One Last Hurrah For My Cervix

What dance is appropriate for the unfurling of a cervix?

Is it like the movement of a snake charmer, enticing the reptile of its hiding place? Or would leaping around to Abba’s Dancing Queen do the trick? Maybe an Argentine Tango?

This was just one of the questions I faced as I turned up for what I was told, at 65, would be my last smear test. Unlike the USA, which performs them every year as part of their ‘preventative care’ (or preventive’, as they call it), the NHS cuts you off at 65. The likelihood of getting cervical cancer in later life is minimal, they claim, and the trauma of the procedure might be greater than worrying about the minimal risk.

Until this week, I thought that was nonsense, but ye gods, I feel I’ve been eaten out. And not in a good way.

So, back to my dance. After five attempts by the nurse, hacking away like a miner at a coalface, and failing to excavate a single cell, she asked whether I would like someone else to try.

The verdict was the same. Apparently, I have a very odd-shaped cervix that has a bend in it, which makes it very hard to open up to scrape away the required cells. Why has no guy ever noticed this? Why have I never noticed it?

‘Yes, please,’ I whimpered.

Enter nurse number two.

‘You’ve tried the standing and the dancing, right?’

‘No!’ I said, praying for a hitherto unheard of medical breakthrough.

The bed was lowered and I stood up, having been promised that ‘Sometimes, it works.’

So, I jumped up and down a bit and did the equivalent of dad dancing, all the time willing my cervix to unfold its unfathomable depths.

My below the waist antics have always been a source of medical curiosity. Some years ago, I had colonic irrigation for a TV programme about adopting a healthier lifestyle. The director, producer and cameraman waited patiently for 45 minutes; I was on my back, looking at the screen on which I would have the privilege of watching my faeces pass through a tube. Nada. There was a poster of Princess Diana on the wall, and the practitioner explained that it was there because she was a big fan of the procedure.

My un-royally blessed colon was having none of it. ‘You have very stubborn stools,’ said the man in the white coat.

The day got worse. I was supposed to have a night on curry and beer, which would represent bad in the programme, followed by the colonic irrigation the next day – good.

Unfortunately, owing to the filming schedule, we had to do it in reverse and so, following the CI, I had to gorge on Vindaloo and Stella. Let’s just say that my stools became considerably less stubborn as I ran frantically across the restaurant floor to the toilet.

Now, I’ve discovered, that I have a very stubborn cervix, too. I thought that the glass of wine I had beforehand would relax me; after all, it’s been so long since anything’s been up there, I thought that unless I took a muscle relaxant, nothing short of a JCB was going to do the job without some assistance.

It might come to that because, when nurse two gave up as well, not least because there was now blood and I was about throw up, she informed me that there was such a thing as a ‘difficult cervix’ clinic, to which I will be referred if next week’s ‘Take Two’ again fails to deliver the goods.

I’m feeling like Sally, the pet Chihuahua I grew up with. Every week brought her a new ailment, and every time the vet assured us that she was fine as her nose was still wet. The last time he made that assurance, her stomach was so fragile, it was splitting apart. But her nose was still wet. That’s all right, then. I had visions of her last moments being just a nose on the vet’s table but having her sent home again because the proboscis was still wet.

I have had several falls recently, resulting in a badly twisted ankle, a broken arm, a bruised knee, and a broken hand. I also have a retina slowly detaching from my right eye and have been told there is a two-year waiting list for an operation. I’ve also been told that both ears are ‘candidates’ for hearing aids.

Candidates, no less! Oh, the glamour of it. I am practically Marlee Matlin.

Where’s it going to end, as each part of me falls away? Lying on a hospital bed, despairing at my diminishing body parts and hearing a small voice with the little hearing I have left – ‘Yes, but her cervix is still wet’?

Smeargate has distressed me somewhat. I find Britain such an ageist country anyway, particularly in relation to women. Attempting to put us on the scrapheap at 50 hasn’t worked, so now they’re going down the health route.

Look, I didn’t expect a red carpet or a parade, being told it was my last smear test, but it genuinely felt like another nail in the impending coffin of my life.
But I’ll keep going because d’you know what?

I’m still dancing!