My name is Karen Campbell. I am a forty-four year old lesbian. When I was thirty-eight, I was diagnosed with Stage 3B Cervical Cancer. (To give you an idea of the severity of this, Jade Goody had Stage 2 and she’s now dead.) The reason I had such a progressive stage is fairly simple. I never went for a smear test, until it was almost too late.
Now, I am not a ‘Gold Star’ lesbian but I am near as damn it. I never thought “Oh, I don't sleep with men, I don’t need to be tested” because I knew that was stupid. Cancer would find me, regardless of my bed partner’s gender.
I just didn't think about it, in a “it won’t happen to me” way and when the letters popped through from my GP’s surgery requesting that I attend for a smear test, I popped that letter in the bin and did my best Scarlett O’Hara “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
For me, tomorrow was almost too late. I should probably be dead. The doctors didn't expect me to live and I didn't expect to die. I was only thirty-eight and I hadn't written my best-selling novel yet.
So, for five and a half weeks I went to the hospital every day for radiotherapy and once a week, for three hours, I had chemotherapy. Then, because the tumour hadn't all gone, I had to have more treatment. I couldn't have my last lot of chemo because my kidneys couldn't cope. I had lost two stone and my skin was yellow.
I am just lucky that my body responded so well to the treatment and I could live to see another day. But it wasn't easy. By the end, I was so weak I could barely get out of bed to go to the toilet and I knew that as soon as I took three steps the retching would begin.
Getting well took a long time. You know what would have been easier? Having a smear test.
If I could go back in time, I would take that letter to my GP’s surgery and make an appointment. It could have saved me so much pain.
I didn’t go for a smear and I learned the hard way how important they are. A smear test takes two minutes and can save your life. Cancer doesn't care if you are gay or straight. If it’s going to get you, it will but we have a chance to catch cervical cancer early, before it damages and endangers life.
Please don’t be like me. Not everyone will be as lucky. Some of you might die.
Don’t play Russian Roulette with you life. Get tested!