Emma Helleur: Walk in the park or not, health checks are important

Publish Date
Wednesday, 26 June 2019, 2:11PM

Like some sick April fool's joke, I received an email from "Manage My Health" to tell me I had a new health record from my health centre.

This was expected. I already received a phone call saying my recent pap smear was abnormal. What I wasn't expecting was the detail. Enough detail that I could Google what it said. And you know what they say about Googling your symptoms.

"There are abnormal squamous cells present showing changes of a high grade intraepithelial lesion consistent with severe cell dysplasia CIN3," the doctor's note read in the referral for a specialist assessment.

HSIL is associated with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).

This is super unfair.

Because HPV is the most common STI and I'm so single that I make nuns look promiscuous.

However, there are more than 100 strains of HPV which can be contracted different ways and even take years to show in a smear. So you might never know how or when you contracted it. It's also worth noting that the body's immune system usually clears itself of HPV within one to two years and most women who have HPV do not develop abnormal cells or cancer.

Yeah. That word. That word is the reason I stayed up 'til well after midnight reading article after article with the big C word. Basically every article on Doctor Google said that's it's probably not cancer but HSIL CIN 3 has a high chance of being precancerous. Like the word "pre" is meant to make me feel super chill. One article even said "it's not cancer, but in many doctors' eyes, it's pretty close".

My next appointment came quite quickly. The Taranaki Base Hospital rushed me through because of the high grade of cell changes. Four weeks later I'm in a hospital gown waiting for the doctor.

Now, I am not going to say the procedure was a walk in the park. It wasn't. Unless by walk in the park we mean walk through a park full of fire ants and wasps, with maybe a dragon or two trying to eat you. In that case, sure, it was a walk in the park.

The doctor did tell me that for most women it is indeed, if not a walk in a park, at the most it is simply a slightly annoying jog through one. Nothing terrible, just uncomfy.

Never having been one to tick the normal box in anything, unfortunately my experience was a bit more painful than that.

However, thanks to the fantastic team of nurse and doctor (with a wicked sense of humour) I got through it.

And while it isn't an experience I would wish on anyone, and I certainly am not enjoying the next stage of waiting for the results, or the likely next stage of surgery to remove the cells, I am incredibly grateful I live in a country where this process is available to me.

I am grateful I have the option of having a health problem identified and dealt with, even if it isn't fun.

And, I am grateful I have a voice, one which can tell you, here and on my radio show, of the importance to get yourself checked. If you are female, get that test done, if you are a male, make sure you encourage the women in your life to get that test done.

It may not be a walk in the park every time, but it's a great way to make sure you are healthy and able to enjoy many more walks in the park in the future.

Article was originally published in the Stratford Press and is republished here with permission