s a routine operation, but it’s only routine for the professionals. It’s not routine for her so she is understandably nervous. She’s blogging on what happens to help raise awareness of the importance of cervical smears under the twitter hashtag #cervixwatch.
I think this is one of those situations where putting thoughts into writing can help. I had a routine operation to remove a kind of cancer that Emily will never get, and sometimes it’s worrying. The raw statistics are that almost everyone has no trouble, so you can feel silly for being anxious. Still, I woke up one night in a small puddle of my own blood I was a bit concerned. After thinking about how to write this up I realised I’d be even more worried if I’d woken up in a puddle of someone else’s blood. This kind of detachment made it easier to cope with waiting.
It’s easier to be detached when something is over too. I think putting information online before the outcome is known is brave. It’s a personal experience and confessing fears can make you feel more vulnerable. I don’t imagine it’s a huge help that the cells might be pre-cancerous, meaning it’s not actually cancer. The c-word is still there but because it’s pre– you could feel foolish for worrying about it. Oddly I’m told it’s a common thing among cancer patients to feel guilty because you know other people have had it worse. In Emily’s blog I see something similar. She doesn’t want to overplay the situation, but she’s still perfectly entitled to be anxious and some of her post explains why.
In my case other people definitely have had it worse than me. The saddest memory I have is from the waiting room when I had chemotherapy. There weren’t enough seats, so the polite thing to do was to stand and let the people with cancer sit down. There were a lot of people there in a much worse way than me and they didn’t all have cancer. I felt tired in my muscles all the time, like I’d been swimming all day, but I wasn’t as run down as some of the carers, so I stood up to give one of them a seat. It was heartbreaking to see how shattered they were looking after someone they loved. Many of them were clearly in dire need of a rest, and for some of them it was never going to get any better.
Compared to that a bit of embarrassment and worry is a bargain. If you’re female and you’re squeamish at the thought of smear tests or think you really shouldn’t make a fuss about something like that, then you should follow Emily’s blog over the next few weeks to see if it’s really worth risking dying of embarrassment.
…and as a follow-up she now has her experience online.