Great Article

Caroline Thain – HuffingtonPost Lifestyle

Women are risking their lives by not going for smear tests, a charity has found.

I wonder if this is because they haven’t anyone to watch their kid/s or cannot take time off work during surgery hours.

The research, commissioned by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, shows a third of those aged between 25 and 29 don’t take up their ‘invitations’. And the older group (60-64) waits an average of three years to get checked. Yet the procedure can prevent around 75 percent of cervical cancer cases by detecting abnormal pre-cancer cells, according to the NHS.

1 in 20 results reveal cells that may need removing or re-testing, as they could return to normal. The aim of the NHS screening programme is to reduce cervical cancer and deaths.

Still, 3,000 women are diagnosed every year and three in the UK die each day from it. It mainly affects women from 30 – 45 years old.

All females between 25 and 64 are advised to go either three or five yearly – unless you are a nun. Those who have never been sexually active are extremely unlikely to develop the disease and aren’t required to undergo screening, according to NHS guidelines.

After reality TV star and mother, Jade Goody, 27, died in 2009, there was a 12 percent rise in smear testing. That number has since dipped to what it was prior.

Maybe we should have cervical smear parties. A bit like Ann Summers but, er, slightly different! Canapés, your favourite tipple – bring a speculum?! Or at least designated weekend/evening clinics and crèche facilities. I bet that would help.

As a mum of two, it’s sometimes impossible to have root canal or a haircut. I never understand how anyone attends hospital appointments where you can’t take your child/ren, say, if it’s of an intimate nature, involves long queues or sedation.

My friend, who is a single working parent, had a massive mission to find reliable childcare when she needed a major operation. My cousin, whose partner is in the army, has trouble finding babysitters and re-booked a smear several times. My sister put off the same test for two years because she was rushed off her feet training to be a teacher. However, though it feels like an individual problem, it’s a social one.

If knackered busy women are delaying or avoiding medical intervention, health and welfare services will ultimately pick up the pieces (and bill!) – when catastrophe calls because cancer couldn’t compete with the school run, the inflexible surgery wouldn’t fit you in or life just got in the way.

As breast cancer survivor and mum-of-two Nicky, 43, put it: “Women are dying unnecessarily of something that is relatively straight forward to treat, with early detection. I’d rather sleep, cook or watch paint dry than converse with a nurse whose head I can’t see! I have to go for a mammogram every two years. I wouldn’t dream of missing one. Yet I avoided a smear by over two years.”

Where we live in ridiculously advantaged St Albans, mums post on a Facebook network asking who can come to their home to do Shellac nails – does anyone know of a great live-in Polish slave, who simply must be able to drive a tank, fetch good wine and finish The Times crossword? One recently enquired about a personal synchronised swimming instructor for her seven-year-old daughter. (Would this count as a contributory hindrance to smear test attendance: surely the nurse would find the procedure much more difficult to do if Mum’s head is stuck that far up her own posterior?)

But subject to being on a normal income or not having residential staff, even for ‘traditional’ families, where Dad works and Mum stays at home, it can be hard for her to escape for a much-needed hair cut or relaxing swim. Going to have what looks like a glorified pizza cutter inserted into one’s vagina, which is then stretched out and scraped around is understandably not that appealing, when filtering through the hundreds of To Dos. Not really the ‘me time’ of choice! And don’t even get me started on where the pre-appointment anti-embarrassment hair removal is supposed to be slotted in to the bulging schedule…

Less ‘conventional’ families such as those with partners in the military services, spouses who otherwise work away or very long hours, or where both parents work all week are going to struggle too.

So the NHS needs to think, um, outside the box and get creative. Free professional bikini waxing while your kids play games, receive party bags and balloons, then a glass of nerve-steadying Prosecco before you nip in to That Room? You will leave with a slight booze buzz, a neat ‘lady garden’, happy tots and can go for that swim hassle free. (If they have a crèche!)

Some things can wait. Highlights, manicures, The Times crossword… Cancer can’t. By making time for a few uncomfortable awkward minutes, you could help save your own life. Terrifying thought that they might detect dodgy cells – but if you don’t go, you won’t know.

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Bloody Brilliant Bladder (Part 2)


A little while after my first epic wee I felt I needed a poo. I told the amazing sister Jackie and she said just go the loo and do it! Obviously you can’t have a poo in the high tech ‘potty’.

I had another epic wee with my poo, but it couldn’t be measured and they wouldn’t take my word for it. Before all this happened I was a ‘Only poo at home’ kind of person. How things can change!!

So I had to start all over again. Not exactly a hardship to sit around drinking coffees with a water chaser, idly flicking thru magazines. I was informed that during the next wee I’d have to catch a sample to test for infection. Getting a UTI (Urinary tract infection) is pretty common when you’ve had a catheter for a while. My third wee wasn’t read properly by the machine. I think it only measured what happened before I caught the rest. Anyways I was told it wasn’t good enough and to have some lunch and persevere! Good news being that there was no infection present.

I realised after this that I needed to play the long game. I decided I wouldn’t go again until I was busting, then they could really get a good reading. Eventually I felt the time was right and another nurse took me into the room and told me I was good to go. I smugly started knowing this would be THE wee to end all wees. The bloody machine wasn’t on properly and no paper graph came out. I told the nurse when she returned and employing some quick problem solving maths we subtracted the volume of past readings from what was in the jug!

It was a good one! All that had to happen now was a bladder scan to see if my bladder was completely empty. If I wasn’t emptying my bladder completely I would have to self cathterise once a day to make sure it was. Stale urine sitting around in your bladder isn’t good. Unfortunately my bladder lies just behind my wound. The jelly stuff they put on (anyone who’s ever had an ultrasound will know what I mean) stung like hell on my cut. Pushing a scan probe into my wound wasn’t exactly great either. In fact my wound bled a little. The bad news was that just over 200ml of fluid was still in my bladder. They called the sister in and she took us all to the ‘super dooper’ scanner. This showed that my bladder had 4ml of wee in it, less than a teaspoon! Hurrah. The fluid that the other scan had picked up was the fluid that is still behind my wound from the op.

The scan picture clearly shows a small black ‘circle’ my bladder and above it the thick black line which is the fluid behind my wound, which in time will be absorbed by my body.

I’m not ashamed to say I cried. Tears of pure joy and gave the sister a hug!!

As I waited in the cafe for my friend and my son to pick me up I told at least 2 strangers that I could wee again.

All appears to be working well and as one friend so eloquently said ‘Just need to sort your vag out now!’

Bloody Brilliant Bladder (Part 1)


I cannot describe how happy I am to find out that my bladder lives to fight another day.

Last week when I went to see my consultant, and was given the remission news, I don’t think anyone in the room held out much hope for it.

I know some people have said ‘Well it’s a small price to pay’ I may of even said that myself. But the reality was that having to carry around a bag of my own piss was beginning to get me down.I know some of my friends have been catherterised following c sections or operations. It’s never nice. However at least in hospital you get to hang your bag from the bed rather than having it strapped to your leg. It determined what I could wear. Luckily I wasn’t exactly out and about, but baggy trousers were the order of the day. When the bag is empty you can get away with something slightly tighter, but as it fills, it bulges massively. The tap at the end sometimes pointed North and it looked like I had a spectacularly long but semi erect cock! Emptying the bag out of the tap I began to understand why men give their cocks a shake at the end of a pee. All grimly fascinating!

I wet the bed twice. Never having been a plumber I found the whole fixing together of tubing for night time a mare. At night you have to attach a bigger bag to your leg bag. The leg bag only holds 500ml, it is very ‘going out’ purposes only!!! They came apart in the night resulting in a wet awakening. Twice I forgot to close the night bag tap off after I had attached the thigh bag, resulting in pee all over the floor. Not to mention having to rearrange tubing when you had a poo so you didn’t crap all over it. Like I say, just grim, grim, grim. The cat however liked to sleep on the duvet next to bag…….his own personal piss filled hot water bottle.

I can write about it now it is all over, but like I say, it REALLY got me down.

So yesterday was a BIG day.

Unfortunately I told my lift to drop me off at the wrong entrance. I’d mislaid my letter and although I knew the name of the ward I had to go to I didn’t know where it was. (I had been told but didn’t remember) I had to walk the length of the hospital. By the time I got to where I needed to be I was absolutely shattered. After arrival my catheter was removed. Bit of a ‘OHHH’ rather than an ‘Oww’ I was then taken to the day room where I was given a choice of water, coffee, tea, squash. The tap in the room dripped……Sadists!!!!!

The coffee was rank so after a little rest I took myself off for a latte and a ‘breath of fresh air’ The proper coffee seemed to do the job as I began to feel the sensation of needing a pee……for the first time in 20 days. I had to sit on a comode type thing hooked up with high tech gadgetry that would measure my ‘flow’ The graph I produced was very impressive. I had had my first wee! I think everyone was pretty amazed it had happened. I was told if I could pee again like that I’d be home…….