Thursday, 25 January 2018

Your health is your wealth: Getting tested for Cervical Cancer

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month where people highlight issues related to cervical cancer, HPV disease and the importance of early detection. 

I'll try not to ramble too much but I feel as if I want to highlight the issue and my experience with early detection of cervical cancer and how important it is to get your smear test done. Ireland's National Cervical Screening Programme provide free smear tests to women aged 25-60, every 3 years for women aged 25-44, every 5 years for women aged 45-60.

I am not telling this story for sympathy story as I am WELL aware that this is nothing compared to what some women go through. It is just something that happened to me and something I wish I had known more about. 

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When I turned 25 in February 2017, I was due my free smear test. Like most people my age cervical cancer was not something I had worried about or even crossed my mind. I thought 'Let's get the smear test over and done with' and assumed that the results would come back negative just like most of my friends. 

I got two letters to remind me of my smear test, BUT I was working full time most days in Sligo town saving all my money for America and did not have the time nor did I want to make the time to go see my doctor 30 minutes away (foolish I know). 

I marked it in my diary several times to make an appointment in Sligo with a doctor recommended by the Cervical Check website. 

Eventually in July I booked the smear test and went along to my appointment. The doctor whom I had chosen was not the happiest that I was not a regular patient of hers (even though she was one of the first doctors recommended on the list but that is another story for another time). 

Now a smear test is not painful nor it does not take long to perform. My friend had prepped me for  what to expect and had explained that even if I did get abnormal results back from my test, her doctor had reassured her that it was quiet common and most women have a few abnormal cells.  

The doctor proceeded with the test nonetheless and when I mentioned having abnormal tests results, she told me that if they come back abnormal then something is 'seriously wrong'. 

*QUE PANIC STATIONS*

Regardless of the brief panic I reassured myself that everything would come back okay. 

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Fast forward a few weeks later, the smear test was at the back of my mind but with less than a week and a half to go until I was moving to New York (did I mention I moved to New York??) for the year I got a call from the doctor. 

Before I continue here are some facts from Cancer Research UK that are highly informative.  

"If you have an abnormal cervical screening test result, you have changes in the cells covering the neck of your womb (cervix). This is not cancer. But if these abnormal cells are left untreated, there is a risk that some of them could develop into cervical cancer in the future."
    
"Many mild and moderately abnormal cells will go away on their own without treatment. Removing cells that are pre-cancerous can prevent cervical cancer from developing. If left untreated, pre-cancerous cells may progress to cancer cells, but that can take 10 to 15 years."

So back to the story.... 

My mother picked me up from work that day and I got a call in the car from the doctor who told me she received my test results and informed me that I had 'highly abnormal cells present around my cervix'. This meant that I would have to go for a Colposcopy - which is a procedure to closely examine your cervix, vagina and vulva for signs of any cervical disease. 

Now keep in mind I had roughly 11 days until I was leaving the country for a year, flights booked, apartment paid for which I mentioned to the doctor who strongly advised me to get it seen immediately and not to leave it for a year! 

*QUE PANIC STATIONS*

The next few hours I cried a lot, stressed, cried some more. The thought of cancer, let alone cervical cancer had never even entered my mind and the fact that it has claimed so many women's lives made me even more anxious. 

"In Ireland, approximately 300 women in Ireland are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer each year and over 90 women die from the disease. Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of death due to cancer in women aged 25 to 39 years. In 2014, 95 women died from Cervical Cancer (statistics are taken from the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA).

I won't bore you with the smaller details but long story short after ringing the local hospital I found out it would be an 8 week waiting list, time I didn't have as I was moving my whole life to America in 11 days. So along with my parents we paid to go private and I was seen less than 24 hours after I had gotten the results. 

I took the next day off work and had the Colposcopy done in a private clinic. A Colposcopy as I explained above is a more invasive smear test. Before I had it done the specialist told me if there was a large amount of abnormal cells then I would have to have a Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP). 

"LEEP a treatment that prevents cervical cancer. A small electrical wire loop is used to remove abnormal cells from your cervix. LEEP surgery may be performed after abnormal cells are found during a Pap test, colposcopy, or biopsy."

I ended up having this procedure done due to the high percentage of abnormal cells which meant I wasn't allowed to fly for four weeks in-case of bleeding/hemorrhaging that could have happened on the long haul flight to America. 

*CUE MORE TEARS*

The aftermath.....

I would say I have a high pain thresh-hold and I thought the whole procedure, both the Colposcopy and LEEP was pain free and there was no uncomfortable feeling after having it done. However my first period after this procedure was extremely uncomfortable which is normal and you are not allowed to use tampons as the risk of infection is extremely high as well as abstaining from sex for 8 weeks. 

I returned to my own doctor a week and a half later and told she me I had made the right decision to go private and explained what happens from now on.

After the procedure she explained that in the following weeks and even up to a year after the procedure in case of pregnancy there would be a high chance of miscarriage as well as other complications. But once the cervix is fully healed everything should return to normal. 

As of now I have to go for a smear every 6 months for the next 2 years to make sure everything is okay or if any more abnormal cells have returned which scares me but it is something I won't be putting off ever again!! 

I wrote this post even with all the personal and physical bits included because I wish I had known a bit more about what happens and I wasn't even aware of the after math and the other procedures I might have had to go through.  

I wish I had gone for my smear test when I got the letter immediately but you live and you learn and thankfully everything seems to be going okay so far. 

Click here to find about how and when to apply for your next or first smear test: 

Like I said at the start I am aware that this happens many women and I am lucky that I was able to pay to go private but if it makes one person aware about it then job done! 

Look after yourself ladies, your health is your wealth.

X  

  

Friday, 19 January 2018

New York Diaries - 3 months in

HAPPY WEDNESDAY and welcome to my first post of 2018. Failing miserably at documenting everything but rest assured I am busy living. 


It marks more than three months since I fled that Emerald Isle of ours and headed state side for the adventure of a lifetime. And what a three months it has been.

Where to even begin....let's just start with the fact that every day does not start like the movies. Through Snapchat and Instagram I may look like I am living that Glam NYC lifestyle swanning here, there and everywhere. But it couldn't be further from the truth. I am not in an episode of Sex and the city or Friends. 

When you think you have time to yourself outside of any work you have you have to do laundry (I will never take a washer and dryer in my own house for granted every again). The noise, the beeping and the sidewalks full of people 24/7 is something to get used to. 

You think just because you live in the same city as your friends that you will see them often but weeks can go by arranging and cancelling plans because EVERYTHING IN THIS CITY REQUIRES SO MUCH EFFORT.  Thankfully my roommates are the soundest bunch of friends I have so going home to people you like at the end of the night is great - even if we can go three days without seeing each other. Also I am constantly tired and if truth be told I am a little bit meaner - this city is making me tough!



So does this mean I hate it? or want to move back to Ireland? Well not quiet. Thankfully I have not been homesick at all and while I do miss my family, I was lucky enough to be able to buy my mum flights to New York for Christmas (Dad would never in a million years want to come here!!).  

Speaking of Christmas, it was an emotional one thanks to all the Jameson consumed on Christmas Eve. Part of me was sad that I didn’t go home because I LOVE Christmas, but as my wise roommate said, we’ve spent the last 25 years at home celebrating Christmas, one Christmas away won’t kill us – plus it will make next year even more magical at home!



I've been spending my weeks and days running around looking for an internship in Journalism which is proving to be a little bit more difficult than I had imagined. Don't get me wrong I knew it was going to be tough but it is a whole different ball game. 

Needless to say I am enjoying being a tourist in this city. Eating and drinking my way around this city is not a hard task, only hard on the bank account. I pinch myself on days when I am lucky enough to take in this view. 


I walk down streets that I once seen in movies and I am walking to my apartment in Queens and catch a glimpse of the Empire state or Chrysler building peeking over the top of the buildings in the skyline I can't thank my lucky stars enough for being able to experience this city in all its smelly, crazy, weird glory.  

New York is fast paced, it does not slow down for anyone, people are mean and people are nice and all in all I've never felt more at home in a place all on my own - even with 9 million other people squished into the smallest apartments you'll ever find. 


    Photos by: Emma Finnerty

     
    X


Wednesday, 4 October 2017

New York Diaries - I've made it

Hello, from a very sunny New York City! 

Polaroid by @oldchemical 2nd Oct 2017. Brooklyn Bridge. 
I  wanted to do a blog post of my early days here in NYC before I forget some of the things I think are important to remember.

So I arrived off the airplane last Friday the 29th of September - I flew with Norwegian Air and I have to say for a low budget flight it was perfect. The staff were so nice and the food/drink on board was sufficient for what I needed - but with that being said I did also buy loads of snacks before I got on the plane!  

So hoping off the 8 hour flight I jumped on the express bus outside Stewart International Airport that would take us into the city - a long, VERY long two hours later I arrived in Port Authority and was met with the bright lights and beeping noise that is Times Square. Thankfully I had someone who knew what they were doing meet me off the bus so we quickly jumped in a taxi outside Port Authority (there is a taxi rank so it was easy to grab one) and headed off to Queens to my new apartment. The yellow taxi cost only $21 dollars plus a bit more for a tip, but overall it was cheap and dropped me right at my door! 


Fast forward four days later and here I am sitting in my new room that was thankfully furnished when I moved in - has plenty of storage and a nice street few, of well a street but still it's not of a wall so that's a bonus! 

I'm still tired, I've been going to sleep at 9/10 at night because I can't keep my eyes open and then waking at 6/7 but I suppose that is a good sign as I can make more use of my day! 

My biggest worry about moving here was navigating my way around the place - terrified because I didn't have any 3G. On Saturday I braved the subway, bought my weekly ticket (it cost $31 and for a monthly it is $116 but I went with a weekly in-case I lost my monthly one!) 

Before I got on the subway I download two apps that have been SAVING MY ASS and a must for anyone visiting the city!

Maps.me and NYC Subway - both free on the app store and work offline, so you don't need Wifi or 3G. 

Maps.me tracks your location - even on flight mode and shows you were you are at all times! 
NYC subway app is a life saver, if you are at a station and no where your next one is, you just put it in route planner and it tells you exactly how long, how many changes and what line you should be on!



Uber and Lyft are also two must haves in this city - however you do need Internet access but only to request the ride, so once you have it ordered turn it off and you're good to go! 





After working every day this summer to make as much money as I could I am still in holiday mode as I begin my fourth full day here in New York -but choosing to see all the free sights as to not waste my money - there is so many things to do here and I want to see as many of the famous sights as I can before starting work.  So today I did something I have always wanted to do - Top of the Rock.



So that's all I have to update on, currently sitting here trying to find Journalism jobs online which is a bit over whelming but I am powering through. If anyone reading this wants to offer me as a Journalist then please hit ME UP! 

Today on top of the Rockerfeller it really hit home that I am lucky enough to be living in one of the greatest cities in the world. When I wake up in the morning I almost feel guilty for not jumping out of bed and going to explore right away - even now sitting on the couch I feel like I should be out exploring but I have to remind myself I have 13 months to do all that. 

Until next time.......


x










Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Like, Realizing Stuff

Kylie Jenner once uttered the infamous line: "Like Realizing stuff" in January 2016 where she talked about her New Years resolutions in a video on her Youtube Channel.

                                    

"Like, I feel like every year has a new energy and I feel like this year is really about, like, the year of just realizing stuff. And everyone around me, we're all just, like realizing things" - KJ, 2016.  

And her like many other brands have capitalised on this infamous line for branding for suckers like me who occasionally like wearing slogan t-shirts. I bought it with Longitude in mind but I didn't end up wearing it. I bought mine from Missy Empire and got it in a size 14 as I am normally a 12 I thought I will get it a bit more lose fitting. Wellllllll little did I know Missy Empire size 14 is like a Men's XXL.  It is like a dress on me and it is really tucked into my jeans in the pictures below. So if you're thinking of buying t-shirts from them, I would either stick to your own size or even size down!!!! or if you want to wear it as a dress than work away....


Jeans: Primark; Shoes: Van Dupes from Primark; T-Shirt: Missy Empire; Watch: Cluse 
A big shoutout to photographer extraordinaire Rachel Murray for helping me with these photos.
You can go show her some love on her Instagram and Twitter

Hope you liked the post! 

Also I started Vloging so check out my Youtube Channel HERE!  

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

one step forward, two steps back?


Hello there, 

It's been a while since I've sat down and wrote on here. The summer has been flying by in-fact it's over?? This time last year I was in full on panic mode over my Thesis for my Masters and here I am a year on a few months experience as a Journalist under my belt, I went back working in a Hotel (something I swore I would never do...) and in less than four weeks I am packing up my life and moving to New York City (more on that soon....). 

This post is as I have said a million times before my attempt at a fashion-type blog post, once again it's just my comfy/causal/blackclothesoutfit. Shout out to my photographer and bestie Rachel Murray for taking the photos, we had an absolute laugh doing it and she's a gem for helping. 





As I mentioned in the above paragraph I went back to work in a hotel as a waitress after spending 8/9 months working as a journalist for the local paper here in Sligo and it is 8/9 months where I learned so much and will value that experience for years to come. Long story short I needed to make more money quickly as I knew I was heading away in September. It was a hard thing to do because I felt like I was quitting my career and what I had worked so hard on in my Masters the previous year. I was watching and still am, all my follow classmates killing it in the Media world - and rightly so they're all amazing Journalist/broadcasters/PR people. I felt like I was 'giving up' but at the end of the day, money was needed and I keep reminding myself you have to make sacrifices to get to where you want to be. 







Customers in the hotel constantly ask me 'Oh so what are you doing in college?' 'Are you just working here for the summer?' and it does get to me. I always reply, 'Well I am a Journalist, I did my Masters last year, I'm just working here before I go away'. It frustrates me because what if working in a hotel is my job all the time? which is perfectly fine, but there are plenty of people who have dropped out of college and are having to put a pause of their career like myself just to make more money to get by. They're questions make me want to work even harder. 



Jeans: Topshop Joni Jeans, T-shirt: Men's Section Penneys/Primark, Belt/Sunglasses: Penneys/Primark, Denim Jacket: New Look Shoes: Vans Slip Ons, Watch: Cluse

So what all that being said and done. I know I made the right choice because going to New York is something I have wanted to do and at the time stepping out of the Journalism game was something
that I had to do. This time three weeks I'll be preparing to head stateside and hopefully get some valuable experience in the big bad world of Journalism. Exciting but terrifying times ahead. 

But I'll be sure to keep writing just this time with prettier pictures of New York. 

 x