I am safely on the wild side of 40, yet I still feel a flush of embarrassment talking about va…vag…vaginas.
So you can imagine my hesitation about popping up on the couch and having a stranger rifle through my downstairs ladies department. Two babies later, and I still hear my ridiculous nervous giggle squeak out as I confirm the serious business of my name, age and address for the doctor.
But this is no laughing matter.
Having a regular Pap Test could well save your life.
Sadly, I recently realised I was well overdue for my test, despite appreciating its value. Life had simply ‘got in the way’.
So when Em Rusciano and 2DayFM put the call out for a group of women to ride the ‘Vagina Bus’, I knew it was time to leave my pride at the door, put my skates on and get my knickers off. No more excuses. Sadly, as a busy mum, my priorities have shifted and I often put myself on the back shelf, simply because the juggle can all seem a bit much. But there was no time for nerves. This radio show clearly wished to highlight the awareness of women’s health and cervical cancer, so a bunch of ladies were gathered together to go and have a Pap Test.
From the get go, the morning was peppered with laughter, lollies and loads of low level vagina humour; making an awkward moment a bit of a giggle. It was also a little surreal to sit alongside Jana Pittman, an incredible Australian athlete who has represented Australia at three Olympics, and chat about, you guessed it…vaginas.
Oh, but bless the wee girls who were also on board for their first test, but hell yes to your open mindedness and respect for your body. Em kept the tunes a humming (Lord knows how many renditions of the Vagina [Venga] Bus rang throughout Sydney that morning) and we were soon sent off to our respective clinics in a disco bus, complete with a pole for dancing, pumping music and flashing lights.
I learnt quite a lot that day.
Hold the bus door, gals, but did you know that a condom for women exists?
And did you know the Cervical Screening Program is changing here in Australia, making it more effective and only requiring testing EVERY 5 YEARS!!!
And were you aware that the good ol’ condom on the banana demonstration is still doing the rounds, but now featuring a plastic penis option?
It was this very watch the ‘banana become a penis’ transformation, that got my nervous giggles starting.
Despite previous internal examinations, two babies and what felt like a whole room of spectators at each birth (including the work experience kid; OK she was an intern, but she looked soooo young!), multiple stitches, post baby checkups, and everything else baby and womanly spanning over 3 decades – the thought of a Pap Test every couple of years gets me spinning. And though I am a big fan of self-talk (indeed you are, Anna!), no amount of reminding myself how very, very important it is, or how lucky I am to live in a society that has the expertise to prevent cervical bitchin’ cancer, I still feel the desperate need to apologise to the doctor performing the procedure.
Interspersed with slightly manic, “No, I’m fine with it,” awkward giggles.
And then that “oh shit” moment…oh for the love of gawd what knickers am I wearing?…please not the beige, highly stretched (but oh so comfy) daggy number…yep…just swell.
As I simply ‘hop up’ on the trolley and ‘make myself comfortable’ with my legs spread, I begin the ridiculous vomit of idle chit-chat; the ‘sure; I’m not bothered in the slightest’ dribble of weather commentary; when really all I can think about is whether my bagina looks ‘normal’ and ‘will it hurt?’
Then a new wave of panic sweeps through…. Is it all tidy down below? Sure, I did a quick whip around the night before, but am I presenting as a ‘lady’ as opposed to the true time poor mummy who NEVER gets privacy in the toilet and had to fly through this morning’s shower for the duration of a Peppa Pig episode?
Oh lovely kind and qualified doctor; I get the theory, but tell that to my shaking chin and clenched stomach.
Sure there’s that little ‘oooo’ moment, with some wide eye action..
And suddenly she’s slipping off the gloves.
REALLY? Is that it? Have you finished?
It is done.
Why do I do this to myself every time? A haircut actually causes me more discomfort, being forced to stare at myself in the mirror for so long…(who IS that middle aged woman?).
I am privileged that I am here enjoying time with my loved ones.
I do not wish to become a statistic.
So I WILL get nervous for absolutely no reason and I WILL suck it up. I WILL ensure I make that appointment every two years (soon to become 5), and regardless of pointless embarrassment or grungy undies, I WILL be there.
And despite the husband’s generous golden oldie offer of, “I’m not a gynaecologist, but
I’ll give it a look,” I think I’ll stick with my doctor.