Miriam O'Callaghan with Vicky Phelan - Twitter
I have a terrible confession to make. And unlike a lot of my other light-hearted confessions, this one is not just deadly serious, but it’s something I’m deeply ashamed of.
I’ve never gone for my smear test.
Despite getting letters for appointments over the years and having the best of intentions, I’ve always somehow never gotten round to it, or put it on the long finger. And as disappointed as I am with myself for ignoring it, I get a sense that I am not the only woman to have done this... any of the below sound familiar?
I don’t have time right now.
I’m so busy with work.
It sounds horrible.
I’ll make an appointment next month.
I just forgot all about it.
I’ll do it when I get the next letter.
Then you put the letter away somewhere, forget about it and all of a sudden years pass by and you realise you’ve never gone for your smear test.
Before I became a mum in December 2016, I found it easier to justify missing the smear test. I’d had a bad experience when I was 19 when I got a bout of Thrush while on holiday with my family in Florida. You can’t just buy Canisten over the counter in the States, so I had to go to a walk-in clinic where I was given an internal exam by a male doctor.
I was embarrassed.
I was scared.
And it put me off ever getting smear test.
But now? It’s not just me anymore. Now, I’ve got the most beautiful little boy to look after and love. The thoughts of not being there for him, chill me to the core. I want to be his rock. I want to see him start his first day of school, I want to see him grow and become the person he’s going to be. I want to see him be happy, I want to see him find love. I want to be the one who is always there for him through the good times and the bad. The shitty days and the laughter filled days. The days when he hates me, the days when he loves me. I want to do all that laundry, I want to drop him to matches, discos, give hugs, advice when I can and be his mum for as long as I can.
I now realise that not going for a smear test is both selfish and irresponsible.
So the moment I became a mum, I vowed I’d go and get the smear test once I was back on my feet. But of course, life got in the way. Excuses became the norm again and while in the months following the birth I was in the battle of my life with PND, it still wasn’t a valid excuse for putting the smear test off.
Thanks to the bravery of one woman, I’ve finally taken action.
Thank you Vicky Phelan.
Thank you for your sheer determination in the face of absolute devastation.
Thank you for lifting the lid on the HSE’s mishandling of hundreds of Cervical Cancer Screenings.
Thank you for speaking out and for refusing a confidentially agreement, when you could have taken ‘shut up’ money.
Thank you for focusing on a court case when you should have been able to focus on your health and family.
Thank you for standing up for the women of this country.
Thank you for urging women to keep faith in the Cervical Cancer Screening programme.
Because of your bravery Vicky, today I’ve gone onto cervicalcheck.ie and updated my details and my appointment letter is in the post.
If like me, you’ve been putting the smear test off, then take a moment to log on and book yourself in.