The letter read “We are writing to invite you to make an appointment for NHS cervical screening. The NHS offers cervical screening to save lives from cervical cancer. It does this by finding abnormal cells in the cervix before they have a chance to develop into cancer. Any abnormal cells that are found can be removed, to prevent cervical cancer developing.”
To help me make my decision whether to go ahead and book a cervical screening, a NHS leaflet was enclosed outlining what is involved, the benefits and the risks.
All very helpful and informative, the only problem being of course, that it is not relevant to me anymore.
Later that day I shared this episode and my shock on opening the letter with some girlfriends. They tried to get me not to dwell on it with a joke about the obvious oversight and the poor administration system of the NHS.
The problem is my perspective was different. I didn’t find it funny. I was outraged. Every fiber of my being was indignant.
The emphasis of the message on screening offering the opportunity of “finding” and “removing” any demon cells before they morphed into cancer was clear and one that I have never needed reiterating.
You see to add insult to injury the letter arrived on the anniversary of the exact day last year that I took myself off willingly and somewhat enthusiastically to my GP to have my cervical screening test, the very one that I have attended diligently for the last 25 years of my life without fail – even in the days back when it was just called a “smear test”.
I have never bought into the whole mentality of those women who have avoided it because they are scared of the pain. Quite simply – screening saves lives. My message to those women is get a grip and get on with it, there are worse pains and none greater than that which could occur as a consequence of not having it.
This is not a poor me piece, but it is a rant and a justifiable one at that. You see aside from the NHS sending me a letter when my records should clearly show I am not in the target market anymore, it also acted as a torch paper for those memories and feelings of injustice that I have worked hard to suppress over the last few months; the very ones that if not kept in check can produce an overwhelming negativity, the likes of which I have never experienced in my life before.
The NHS holds onto your screening samples in a laboratory for at least 10 years – I know this because my gynaecological surgeon told me and if you feel inclined to read that far – it is in the leaflet!
My results are currently being recalled. It is almost certain that my abnormal cells (those very ones that the letter says screening finds) and went on to develop into cancer, were missed in the early stages, when the consequences would not have been so life-changing.
What’s done is done. There is no going back, not for me anyway, but mistakes like this can’t happen and shouldn’t happen. Whoever missed those changes in my body for whatever reason whether inexperience, lack of attention to detail or overwork, needs to learn from it for the benefit of all the others like me.
This post was written in response to a 20 minute writing challenge from the fabulous Liberty who wrote a beautiful piece entitled Fragile