VIP – One For The Girls

I try to keep my blog on focus – my hip and horses.  Today I’m going to talk about cervical screening.  I’ll try not to go into too much detail, I’m not going to be gross but this is something I feel passionate about and if I can make just ONE person listen to me on this subject, it will have been worth writing.

First, a fact: cervical screening (or smear testing if that’s what you want to call it) is offered FREE on the NHS to 25-49 year olds every 3 years (and less frequently for older women).  Not only that but follow ups and treatment are also free, should you need it.

In 2009, school girls in the UK up to the age of 18 were offered the HPV vaccine to protect against cervical cancer.  I was in the right age bracket and I had the series of jabs.  In the same year, the very sad passing of Jade Goody was well publicised in the media and as a result of this, smear test attendance nationally went up.  When you are 18, 25 seems a long way away and having had the vaccine, I never thought I would have an issue.

Last year I turned 25, I had my letter, I rang the GP, I booked a convenient evening appointment which wouldn’t affect work and I went for my cervical screening.  Having spoken to a few people about it beforehand I was expecting it to be a traumatic experience.  I can honestly say it was fine – yes, mild discomfort for a tiny amount of time but really fine.  I was pretty sure that that would be the end of that for another three years.

A letter in the post a few weeks later told me I had to have a colposcopy to further investigate my cervical cells – this time at the hospital.  I won’t lie, I was completely freaked out and pretty nervous about the whole thing.  My friend took me so that I had some pre and post appointment moral support but the whole experience was nothing like what my brain had built it up to be.  If you think of American TV shows that feature gyno visits, they are pretty bang on (on your back, legs in ‘stirrups’!)  I had a specialist nurse doing the procedure, a further nurse helping her and then another one stood by my head chatting to me and making sure I was ok.  Again, slight discomfort, took no time at all, minimal after effects.  And again I was sure that would be the end of that.

The letter in the post diagnosed CIN 1 abnormal cells which means unlikely/mild risk of developing cervical cancer.  No further treatment was needed, it said the abnormalities should go away by themselves but I would be invited back for a cervical screening in a year rather than three, just to make sure.

This year, aged 26, I got another letter.  It was just as easy to book my cervical screening appointment, it was just as convenient time wise and it was the most insignificant doctors appointment I have ever had.  I’m pretty sure when the nurse was done I said ‘was that it?’  Obviously a colposcopy is a bit more of a big deal than a basic smear and I think I had forgotten how quick and simple it was.  I was fairly sure that the abnormalities from last year would be gone and that I wouldn’t have any come back this year.

The letter inviting me for another colposcopy came three weeks before my hip replacement date.  Cue major panic.  Judging by normal appointment wait times, I wouldn’t be able to have it before my operation.  A quick phone call later, the team at Cheltenham General booked me in for an emergency appointment in a weeks time, before their clinic actually opened.  That’s right, they essentially made an exception for me in order to get it sorted – if that doesn’t show how important this stuff is, I don’t know what does!

This time I wasn’t worried, I went on my own and went straight to work afterwards.  I had the same team for my second colposcopy, it was quick, simple and fine.  The longest part of the appointment was sharing my concern with the specialist that I was in the same position a second time in the space of a year.  She said that the likelihood was that stress had stopped my body from kicking the issue and that’s why I was still in that position.  When I look at the year, a full time teaching job then moving jobs, houses and yards, getting put on the list for a hip replacement and moving jobs, houses and yards again is probably enough to consider the year stressful!  It has certainly made me think about my health when considering my future ventures.  The specialist said that if my cells were mildly abnormal this time they would be left for another year and if they were still there then, they would be removed.

In the early stages of hip replacement recovery, I got another letter.  This time the letter in the post diagnosed CIN 2 which means moderately abnormal cells.  Not only had the risk not disappeared but it had increased.  The letter told me I needed to have the cells removed and gave me an appointment date for mid July – less than a month after my hip surgery.  It was quite clear that getting these cells removed was a sooner the better kind of situation.  I checked with both my physio and my consultant (poor guy, he wants to know about my hip not my cervix!) about the logistics of getting in a position to have the procedure (American TV show style) which wasn’t deemed to be a problem.  Unfortunately, I would still be on blood thinners in mid July so my appointment was pushed back two weeks.

Today I had the abnormal cells removed.  I had the same team as I had for my colposcopys, the format of the appointment was the same and the only difference was that instead of taking biopsys of my cells, they were being removed.  I had Loop Diathermy (LLETZ) treatment which involves having a local anaesthetic in the relevant area (which I did NOT feel) and then having the cells removed using a thin wire loop which is heated with an electric current.  Sounds not particularly nice but again, mild discomfort was the extent of what I felt.  The worst part of the appointment was being told I probably shouldn’t go to work for a few days and that I might have bleeding for quite a few weeks.  Some studies say that having abnormal cells removed can lead to a slight increase in having a premature baby and others say that can be the case if you have ever had any pre-cancerous changes in the cervix.  I can’t really comment on the after affects of the treatment as I only had it today apart from feeling a bit lightheaded directly afterwards and the expected tummy soreness etc.  I can’t predict whether this will be the end of my dealings with the lovely ladies at the colposcopy clinic in Cheltenham, fingers crossed for my results letter in five weeks time and my next screening in six months!

Why have I written a thousand words about the adventures of my poor cervix I hear you cry!  Simply because the ‘Jade Goody effect’ is long gone.  So many people, friends, mums of friends and obviously many many strangers, don’t go to cervical screening appointments when they are invited.  People even ring the hospital clinic to refuse treatment of their abnormal cells!  Here is my plea.

If/when you are invited, go.

  • A few moments of awkwardness/discomfort/bleeding is nothing compared to what you would have to go through if you developed cervical cancer.
  • If you are old enough to legally let a male (or female) near your private parts, you are old enough to let a nurse!
  • The horror stories aren’t all true, the equipment used these days has improved significantly since screening was introduced.
  • You will generally be well informed about what to expect and can therefore mentally prepare yourself. With each letter and appointment I have had leaflets about what to expect.
  • The appointments are quick and easy, the NHS want you to attend so they make it as easy for you as they can.
  • Set a good example for your friends/Mum/sister/daughter. You may never have an issue but you might be saving their life by getting them to go.
  • Not all cancers can be predicted or tested for in this way. If you can do something to reduce the risk of getting cancer, why wouldn’t you?

If anyone has any questions about anything I have written or actually wants to know the gory details so that they know what to expect, contact me .  Like I said, if I can help one person, writing this has been worth it.

Finally, whether you are pre smear or having further investigations, don’t google it.

www.cancerscreening.nhs.uk/cervical

www.jostrust.org.uk

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Final Countdown!

I have very few words tonight. I actually feel physically sick.. and not because of tonight’s ‘last supper’!

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I have to be at hospital tomorrow by seven in the morning so tonight I am cramming in some last minute packing and charging (toothbrush, Kindle, iPod and anything else that I think I might need).  In true style, the washing machine is rapidly doing a last wash of favourite things and the rest of my evening is going to consist of cleaning my shoes (yard dust isn’t welcome in hospital) in front of the TV!

Typically when I went to visit Pea this evening for a quick hello I found her maskless – I’m not sure trekking round a field trying to find a fly mask is quite what the doctor ordered but it will be the last time I’ll do it for a while!

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Thank you to everyone who has been sending me good vibes for tomorrow, I have had some lovely cards and messages, the support has been amazing.  See you on the other side!

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My Last Week Of Pony Freedom

In my last post (https://younghipandhorsey.com/2018/06/11/positive-thoughts/) I said that I has plans for making the most of my last ‘normal’ week with Pea.  It didn’t quite go to plan!  I really wanted to put all of our progress into practise at a dressage competition so I booked ourselves up for a Prelim test at Rectory Farm.  I have always been lucky with Pea, she is generally in good health with the exception of her weight issues.  In true typical horse style though, on Tuesday, the day of the dressage competition, this is what I found at the yard..

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I’m not going to lie, I was immensely disappointed.  I really wanted to be able to say that we had gone out and done something before all my time off started.  I am fully aware that horses can carry on with only one eye but if you had a swollen, itchy eye, would you want to go in a trailer to a place where you had never been before and do a dressage test?  I wouldn’t.  As much as I am becoming more confident and ambitious, my pony’s welfare comes first.

The second grand plan for the week was to have a reunion hack with my old (not old at all) hacking buddy, Rachel.  A couple of years ago we were regular hacking buddies, we used to go out for slow and steady hacks in the evening when noone else was around and gossip about our lives whilst enjoying pony time in the sunshine!  I’m sure she won’t mind me saying that she wasn’t the most confident rider either so it worked well for us to ride together.  Exams and life got in the way for her and she stopped leasing.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy hacking with lots of different people but when I have been working until late and ride out in the evening when noone else is around, I miss the casual pace of our rides.  It was a long time coming but this Thursday we managed a reunion ride!

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I decided that Thursday’s hack would be my last ride before the operation.  I feel like I need to be well rested by Tuesday, I can’t risk hurting myself at this late stage and actually, I have aways been a firm believer that there is more to being involved with horses than riding.  I like nothing better than just being with Pea and the other horses at Bourton Vale.  I’m not going to be able to sit in the field and just enjoy the view for a while so I have been making the most of it.  Doesn’t she look fantastic in her new fly mask?

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In other news, Whiskey, the horse who built my confidence from absolutely nothing to something I could work with (https://younghipandhorsey.com/2018/05/13/riding-how-it-all-started/)  has returned to the yard after being away as a companion.  Just like Pea, she started life as a gypsy pony and seeing them together in the field makes me think of how far they have come and how far I have come!  And if Whiskey can cope with having had burns to her chest (from long before we had her) and losing an eye (having had a tumour in it), a little hip replacement should be no problem for me!

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The next couple of months is going to be a very different ball game when it comes to me having ‘pony time’.  Fingers crossed I can work around the hip precautions and the crutches!

 

Positive Thoughts!

I have just got back from my ‘meet the surgeon’ appointment and I am feeling SO much better already!  This is the appointment I have been waiting for and I was able to ask all the questions that have been eating away at me for a while.

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‘Can you still get me the length?’

Back when it was decided it was time for a hip replacement, my surgeon said that he could get the 1.5cm back that I am missing from the length of my left leg. I wanted to check that this was the case and he reassured me that he thinks he can. Although there might be some discrepancy, it should be better than it is now!

‘What anaesthetic will be used?’

I have been feeling more than a bit wobbly about the concept of having just a spinal – I really don’t want to be aware of what is going on at all! My surgeon reassured me that I will be able to be asleep (sedated) as well.

‘When can I ride again?’

Obviously this is a crucial one. I like to know where I stand, I like time frames and goals. I’ve been saving this question for the surgeon because he is the expert and expert opinion is what I need. He said six to eight weeks! As long as I keep my hip precautions.. https://younghipandhorsey.com/2018/06/05/self-preservation-and-perspective/

‘When can I drive?’

At the hip education group I was told six weeks but he said as long as I can a. Get in the car, b. Do an emergency stop and c. Am off the hardcore drugs, I can drive when I want!

‘When can I swim?’

Swimming used to be a massive part of mundane life before it got kicked down the list by riding. I know it will be fantastic rehab for me though, I have vague memories of walking in the swimming pool when I was still wheelchair and crutch bound as a child. Providing my wound heels up nicely, I should be swimming pool safe by three weeks.

‘Can I have my hip afterwards?’

This was a largely boyfriend planned question – it would be cool to have my hip to show alongside the bit of metal I had in my leg as a child. Alas, they can’t give it to me. I would have to be preserved to stop it from rotting and the preservative is poisonous so not so lucky on that one.. can’t even give it to the yard dogs to gnaw on! He did say he would take some pictures for me though.

Overall it was a very encouraging meeting. My surgeon was very positive that this will make massive improvements for me and reassured me that the recovery shouldn’t be as bad as I think it will be! He mentioned riding before I did, I didn’t just feel like a number on a list, I felt like he really cared about doing the right thing for me. Big thanks also go to the best Yard Owner anyone could have for coming with me and debriefing over McDonalds!

This time next week I will be having an early night to prepare for hospital admission in the morning.. I am almost excited! As for this week, I have some plans for Pea and I to make the most of our last week of ‘normal’.. watch this space!

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Self Preservation And Perspective

Today I went for my hip education appointment at Southmead.  Myself and eleven other people (all, I would say, at least thirty years older than me) listened to the advice of a nurse and occupational therapists about what we need to do to prepare for our operations and what precautions we will have to follow afterwards.  Although I have read the booklet, looked at the pictures and endured my OH’s demonstrations of what HE has learnt from the booklet, it hadn’t quite hit home how tricky everyday activities are if you stick to the precautions.  Which I am going to do.  A good recovery is going to be absolutely crucial to getting the best I can out of this hip for as long as I possibly can.  Usually I live life at speed, I always have more to do than I can fit into my days.  It sounds like by the time I have got out of bed, managed to shower and dress myself it will be time to go back to bed!  Speaking of getting dressed, I now have a long shoe horn, a special sock ‘putter onner’ and what is essentially a litter picker – I think I’ve got a lot of practising to do in the next two weeks!

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After the talks and demonstrations we each had a short meeting with an OT to go through measurements of furniture and other information relating to home set ups.  We established that

  • My bed is too low so I am going to be provided with risers for it.
  • We are going to have to swap sides of the bed – just one of the many habits I will have to change and one that my boyfriend is certainly not going to like!
  • The sofa just isn’t going to work as my recover chair – I’m on the look out for an ‘old people’s home’ style armchair with a seat height of 47cm!
  • The toilets are too low (no surprise there) so I am going to be sent toilet risers
  • I shouldn’t drive for six weeks

Very crucially though – I am lucky.  I have a shower cubicle (people with showers over the bath aren’t allowed to use them for three months).  I also have a boyfriend who will feed me and help me in any way I need, I have parents who are coming to stay in the area for six weeks and I have friends who will make sure my pony is ok amongst other things!  Compared to the woman who has had two months notice that she needs a hip op, has a daughter with leukaemia and a three year old grand child who she looks after (and only a shower over a bath) I am VERY lucky and that hasn’t escaped me.

However lucky I feel, it hasn’t been a great week.  I have had one of those fluey colds, the kind I have had a million times over but rather than my usual ‘crack on’ attitude.  I’ve gone into self preservation mode.  I need to get over this cold quick.  I haven’t had time off work but I have rested, taken pills, wrapped up warm and not physically exerted myself which means next to no riding.  Pea has pretty much become a field pony and it shows.  She has got a major grass baby belly!  Again, I am lucky though, she loves being a wild herd pony.  Thank goodness I don’t have a sensitive stabled beast that needs riding all the time!  My leg pain has been worse because I’ve been all achy and rubbish.. not how I wanted to spend one of my last weeks.  I feel like I might actually be learning how to look after myself though, rather than just overdoing it like usual.  A lesson learnt just in time!

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In other news, even my guinea pigs are prepping for the changes ahead – they’ve got a new feeder that refills for a few days – one small thing to worry about less often!

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Making Preparations

It is now June which means I can no longer say that my operation is next month.. it is actually this month!  No more months to wait!  I still have plenty of unanswered questions about what is to come, even after reading the extensive booklet I was given at my pre op (https://younghipandhorsey.com/2018/05/17/practically-passable-in-every-way/), but proper preparations have started.

Firstly, my lovely boyfriend has started shifting the furniture so that it is more ‘crutch friendly’.  When we moved in together we amalgamated most of our furniture but the house isn’t really big enough to cope.  Until this week you had to be pretty slim to get past the furniture to the bedroom and the shower room but that clearly wasn’t going to work for me post op.  Now the spare room can only be accessed if you are a mouse but the important rooms are far more accessible.  We used to have an equal, foot wide passage either side of our bed but the bed is now shifted all the way to one side so he has been practising climbing whilst I have been enjoying the luxury of space!

After the conversations at my pre op about not being able to shower at least for the first day after my operation, hygiene and cleanliness have been at the forefront of my ‘first world problem’ panics.  I took a trip to Boots to stock up on the things I think I’m going to want whilst I’m in hospital to help me to try to feel more normal.  It felt a little funny buying one of those travel bags of empty bottles to fill for hospital rather than for a holiday.  I also got a free gift of travel sized Liz Earle products when I bought my usual products from them – again, perfect for hospital!  Two and a half weeks to go and my wash bag is packed – not bad considering these days I tend to take one day at a time.

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I also bought a few new, loose dresses.  I know that there are tips and tricks as to how to get trousers on – men must do it!  I can’t help thinking that in the early stages it might just be easier to wear dresses.  As for the funny gadgets to help you put your socks on (that I have seen in my booklet) I feel like if I don’t wear socks for the rest of June and July, it is not the end of the world!

Physically, I’m doing my best effort at my physio exercises and trying to keep my muscles going whilst not knackering myself out completely.  I am having varied success with that as I still have nights where the pain completely takes over and I realise I have  overdone it in one way or another.  It is hard to break the habit of a lifetime!  I have started to do a bit of yoga (strictly in house using videos to help me) and of course I am still riding.  Not for long, not far and since the pleasure ride (https://younghipandhorsey.com/2018/05/20/pleasure-and-pain/) barely out of a walk!  Sometimes I feel like I can’t actually move my leg while I’m riding (not good if you need to put a bit of leg on when your pony sees a monster in the bushes!)  Most nights I’m happy just to spend some time with Pea.  Apart from the walking required to get to her, that is relatively painless!

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At this stage I’m not sure what other preparations I need to make!  If anyone has any ideas I would love to hear them.

 

Pleasure And Pain

So the other day I said I was amping it up with the riding before I have to have a while out of the saddle post op. Today I took park in a BHS pleasure ride. I haven’t been on a fun ride since December 2016 because of what the hours in the saddle does to me.  The pleasure ride isn’t about careering around the countryside and jumping though, it was meant to essentially be a long, chilled country hack – sounded perfect!

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My family have always used the simile of slices of cake to work out distances on journeys. If today’s ride was split into slices, the first quarter of the cake was just normal riding pain and beautiful scenery. During the second quarter my left leg and foot were pretty much numb. We were just thinking that we must be in the last stages when one of the officials uttered the words

‘You’ve done the short part, now you’ve got the long part to do!’

Bearing it in mind my riding party consisted of a tiny child being led on foot and two ladies with a previous broken knee and sciatica issues respectively, this wasn’t great news!

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I genuinely felt sick from the pain during the second half and wasn’t entirely sure if I could move, let alone get my bum out of the saddle! When I got off I almost cried – not sure if it was because my leg had started trembling uncontrollably or because I was so full of pride for our achievement!  I feel like perhaps I didn’t need to do what is probably a week of riding squeezed into one day but I am so glad I did.  Who knows when our next fun ride will be or what I will be like then!

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At the end of the day though, I will take pain over what another rider on today’s ride experienced.  On our way round we had to pass the lifeless body of a horse who had died on its way round (presumably of a heart attack).  I cannot even comprehend the immense mental pain that rider will have gone through today.  It was so unbelievably sad.  Dodgy hip or no dodgy hip, I was able to go and see my pony in the field this evening – I feel very lucky I can do that.  it was a sobering reminder that life is short and you should count your blessings everyday.

 

Practically Passable In Every Way

I didn’t know what to expect for my pre op. What I got was lovely chats with the healthcare assistant and nurse, swabs, blood tests and lots and lots of questions! Although obviously I haven’t yet had the results to the tests but what made me leave happy was how much of an easy patient they consider me to be in terms of my general health – apparently I pass all of those tests! I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I’m not overweight, I am relatively fit, I eat (most of the time) and I’m all in for whatever they tell me to do.  The panic about how my life is going to majorly change during my recovery is still very much there but I know I am very lucky to be generally fit and well.

The other thing I walked away with was a serious amount of bedtime reading! I’m hoping that most of my pending questions will be answered in the blow by blow guide to hip replacement booklet and anything else will have to wait for the THR forum I am awaiting an invite for or my ‘meet the surgical team’ appointment on the 11th June.

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As for riding, I’ve decided that since this hip is nearing its expiry date, it is time to use it up!  Time to see how much we can fit into the next month. Good for my mental health and good for Pea’s waistline. I think she’s looking rather fabulous at the moment don’t you?

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Pre ‘Pre Op’ Panic

Tomorrow I have my pre op appointment for my hip replacement.  It is all starting to become a bit too real now that my op is only just over a month away.  The other evening my mum asked me if I had a dressing gown and slippers ready for my hospital stay and I spiralled into absolute panic.  I am a ‘doer’.  I can’t even hack a Sunday morning lie in!  The idea of having to be in a dressing gown and slippers (I’m definitely a onesie and barefoot kind of girl)  in the day, in hospital was somehow more panic inducing to me than the idea of my bone being cut out and removed.  Strange.

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The other thing that really hit home was filling in the questionnaire that I have to take with me tomorrow.  Now I am fully aware that these are standard for anyone having this surgery (and therefore people way out of my age bracket) however it is full of not so subtle hints that my independence is going to be majorly compromised, at least for the short term.  It did make me chuckle though, for example

‘At present are you able to manage independently with ironing?’

Considering I haven’t ironed more than the odd shirt since I was sixteen, I’m not too worried about this one!

‘Do you have a commode?’

At twenty six, the last thing I would have thought of when filling my house with furniture would be a commode!  I can’t think of anything more humiliating for me..  I would rather crawl on my hands and knees to the toilet (ironically though I am well aware that I will definitely not be able to crawl on my hands and knees!)

Measure the chair.’

This one made me and my OH laugh.  We have a number of chairs in the house, a desk chair, dining chairs and a sofa but the idea of having a particular personal chair just makes me thing of old people in retirement homes!

‘Is the chair a recliner?’

This caused another laugh.  Our sofa is in theory a recliner, however the mechanism is reminiscent of a Wallis and Gromit Ejector Bed and I am sure you are more likely to hurt yourself with the violent ping of the reclining action than receive any therapy from it!

As well as panicking about what I’m going to wear in hospital (sounds pathetic I know) and my lack of disabled friendly housing modifications, my main concern is for the change in my pony time post op.  The field that Pea lives in is pretty rutted following the awful winter of wetness and the rapid solidifying of the mud in recent weeks.  She has a history of being very elusive to catch, I haven’t really had problems for years but I am worried that if I can’t safely get into the field, I will be relying on her letting someone else catch her.  The idea of not being able to go and even spend some time in the field in the evening is not a good one.

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On the plus side I have had another dressage lesson this week.  I am strictly one track mind when it comes to my riding pre op – I will keep cracking on as though nothing is happening.  Fingers crossed I can get out to a competition before the dreaded op date!

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