The dreaded smear- A personal and Nurse perspective.

The letter lands on your door step, with the bleak reminder your 3 years is up, it’s time for your smear. I dread it just as much as anyone and lay the letter to the side thinking it might go away. A few weeks later a reminder arrives telling me that I haven’t booked my smear. I pluck up the courage and book an appointment. The week running up to it, I’m contemplating cancelling the appointment. The day before I remind myself to make sure I have waxed/shaved all the necessities and picked out a decent pair on knickers.

The day of the of the smear your sitting in the waiting room dreading your name being called. Too late the nurse is looking at you and smiling your up next. We go into the room and she starts discussing things like smoking, diet and exercise. All I’m wishing is that she would hurry up and perform the smear! She weighs me and takes my blood pressure, as it’s good to be reminded how overweight I currently am. To make things worse the nurse is an ex colleague, being a nurse, these things are hard to avoid. Out of the corner of my eye I can see the gloves and equipment needed for the procedure. You would think after having 3 kids this would be a walk in the park, as when I was in labour there was more than one pair of eyes gaping down there. Every passing midwife and her dog would pop in to see the head crowing, also invite your husband for a glimpse too! Why not.



This doesn’t make the situation any easier, your still nervous about this stranger getting a glimpse. She asks you to remove everything from the waist down and cover yourself and your modesty with a sheet the size of a postage stamp. Oh, the dread as you take off your trousers and pants. Socks off or on? Who knows? Where do you put them, do you fold them? I lay on the bed waiting for her. Do I part my legs or wait till she says? Oh, hurry up I’m thinking! I’m ready I say, ready as I’ll ever be.
She’s asking me to put ankles together and knees apart… here we go the worst bit…and of course she switches on the extremely bright light, too in she goes. I lay there in total embarrassment wishing the ground would swallow me up. A few seconds feels like an eternity. Why is she taking so long is she lost? Can’t she see the cervix? Can you sit on fisted hands she says. Next thing I hear your all done, you can get dressed. All complete in less than 3 minutes, she’s out and telling me to get dressed. Few the relief, what was all the fuss about. I worried a whole week running up to that! There was a period of years in my life where I had to get smears done every 6 months much to my delight as my results always showed borderline changes. It was Just this year I received the all clear for my 5 yearly due to the new recall system changing from 3 years.


The Nurse

I feel your anguish as you come into my treatment room. I’ve been there too! I want to make this as pain and embarrassment free as possible. I don’t care if you shaved your legs or your bikini line as I don’t even notice, or if your pants are a decent pair. If you want to keep your socks on that’s fine! Taking a smear is not as strait forward as your think. Depending on the time of your cycle the cervix can be quite difficult to find. That’s when I would ask you to sit on fisted hands to tilt the cervix to make it easier to see. So trust me once I’m in there the clock in my head is ticking to find that cervix take the sample with the green brush and get out asap. The aim of the game is to obtain cells from the cervix with the brush and send them off to the labs for testing. If I don’t obtain enough cells on the brush at the time, you may have to come back a second time for another smear test. I try to make sure that doesn’t happen.
I can’t emphasise enough ladies by the end of my day I can perform up to 6 smears, along with all my other appointments. So believe me when I say this I hardly remember what your face looks like never mind if you’ve plucked your nether region to perfection, or the colour of your knickers. I know your anguish as I’ve been there many times and can empathise with you in that vulnerable in this situation. Its your smear and you are in control at any time, we can start and stop.

2 Women lose their lives to the disease everyday

9 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer everyday

75% of cervical cancers can be prevented by cervical screening

Statistics from Jos Trust

For the first time in 20 years smear uptake is at an all-time low. Screening saves around 5000 lives in the UK each year. Cervical screening if now changing and if you receive a satisfactory result you won’t be tested for 5 years. Things are changing the way the smear is processed. As we are now checking for HPV virus- Human papillomavirus. It’s a very common virus transmitted through sexual contact, and high risk types of HPV are linked to the development of abnormal cells which can cause cervical cancer. It has been proven that testing for HPV now it is an improved way of identifying women at risk of cervical cancer other than the original (smear test). For you ladies it’s the same test. Just means in the labs they are checking for different cells.

Let’s raise awareness ladies and encourage others to book their smear test today.

New York- our experience

Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve always had a desire to visit New York… so when Sean gifted me a trip to the big apple child free may I add, for my 30th I couldn’t believe it, I cried! Mind you I did drop enough hints running up to my 30th. I loved planning our trip, reading reviews and asking people the best way to get around, places to visit and recommended sights to see. This would be the longest period we have left the kids at home for.

Since having a 3rd child we’ve found the most challenging thing is finding someone to babysit all 3 at the same time, as it can be quite a handful. We came up with a plan, the girls would stay at my mums and Malachy to Seans mums for two nights then they would plan to swap over the weekend. I found it most stressful packing clothes for them, making sure everyone had everything they needed for school and after school activities. I found myself writing endless lists for grannys about what’s on and where. I was trying not to think too much on how I felt about leaving them for almost a week.

The journey

We flew from Aberdeen to Heathrow, Heathrow to JFK. I just remember my bum hitting the seat on the plane and feeling a sense of relief. I couldn’t believe how relaxing the journey became, no stress, no running to the toilet 29 times a flight, no packet of wipes, no crying and no one spilling juice all down me. Just a relaxing flight with hubby by my side drinking wine with our meal and watching movies, and of course a nap. I brought all my nursing journals I had stocked up at home as I don’t often get the chance to read them. I also bought a book for the first time in years. Total bliss… quite the opposite to traveling with kids.

The itinerary

We arrived about 5pm New York time so I thought best to make the most of our time by jumping right into the sightseeing. The hotel was relatively central and just a five minute walk to the Rockefeller’s centre. It was a beautiful hotel, stunning rooms and spacious. We quickly dumped the bags and headed out to explore.


Everything I had hoped for…

Oh it was cold!! Glad we packed the thermals!! My first impressions of New York were everything I thought it would be, buzzing, cold and Christmasy. We headed for the Rockefeller centre for our sightseeing excursion, Top of the Rock. I booked all my tickets through Viator. They were flexi tickets and que jumping. When we arrived, I couldn’t quite consider the length of ques that lay ahead! At the top the views were breath taking and beautiful, made all the queuing worth while. We decided afterwards to head to Times Square before heading back to the hotel for some sleep, considering it was about 4am for us.


Day 2

The temperature outside all of a sudden crept up to 10c. It was great didn’t need the thermals. Just outside our hotel we bumped into a sales person for the hop on hop of bus, I love these busses they are so informative and drives you by all the sights. We grabbed a bacon roll from a small cafe (something not possible with kids, eating on the go) and jumped onto the bus picked up our ear phones at the door and off we went. Taking in all the landmarks along the way. We jumped off at the Empire State Building. This was a really good experience and enjoyed it more than the Rockefeller. Finding out how it was built on the way to the top was really thrilling, the view from the top was vast and could see for miles in the day light.



Next stop Ground zero

Along the journey we jumped on and off the bus to have a wander about and take photos. You could walk for miles just taking it all in. I couldn’t believe the size of the space where the twin towers stood… so sad and yet so real. I kept trying to imagine, what it would of been like on that day. The small church that stood unharmed was right next to the site. This was where the fire fighters rested and slept while searching for survivors. The memorial museum; again, we queued for ages with our que jumping tickets. Inside this huge museum filled with people’s belongings and letters. Information boards, photos and flash back news coverage it was a moving experience to say the least. To end the day we walked over Brooklyn Bridge and again took more selfies. Seems to be what all the tourists were doing.


Day 3-

By this point I was itching to do some shopping but going by the weather we were best to do more sights and visit the shops when the rain was forecast the next day.
Sunday morning we headed for church, this is something we do at home every Sunday. I love Hillsong music so I was really excited about going to church that morning. A Hillsong church, was located in broadway inside a theatre. One thing I noticed about all attractions was the scale of security you go through before you get in, bag searches and scanners. No exceptions for church.
It really was an amazing atmosphere. Hundreds if not thousands of people filled the building praising God. Such a huge church they had two services in the morning and two at night. It was great to see a church of that size still focusing on aspects like life groups, they are doing great work in the under privileged communities.

Next stop Central Park


It was such a treat just the two of us floating about New York, without kids. Grabbing lunch on the go, can you imagine what that would be like with 3 kids. It was engaging for Sean and I to talk about things we don’t get a chance to talk about in normal day to day life. I think its really important as a couple to set aside time for each other without the kids. By this point naturally I was missing the kids, I tried not to think about it too much. The weather was on our side as we strolled through Central Park without a care in the world. I loved coming across famous land marks in the park I’ve seen in films. You can see why its so popular with locals, the quietness feels miles away from the hussle and bustle of the busy city life.
That evening I decided to treat my husband to a nice meal. Pre booking to ensure we got a table. We dined in The View- revolving restaurant in Times Square. Stunning romantic meal for two. Peace and quiet to eat our meal without sharing it or someone sitting on our knees. A delightful ending to a wonderful day exploring.


Day 4 -Monday last full day

We still hadn’t used a boat trip that was valid with our hop on hop off bus ticket. Offering a close up view of the most famous lady in New York. The weather was dry we decided to go for it as hubby is such a keen seaman, me not so keen. A really informative trip out to the Statue of Liberty and back again was a highlight of my break. It was thrilling to see her close up in real life, and of course the obligatory selfie…or two. I came off that boat swaying all day. Vertigo was about to hit home again.


Next stop Macy’s

By this point I was very excited to get stuck into some shopping, as everyone raves about it. However, when we arrived in Macys it was so hot in the shops we was all of a sudden so tired from all the adventures. With Black Friday just past I felt as I raked through the clothes searching for sizes for the kids that all the best bargains had perhaps been snapped up. The 20000 steps a day/jet lag was beginning to take its toll on us. We did stop over at the Christmas department offering 65% off! Where I filled my basket with Christmas baubles, hoping they would survive the journey home.

Time for some last minute buys


We had now visited everything on our to do list. Our last morning in New York we decided to head for a sit in breakfast. It was delicious in a cosy cafe just beside our hotel. I sipped coffee and people watched enjoying the last few hours of our holiday in New York. After a FaceTime with the kids we headed off to Grand Central Station, and a stop at Bath and Body works store. Where I decided to start buying loads of 3 wick candles, not thinking about the weight of our cases, as soon as I had them into our basket Sean became the head of reason and started to calculate the weight of each one. Do we really need 6 large candles? He said. Good that he did stop me buying all those candles as shortly after we was standing at the check in desk awaiting the weights of our cases, surrounded by people emptying and rearranging theirs. img_5753

Our trip was something we couldn’t have done with the kids. It would have not been possible or enjoyable to do many of those things. We made the best of it, stopping in Irish pubs for lunch and a glass of wine, nipping in and out of quirky shops and simply enjoying all the things we couldn’t do if the brood was with us. New York was amazing and spectacular. Would I go back? yes of course! With the kids? Probably not. Best to do those types of trips solo.

Until our next child free break, beach break maybe next time…

man and woman holding hands walking on seashore during sunrise

Photo by Ibrahim Asad on