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Last Friday, I found myself talking about the weather as I lay on a bed, knicker-less, waiting for a complete stranger to torment me with a weird plastic tool and a spatula. Yup, it was time for the dreaded smear test. Even the very words 'smear' and 'test' are enough to make me feel queasy. Better to think of it as a cervical screening test.
For six months, I have served up every excuse under the sun to avoid making an appointment. After three reminders in the post, I finally booked myself in, only to cancel a few weeks later (there was a Christmas coffee morning I really needed to attend). Then I cancelled the next appointment after that. Oddly, I never admitted to myself that I was afraid, but kept pushing it down my 'To Do' list (as long as it was on the list, I felt like I was addressing the problem).
So it was quite an achievement when I turned up at the doctors' surgery last Friday. As ever in moments of high stress (or a conversational vacuum), I resorted to talking about the weather system. Never mind that I was about to disrobe in front of a woman I didn't know, the real concern was: Would it, or wouldn't it snow? And, gosh, wasn't it nippy today!
There was a strange hiatus as I took off my jeans and waited for further instruction. Somehow it seemed rather infra dig to remove one's underwear without explicit permission. "Should I take my knickers off?" I asked in the end (a redundant question, it has to be said, when one is about to suffer the indignity of a smear test). The nurse nodded quickly and looked as awkward as I felt.
Onwards and upwards
Anyway, the good news is that they don't use those medieval, metal trowels anymore. The relentless march of medical progress has replaced the hinged (and icy) trowel with an innocuous plastic funnel. (I believe they call it a 'speculum'.) A few moments of extreme discomfort and it was all over.
I walked out of the clinic, delighted to have won my three-year reprieve until the next test (all being well with the results). Feeling braver now that it was all over, I congratulated myself on doing my bit to combat cervical cancer.
Small victory though it was, it encouraged me to confront a few more obstacles in my life that I had been avoiding. In my case, such petty fears are often fed by short-term considerations, while I ignore the longer-term benefit of enacting change. Now that I have dealt with these fears, I actually feel more empowered. The sun is peeping out from the January fog (sorry, back to the weather) and I'm making progress.
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