So a couple of things before we get into our topic of the day:
1. Yes, I was able to get Riley off my back to continue blogging my thoughts on random things.
2. That snow that was predicted? Yeah, it came. And today it was back to warm-ish weather. Go figure.
Now, on to our topic of the day……..
I got my period yesterday. Aunt Flo had been circling the area for about a week and finally dropped her luggage while I was enjoying lunch with friends at Panera Bread.
Now, I don’t say this to overshare or for “shock value.” (OK, actually that’s not **completely** true, I mean….admit it…you read those words and if you didn’t click off the page right away, you wanted to keep reading 😉 #Weirdo ). This random fact is actually an important piece of information to better understand my story today.
The free clinic in town was having a Woman’s Health day on Saturday and offering free Pap smears. Because I figured it was time for me to have an exam on my lady bits, I went.
Now for most women, a Pap smear isn’t a fun day at the beach, but a necessary evil to keep yourself healthy. And I had grown up with the notion that I needed one once a year.
Apparently that was a lie.
According to new standards set by people who were in school longer than I was, guidelines for Pap smears have changed. In short, **women who are aged 21-29 should have a Pap smear every 3 years. Those 30 and over should have one every 5 years, ending at age 65. However, if you change sexual partners in a year or have a history of cervical cancer, it’s recommended you still have a yearly exam.
(Sidenote: I really feel like every woman should have been informed about this change in guidelines in some way. Possibly through the mail. I mean, we all get enough junk mail, so it’s not like they don’t know where we live. 😛 )
The other reason why I would have loved to have this piece of information before I went into my appointment was because I have a bit of anxiety when I anticipate having a Pap smear. To the point where I NEED TO have someone hold my hand during the entire procedure. And my hand-holder of choice, Chad, had to work and couldn’t be there.
So I found out about this Woman’s Health Day at the free clinic more than a month ago so I’ve been anticipating and worrying and fretting about this appointment for a Pap smear for literally WEEKS in advance of the actual event.
Also, when I saw the date of the Woman’s Health Event, my stomach dropped. Why? Because I realized that was the day my period was due. Aunt Flo is so regular that I can predict her arrival with a high degree of accuracy. Except this month I was completely wrecked with worry. Especially all this week I was on edge because the last thing I wanted was to get my period and not be able to get a Pap.
And every day I felt like it was a race against time. Each day that passed without Aunt Flo’s ominous knocking on my uterus was one day closer to her arrival, and the less likely that I’d be able to get my lady bits checked for free.
There is really nothing like going into the Dr.’s office, anticipating a procedure you’ve been anxious about all week, then being told you don’t need that procedure and almost making them do it anyway because DARN IT you’ve been worried about it all WEEK!! (Then realizing that’s a really dumb line of thinking, you leave the office before they can change their minds, but not until after you get your hands on the free goody bag they are handing out to all participants.*)
So why even write about such a personal topic? Well, several reasons: 1. I had NO idea the Pap smear guidelines had changed and I figured if I didn’t know, there are others that didn’t know either. 2. Having anxiety over Pap smears makes these new guidelines all the more important because when you live with anxiety, the more stressful activities you can put off the better. 3. In writing about this topic, I am helping to take away the stigma that we can’t openly discuss intimate health issues. It is NOT dirty or shameful or wrong. Talking about it saves lives.
And you are never alone!
*So I know what you are thinking, “The first thing in a Woman’s Health Day goody bag would be chocolate.” Yeah. You’d be wrong. But the things inside were just as useful: hand sanitizer, a comb, feminine hygiene products, razors and a clinic pamphlet.
**Like anything else, these are just general guidelines. Every person and situation is different. If you have any doubts, talk to your doctor before putting off a Pap smear.