What you need to know:
Vaginal health is incredibly important – after breast cancer, cervical cancer is a silent and quick killer of Kenyan women, because by the time you catch it, it is usually quite late
I don’t know about you, but the beginning of the year for me is the time to think about all of the things that I should have done last year, that I didn’t do, that I now have a chance to recommit to once again. For some people, this is also called their birthday. For others who are more disciplined than myself, they don’t even need a new year. They just do the thing they were supposed to do. Like a grownup.
This is particularly important for me – just because I am getting to those ages where the body starts questioning everything you do. Oh, you want to drink milk and have ice cream? Your stomach refuses. A drink with ice in it? Well now you have a sore throat. Oh, you think it is possible to stay out all night as you throw it back? Not with those knees. And so on, and so forth. For those with uteruses, it’s a known fact that black women are more prone to things like fibroids, the older they get. It’s like your womb is angry at you for not putting a baby in there. Go figure!
In light of this knowledge, I decided to check how my vagina is doing, instead of putting it off yet another year. Vaginal health is incredibly important – after breast cancer, cervical cancer is a silent and quick killer of Kenyan women, because by the time you catch it, it is usually quite late. And catching it early and efficiently requires something that most women avoid: a pap smear. Ideally, you’re supposed to start having pap smears when you start being sexually active, and then if there’s nothing seen for a couple of years you can have a smear every two years. Most people, or at least, the ones I know, don’t follow this schedule.
It isn’t a fun thing to do on a sunny afternoon, that pap smear. It doesn’t feel nice. It isn’t entertaining, it won’t get you drunk, you don’t get a lollipop like at the dentist (ironically) after. There’s no song and dance – just cold, hard metal up your nether regions, and discomfort. You would think that after being able to somehow manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine in a year and a half (granted, there was a head start) they would be able to formulate a way to administer pap smears without having women feel scared of being ripped apart.
I was talking about this accomplishment to friends of mine who have prostates, and so, of course, the conversation turned to their own genital health. Interestingly enough, save one, none of them have gone or are willing to have their prostates squeezed to see if everything is ok down there. Prostate cancer is also one of those ones to be watched out for, especially if it progresses fast. I was baffled – much like I am when my friends say they haven’t gone for a pap smear in over five years. Why wouldn’t you want to know, considering your histories, or education, or natural caution? A swollen prostate can even affect your sex life – it’s the same general neighbourhood with one exit – why wouldn’t you want to protect that?
Their answer was infantile. According to them, women are used to being penetrated, and therefore it is harder for men to accept fingers prodding anywhere, even if it’s for medical reasons.
To this, I sighed, and decided that it was not my duty to convince any grown person to do my bidding. I know what a pap smear feels like, and whether you use tampons regularly, or you get a lot of action, there’s nothing that prepares you for this. Come on, ladies. Don’t be a man about it. Don’t wait until October when everyone is reminding you that it’s breast cancer month and you should get your body checked out. Do it now.