A wobbly few weeks

Some of you may be wondering, where the hell has Avril got to? She has been very quiet online and the blog has not been updated recently? I wish the reason for this brief absence was due to me excelling in energy and packing in adventure into every minute and hour of the day but unfortunately that is not the case. Some day hopefully it will be a reality for me but right now I have to look after my physical and mental health. Sometimes that means taking a step back from the online world. It is a world that just does not stop and can become overwhelming at times.

I am still here albeit looking a bit rough around the edges

So as the title suggests I have had quite a few wobbles over the past number of weeks. I spent the majority of Monday in the hospital whilst a team of dermatologists examined my skin rashes and took some biopsies. It was a strange experience standing there in a blue coloured disposable dress whilst every inch of my skin had multiple eyes cast upon it. I got a complete skin assessment done or as I like to call it a skin m.o.t. At least all of my moles look ok which is a relief in itself. The multiple sets of eyes seem to think the rashes are severe psoriasis but are not too sure so are undertaking a battery of tests. Seemingly I am deemed an interesting case as I have Lyme disease and am intriguing the medical professionals as to what exactly has caused such an immune response. So right now there are little pieces of me being cultured and stained to see exactly what is going on. It was strange to be on the other side of things for once as I am so used to receiving multiple skin biopsies in the lab for processing and examination. At least now I can say I am fully aware of the entire cycle a skin biopsy has to go through.

My skin rashes

You know life being well life and its affinity for throwing curveballs at you during challenging times, well that’s pretty much what my life is like at present. I recently discovered a lump in my breast, the first time I have ever noticed something slightly odd with regards the consistency of my breast tissue. Don’t worry I got it checked out ASAP by my GP and dermatologist who both seem to think it’s a cyst but I am being referred to the breast clinic as a precautionary measure. I have to admit I was very impressed with the way my GP dealt with the matter. I had called the GP’s office as soon as it opened which just happened to be the same day as storm Ophelia hit and I got directly through to my doctor. She has been my family doctor for years so knows me very well. She was closing the clinic early but since I lived near by she urged me to pop down as soon as I could which I happily obliged. She made me feel so calm and reassured. Part of me felt anxious about it and the other a bit guilty as I did not want to make a fuss out of nothing but I was treated with great dignity and respect. I know I am at the age where breast cancer can really start to rear its head and the importance of regularly checking my breasts and remaining vigilant with regards any changes to the external breast or breast tissue. I just did not anticipate to actually discover a lump especially with everything going on at the minute but such is life.

Breast cancer leaflet

Breast cancer leaflet

I am not going to lie, having gone through what I have over the past number of weeks has really made me more aware of the importance in being proactive when it comes to your own health. I know I am aware (to a certain degree) of my own physical and mental health especially with regards Lyme disease and the many complexities that brings but there are also other risk factors we all need to be aware of. Lyme disease although being extremely serious and debilitating is not going to kill me instantly whereas the likes of cancer could. Cancer is a serious disease that can be cured and treated effectively once caught early so early detection is crucial. Whilst deciding to be more proactive and thus trying to limit my chances of developing any other illness, I booked myself in to get a cervical smear test done.

Cervical cancer facts

I am ashamed to admit this but I have not had a smear test done since 2010 which is absolutely ridiculous I know. I am appalled at myself for letting it go so long. A cervical smear aka PAP smear is a free test available to all women aged between 25 and 60. It is undertaken by either your GP or a health care professional and is an incredibly quick and painless procedure. I am not going to lie it does feel a little uncomfortable (mainly cold) but nothing a few deep breaths can’t fix. This test is vital in order to properly examine and assess the cells in your cervix. Unfortunately cervical cancer is a silent killer and does not display any symptoms until it is too late. The only way to accurately monitor cellular changes within the cervix is to undergo regular smear tests.

Breast cancer and cervical cancer screening in Ireland

So today as I get back into my pj’s and climb into bed (yes I am exhausted) after undergoing my cervical smear test, I would like to leave you all with two little nuggets of advice. Firstly, I would like to encourage you all, both male and female to regularly check your bodies for any signs of abnormality and never feel ashamed in asking a medical professional for advice. It is your body and your health is at stake. I don’t know of any Doctor etc who would accuse anyone of being overly dramatic or time-wasting when it comes to matters with their own health. If you are unfortunate enough to come across someone like this, turn around, walk out the door and ask to see another doctor. You are entitled to a duty of care and a second opinion.

Secondly, this refers to both men and women, please familiarise yourself with the correct method of checking your breasts for lumps or any signs of abnormality. Yes, even you men, as breast cancer does not discriminate between sexes. You would not believe the amount of male breast biopsies I have seen in the lab. Although it is generally a smaller percentage than the amount of female breast biopsies received in the lab, it is still a significant number. I also strongly encourage all you women out there to book yourselves in for a cervical smear test. It literally takes the same amount of time as making yourself a cup of tea. Tell your sisters, girlfriends, mothers, any woman in your life the importance of availing of this truly amazing service. We are truly blessed to have such an initiative running in Ireland. At the end of the day it has proven to save lives.

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