On Friday morning, I popped over to check out the goings on of fellow Aussie, The Vegemite Wife. Her caustic wit and antipodean observations of life here in the UK often have me nodding in agreement or chortling quietly on the bus like a mad woman and even though we've never met (she lives somewhere 'up north'), I feel a certain kinship.
Her post last Friday gave a nod to an important anniversary: one year since she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. It's not for me to share the details of this with you and I would suggest you read her update one year on to understand the context of her story. Needless to say, she's not one for wallowing in the 'tragedy' of it all and like any self-respecting Aussie, simply gets on with it. But her main point is this - she went without a Pap Smear for 15 years and when she finally 'got around to it', things were far more advanced than they would have otherwise been.
I have a wonderful friend that I have known my whole life. Literally. We are the same age - actually she's a day older - and from the neighbouring bed in the maternity ward, her Mum (of 3 children) was responsible for keeping my 'first-time' Mum just a little bit sane. Both the Mums and daughters share a special bond that defies our lack of proximity. And a few years back, this life-long friend of mine learned that she had cervical cancer.
I don't know what shocked me more - her diagnosis or the fact that this was a woman my age, an aware and pragmatic person who never seemed (to me anyway) to shirk life's personal responsibilities. The treatment she underwent was incredibly aggressive and while successful, gave her a new perspective on what she wanted and she chose to move to India as a more conducive environment for both her physical and spiritual recovery. (She has blogged about her experience and recovery here.)
It had been just 4 years between Pap Smears for Nathalie.
I have no doubt there are many other stories like this - it seems that cancer touches us all in some way, whether directly or by association. My purpose in writing about this today is in the hope that these two women - who face(d) this and have the courage to share their stories - will encourage some heads out of the sand and a flurry of female footsteps treading paths to local clinics for regular Smear tests.
It's summed up perfectly by my fellow Aussie up north...
Don’t be a twat like me and leave it .. to have a Pap smear. Do it now.
I couldn't have said it better myself.