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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

If you know someone with a Vagina - YOU MUST READ THIS

If you have a vagina, chances are you neglect it. Hey, you there... Man quickly looking for the eject button on this blog STOP RIGHT NOW.  You have a mother, sister, grandmother, friend, girlfriend or wife who also has one, so read on my brave friend.

I write this one because it bloody important, it just is. I got the dreaded letter. You know the one you get every two years from the well-meaning doctor who reminds you that it's time someone stick a cold medical instrument up your bits and get a scraping to make sure you don't have irregular cells or worse. Yes, the pap smear...

Lucky for me I had my last one in WA only 12 months ago - the VIC doctors hadn't caught up. I mentioned it to one of my girlfriends and she announced “I've never had one of those” and I can promise you at 31 she's not the only one.

About 12 months ago I hosted an event for G.A.I.N. which is the gynaecological awareness and information network. It was called “vulva awareness day” and was an information day for young women and their Mothers. It covered cervical cancer, the HPV vaccine and the importance of regular pap smears. 

The event was well organised and the volunteers who work for GAIN did a fantastic job arranging world-class specialists and speakers to inform the hundreds of young women they were anticipating would show up.
Unfortunately only 20 women turned up, we pushed on realising how important the message was to get out there and if these 20 women told twenty women surly we could make a difference.

I saw how disappointed the women who work for GAIN were, they'd organised speakers who had survived cancer , doctors and one woman had even knitted one hundred small vulva keepsakes (I couldn't make that shit up) only to have a really small number of people turn up.

In hind sight I think it was probably the use of the word “vulva” that may have put people off. As piss weak as that sounds, when I was asked to host "vulva awareness day" I was a little taken a back.

I left determined to do what I could to help them and so the “Pap Smear Express” was born. I decided I wanted to take a bus load of women to all get pap smears. I thought it may make it easier for those who had been putting it off to do it with a big group, strength in numbers and all that. 

I first had to sell the idea to the predominately male staffed commercial radio station I worked at not to mention my male co-host (the lovely Sam Mac) who usually turned green at the very mention of “lady issues”.

To all their credit they got on board (I can be pretty persuasive if need be) the only stumbling block was convincing them to allow the word “smear” to be used..

I agree, "smear" is up there with "moist" "panties" and "yeast" for me, however I stood strong on this one. We need to get over our petty issues with certain words and get on with preventing cervical cancer. 

The words VAGINA, VULVA and SMEAR may make some of you uncomfortable but I promise you - CANCER IS WORSE.

Sam and I were overwhelmed with the public's response. I was shocked at just how many of you had been avoiding getting a pap smear, finding out that a great deal of you, like my friend had gone their whole lives and never had one.

One story that particularly stuck with me was from a girl named Amy Fidler, a young cervical cancer survivor whose complacency almost cost her her life. Amy had an irregular smear result and waited 9 months to follow it up, a tumour was found and she found herself fighting cancer at the age of 27.

The day came and the bus left the station with women from all walks of life on board with one common bond -  all had neglected their own well-being for far too long. 

On the day of the “mass smearing” each woman dealt with it differently.  

For some it was quite confronting for others nowhere near as bad as they had anticipated.

For me, I felt like I'd taken back a little control over my health. 

It should be noted that 4 of  the 30 or so we took on the bus came back with irregular cells, 2 of which required pre-cancerous lesions to be burnt off. NONE of these girls showed any real symptoms it was just lucky they decided to get on the bus.

To all the women out there reading this now, be it a pap smear a breast check or anything else that may be worrying you about your health GO AND GET IT CHECKED OUT. You are ALL important, valued individuals who deserve to feel human. 

To all the men out there who made it past the word VULVA in capital letters if you have a lady in your life you care about, remember to have the care to as if she's OK. Make sure she's well oiled and the donk (apparently that's man talk for engine) is running well. Besides caring about their health asking them when their last pap smear was - good for shits and giggles...

So the message this week is to look after yourself, you are the sunshine in the life of your family and as you know if there's no sun nothing works. (That sounded way more poetic in my head)


Em x