Amazon Kindle Paperwhite: An Honest Review

Hey, loves! I am SO FREAKING EXCITED about today’s blog post, because I really am so in love with my Kindle. Oh, that was kind of a spoiler wasn’t it? As I’m sure you already know because I haven’t shut up about it, Matthew very kindly bought me a Kindle for Christmas and it’s quite literally become my pride and joy. I had tried the Kindle concept a little in the past as I had dabbled with reading on my iPad, although I really didn’t love that and still favoured a paperback or hardback instead.

I have to admit, prior to my first time reading on my Kindle, I was really apprehensive if I would enjoy it because I love books. I could – and still do – lose hours walking around a book shop, I love the feel of a ‘real’ book and I also really like that you can pass them on to friends and family once you’re done with them. Books also have a very nostalgic, beautiful smell to me which I know some people may think is bonkers, ha! I’ve been a bookworm since before I can remember, although when I was younger I definitely wouldn’t have shouted it from the roof tops because I was so consumed by what people may think. That’s crazy to me now, I couldn’t be more proud to be a book nerd!

I made little notes in the Notes app on my phone so I could remember my thoughts and feelings to share with you guys on the blog at some point. The very first thing I wrote down was that my Kindle was so small and light. I hadn’t even held a Kindle before so really I had no reference but I expected it to be a lot heavier, and I just couldn’t believe how teeny tiny it was. This for me is definitely a positive thing; so many books are released in hardback first and the paperback version doesn’t come out for up to a year after that, so I’d lost count of how many times I’d struggled to hold up heavy books for long periods of time. I should probably go to the gym LOL. I love that the device is very compact which makes it easy to carry on-the-go and perfect for travel; one of my (only) pet hates about books is the they’re so bulky and annoying to travel with! I did buy a case (this one, if you’re interested) and I love it, it works perfectly.

Buying books has become a completely new experience for me, which wasn’t something I’d thought about. I was used to logging into Amazon, ordering whatever took my fancy and thanks to the Prime Gods, new books would turn up at my door the following day. I thought that was SO fast. Now, I download my chosen book(s) through the Amazon Kindle Store and they sync straight to my Kindle in seconds. Wi-Fi is just the best technology ever, right?!

Prior to having my Kindle I had no real reference of how inexpensive Kindle copies are in comparison to the paperback/hardback copy, as I’d only read a few books on my iPad’s Kindle app. Almost every single book you purchase through the Kindle Store is a fraction of the price in comparison; when I first started loading up my Kindle I spent £12.99 … but if I’d bought paper copies of those books it would have cost me £62.49. That is NUTS! This is already proving to be huge cost saving for me, because I read books pretty quickly (I’m currently reading book #8 of 2020… I think I’m going to have to write the most epic round up of all the books I’ve read at the end of the year if I cary on reading like this) and that’s a great bonus I hadn’t anticipated. Not to mention, e-books are way more sustainable than paper books!

I really enjoy the whole reading experience on my Kindle. The text is super clear and easy to read, and you can also make changes if necessary to suit your needs better. I personally kept everything as it came because that works really well for me. One of my very favourite things about reading on the device is that there is a small percentage marker at the bottom of the screen, which shows how far you are through the book. You can also swipe to see how far you are away from finishing that specific chapter, which is great if you’re like me and can’t stop mid-chapter. I also find it really motivating to see how far I’ve read in X amount of time, because I am #TypeA.

I always try to intentionally make time to read each day. My bed has always been one of my favourite places to read as I love to read for at least twenty minutes before I go to sleep, but if Matt was super tired I felt bad having our bedside lamp on so often didn’t bother. I often wake up in the middle of the night (that’s a whole other post) and I always thought it would be a great time to read until I could fall back to sleep, but putting the lamp on then isn’t really an option either. Now that I have my Kindle this hasn’t been an issue at all! The screen has a built in light which makes reading convenient anywhere, and I know this will also be great for airplanes when I don’t want to disturb any sleeping neighbours by using the overhead lights. If you do have a light above you when you’re reading, the screen is glare free guys, they’ve covered everything. There is also no blue light emitted from the Kindle Paperwhite, which helps to reduce eye strain and eye pain!

Another of my favourite places to read is in the tub. I love my baths filled with bubbles and bath salts, and I like my bath water hot. Like, if I’m not bright pink when I get out it wasn’t a good bath, LOL. I figured reading in the bath would be a little tricky with a Kindle but no… it’s fully waterproof. W A T E R P R O O F. This was the realisation that made me really fall in love with it I think! If you’ve ever used your phone in a bath, hot tub or sauna you’ll know what I mean by saying it makes the phone screen wet and almost cloudy. A phone screen cannot cope with the heat, water or steam and it’s just easier to not bother using your phone. However, the Kindle is completely oblivious to the Satan level heat being emitted around my bath, and it works perfectly! There’s no pesky fingerprint marks, no trouble with the screen not picking up where I’m tapping, and absolutely no need to throw it out of the bath and grab a paperback instead. I know this means it would be great for a spa day or by the pool on holiday – no matter how hot the weather may be – and that my friends is why I’m going to say this is the BEST technology I’ve ever owned. My inner nerd is psyched!

The last thing I wanted to mention is that the battery life is fantastic. I use my Kindle every single day, for anywhere from twenty minutes to over an hour, and I’ve barely had to charge the device since Christmas. Maybe four times?! Unlike my phone – which I’m pretty sure I sometimes just look at and my battery goes down by 10% – this is a great feature, and I hope it continues to last as well once I’ve used it for years!

So… are you on Amazon ordering yourself a Kindle Paperwhite yet?! Apologies for any enabling that may be caused by this post, they’re really just the best things ever. Do you love to read as much as I do? Have you already invested in a Kindle? What’s your favourite thing about it?! Be sure to check out my reading list I shared last month, there’s so many great books in there!

-G x

Nine Happy Things From October

Hi, loves! Today’s post is one I’m really excited about, because it was so lovely re-living the good things from this month and enjoying them all over again. I’ve talked a few times recently about the fact my anxiety has been pretty bad, and unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be getting any better right now. Instead of dwelling on it and making myself feel even worse, I’ve been trying extra hard to focus on the good, and boy has there been a lot of good things in the past month!

Spontaneous Getaway With Matthew
Matt and I had THE most fun trip to York and Harrogate in October; it was just a little (less than) 48 hour getaway that was so needed for both of us. We’ve been working so hard and had very full schedules the past few months, which to be honest will carry on for the rest of the year. We make the most of all our time together every single day, but it’s extra special to go on a trip with your loved one, right? Also, Autumn is my absolute favourite time of year and I love even the super simple things like the changing colours of the leaves and wearing jumpers/coats, it’s my favourite time to travel!

Practicing Yoga
Yoga and I have a very on/off relationship, it’s literally a love/hate kinda thing. I love how it makes me feel, but I hate having to specifically make time for it when I have other things to do too. Over the past month I’ve been more intentional with my time in all areas of my life, and this means yoga has nicely slotted into my day-to-day life as I’ve made it a priority. I’ve always appreciated the feeling I have when I step off the mat, but recently I’m enjoying my sessions more and more! It really helps to clear my mind and make me happy.

Bonfire Spice Hot Chocolates
Costa hit it out of the park with their seasonal drinks year after year, and after becoming slightly obsessed addicted to bonfire spice hot chocolates in 2018, I was so freaking happy they were back this year. I’ve definitely not had as many as I’d have liked to because y’know… they’re pricey, but they’re so bloody worth it. There’s a Costa drive thru not too far from home and I just think it’s the best invention ever. I also can’t stop treating myself to their millionaire’s shortbread whenever I pop in, they are SO GOOD.

Visiting A Pumpkin Patch
I was super lucky to grow up holidaying to Florida pretty much every year, and let’s just say the bar was set HIGH… Pumpkin patches in the US are a dream; they look like Pinterest in real life, and involve all sorts of fun things that ours just don’t have. I was still so excited to visit a pumpkin patch here in the UK, and the one Matt and I went to was extra special because we got a little private tour! You can read all about that in my photo diary from our trip, I still feel so bad for just turning up, hahaha.

Strictly Come Dancing Saturday’s (and Sunday’s)
It’s my favourite time of year for one hundred and one reasons, but I have to say the TV schedule is pretty high up there. Strictly is something I look forward to all year, and I can’t tell you how much I love this season! Matt and I have been enjoying all of the Saturday nights in snuggled up watching (he loves it too… secretly) and it just makes for the perfect cosy weekend. I have so many favourites, I just get so excited for Saturday nights every single week!

Leaves Changing Colour
It seriously makes me so. dang. happy. I love love love the leaves turning from yellow to orange to red, and standing on crunchy leaves is one of life’s biggest joys! I’m a child at heart, what can I say? This Fall has felt super cold already, and I’m loving wrapping up and just enjoying the outdoors. Matt and I are going on a hike next week and I’m so excited; we love being outdoors so much! Also, it’s even better when we can go for a Sunday roast afterwards… right?

Lazy Sunday’s
Breakfast dates are hands down Matt and I’s favourite way to spend a Sunday morning, and this month we’ve squeezed in two which has made my heart so happy. Our favourite local breakfast spot is Post Box in Ponteland, we try to go once per month and literally every meal is better than the last! I love getting up early, seeing the beginning of the day and getting to chat with Matt about our upcoming week. We enjoy getting out for a wander after our breakfast too; it’s just such a nice feeling to be out and about when people are still just getting up and starting their day.

Snuggly Afternoons Reading
One of my favourite things about this time of year is that a lot of time is spent at home. I’m a homebody, and I love nothing more than a cosy evening taking a nice hot bubble bath, cooking with Matt and snuggling in under forty blankets for the rest of the night. Although Matt and I watch a ton of TV, I’ve always made time to read, and often during weekends when he’s watching the football I get so excited to curl up with my book! I shared my reading list with you a few weeks back, go check it out if you’re looking for some reading inspiration.

Wearing Cosy Sweaters
When I have actually gotten dressed and not been wearing my most amazing dressing gown I have loved wearing sweaters again! There’s a few areas in which I’m lacking in my wardrobe, and I’m super excited to pick up just a few more to wear throughout the next few months. My favourite places to shop for sweaters and oversized jumpers are Zara, & Other Stories and Topshop. I’m also thinking I might treat myself with Christmas money to an M&S cashmere jumper, because Emma Hill RAVES about how good they are!

Thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed this post and felt like it was fun and inspiring! What were your highlights from the month of October? Did you have a good month? If this is something you’d like to see each month I’d love to share again in November. I hope your month is filled with all of the love, fun and fireworks!

-G x

Three Lessons I’ve Learned From My Experience With Acne

Hi, loves! I’ve talked several times about my journey with acne on my blog, and today I want to talk about what I’ve learned from the experience. I first thought about writing this post months ago but I wanted to wait until my skin was ‘good’ so I was able to discuss it in more detail. Honestly, my skin has good days and bad days; I’m still experiencing acne and if I want to talk about what I’ve learned so far in my journey there’s not ever going to be a specific right time. It’s scary and I feel super vulnerable putting this post out there but I’m hoping if it can bring others comfort and reassurance it’s worth it, right?!

Here’s a little background for those of you who aren’t familiar: as a teenager I had near perfect skin, and it wasn’t until I turned 19 that I began getting any spots at all. As I moved into my early twenties I began to experience cystic acne that felt overwhelming and horrendous; I hated it with every part of me, and honestly hated the way I looked for YEARS. My skin became something I worried about all day every day and I’ve carried that with me for so long it’s probably always going to be part of me. I was very emotional about my skin, and I unfortunately still am. When someone mentions a breakout or really bad spot – even if they mean well – my defense mechanism is to ignore the conversation because it makes me feel SO uncomfortable. Honestly it’s so rude to point out something ‘wrong’ with someone else’s skin and I’ve no idea why people think it’s okay to do so.

I feel very very lucky that my skin has calmed down a lot over the years and the acne I experience now is much more manageable in terms of treatment and also pain level. I’ve no idea if that is down to a change in hormones, finally settling into a tried and tested skincare routine, a bit of both or something else entirely but I’m so grateful to have clearer skin. I no longer suffer from consistent acne, although I do have breakouts pretty much every week that sometimes can be cystic there’s a huge difference. At one point my cheeks and jaw line were covered in breakouts, and they were so bad I couldn’t hide them with makeup which made them seem even worse to me. Every time one breakout began to clear up another would appear and it was a constant cycle I couldn’t do anything about. Now I’m thankful that I generally have one or two small (by comparison to what I used to experience) breakouts at a time, which is easier to manage and doesn’t cause me as much anxiety or stress.

I think other than the ocassional cystic acne, the most irritating breakouts I get now are those under-the-skin-bumps that feel like my whole face is pulsing as they last for days or sometimes a week. The really frustrating thing is that there isn’t a way to draw them out or help them heal quicker which stresses me out a little. I don’t mean to sound negative about having acne, and I hope it doesn’t come across that way, I just really want to be transparent and help you to get the full perspective on how my skin has been (and still is). Don’t get me wrong; there are MUCH worse things in the world than having acne! But when it’s something that you deal with day to day and you can’t get a break from it can feel so overwhelming and almost debilitating at times. I lost so much confidence when I first started experiencing acne a few years back and I’m so grateful that I now feel so much better about myself. Matt tells me I’m beautiful every single day – even when I most definitely DO NOT look beautiful, hah! – and little things like that truly mean the world to me.

I’m sure I’ve got so much more to learn regarding acne but today I’m so excited to share a few things I’ve learned so far from my acne journey with you all. If you have suffered or are still suffering with acne of any form please know that I get how you feel, so many people experience varying forms of acne and it’s something I really think we should talk about more openly.

There is no such thing as a miracle cure. Oh how I wish there was. I’ve lost count of how many creams, oils, serums etc I’ve tried over the years – lots of them even on prescription or doctors’ recommendations – and not one of them has magically cleared my acne. Funny, huh?! I think in the beginning I was very naive and just assumed that one product would come along and make my skin smooth, even and acne free. I definitely assumed that expensive meant better when it came to skincare (and makeup, haircare, body care etc) but that is categorically not true. Some of my most used, very favourite products are from the drugstore – albeit some at slightly more premium prices – but you do NOT need to use an £80.00 serum to see results!

Something that is so important however is finding a good skincare routine for morning and night that helps your skin. This can be a frustrating and costly experiment, because not every product you try will work for your skin, your skin may change and something that worked for a while may not any more and you may have other skin concerns that you want to address along the way. I love skincare and I’m so invested in learning about it so for the most part I quite enjoy the trial and error of finding new products, but I’m so happy that right now I truly enjoy every single part of my skincare routine. I have introduced two new products fairly recently and after I’ve used them for a few more weeks I’ll for sure share my current AM and PM skincare routines with you!

One thing I’d like to mention as it’s something I’ve experienced several times is that people – especially those who don’t have any specific skin concerns themselves – may criticize the products (or amount of products) you use. Take this with a pinch of salt; once you find the products that work for you, you’ll be so pleased you took time to figure it out! What happened to “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything” anyway?! Following a curated skincare routine is essential and any dermatologist or aesthetician will tell you that it is vital. Obviously, there are some things that products cannot help with too much; for example I have some pretty bad acne scarring that would need laser treatment to minimize, but that’s okay with me and I’ve just gotten used to it. Caroline Hirons is a wealth of knowledge for all types of skin concerns, and if you’re feeling a little lost for what to do to help yourself I would really advise checking out her blog and YouTube channel.

Hormones plays a huge part in how your skin looks/feels. I was put on the pill by my doctor at a very young age – I had just barely turned thirteen – because I had horrendously painful periods. Side note: I’m experiencing them again right now at the age of 25 after changing my pill not so long ago… I just love being a girl. :). HAH. As my hormones were altered by a tablet from such a young age, I’m not sure if this might have changed the way my skin was or not, but it’s so normal to experience more spots or actual acne because of hormonal changes.

It’s very common around the time of your period to break out, pregnancy and breastfeeding throws off your hormones and causes all kinds of skin issues, and sometimes just generally if you’re feeling tired, anxious, stressed or just a bit run down your skin often has a reaction too. If you know you’re breaking out due to hormonal reasons there is still so many options of treatments for this, I’d really recommend speaking to your doctor. One tip I’d love to share with you regarding hormonal acne; from my experience these spots are usually angry, red, raised, and not always ones that have a whitehead. If this is the case and you’re looking for immediate relief, take an anti-histamine! Breakouts are literally an inflammation, so anti-histamines help to lessen the redness and swelling, and makes day-to-day life with spots just that little bit easier. I wish I knew this YEARS ago!

Your skin is nothing to be embarrassed about. How many times have you told your partner or friend that you just can’t believe the size of the spot on your chin? Maybe you’re calling it your ‘second head’? And how many times have you been met with the response “where?! I can’t even see it?” … we can all relate, right?! I truly believe that your skin looks and feels worse to you because it’s often a very personal and emotional thing, but like with most areas of life being kind to yourself is such an important factor in helping things to be easier. When he was a teenager Matt also suffered from cystic acne and I’m so grateful he understands exactly how I feel when I have a particularly bad breakout now – whether it’s cystic or not. I think it’s often really hard for people with ‘good’ skin to understand just how much skin issues can affect others, but just by being honest and opening the conversation up it helps to break down the taboo.

In my early twenties I spent countless social occasions making my excuses for why I couldn’t go and literally hiding away because I was so embarrassed of my skin, and it’s really sad because I never should have felt that way. I definitely think my acne linked to my anxiety, as when my skin was especially bad my anxiety was most definitely heightened. Even now when I have a particularly ‘bad’ breakout (I realise this is subjective) I still feel like I don’t want to be social, how silly is that? It’s something I can’t explain to people who don’t ‘get it’ but I’m working on changing my thought process slowly but surely. We’ve all heard this before but plastering foundations and concealers over any bout of acne, spots or blemishes is not necessarily the answer, we just need to find comfort in embracing our skin! *Makes note to self*

Thank you so much from reading! I hope you enjoyed this post, and if acne is something that still affects you on a daily basis I hope you found a little comfort in it. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to a time in my life where my skin is completely breakout free but I hope I do, one day! Have you dealt with acne as a teenager or adult? What have you learned from your experience?

-G x

Why You Need To Start Saving Now For Christmas

Hi, loves! Okay, so this post might seem a little random but please bare with me, I promise you’ll be glad of the reminder! Did the title scare you a little? Do you think I’ve gone completely nuts? Maybe I have! Today I’m sharing the reasons why you should start saving, and also helping you put together a little plan so that when December rolls around you’re not scared to check your bank account.

I never used to save for Christmas. It’s literally on the same day every year (Wednesday, right? If you know, you know) and there’s no real excuse not to set money aside each month to help you out with buying your gifts once November/December rolls around. There’s so much more to Christmas than giving gifts, but it’s something most of us love to do. Giving my loved ones gifts that I know they’ll love makes me so much happier than receiving gifts, it’s just the best feeling seeing someone be happy with what you got for them. So, what do you need to do to start saving?

Firstly, you need a plan. Is anyone shocked that I’m suggesting you create a plan? No? Okay, well let’s get started. Write down every single person on your Christmas list this year; that’s going to be your partner, your parents/siblings, your extended family members, friends and even any Secret Santa gifts you may be taking part in. Next to each persons name, you then need to write an amount you’re willing to spend on that person, and that is then your budget for their gift(s). This year, Matt and I decided not to do any ‘big gifts’ for each other, and instead we’re going to plan a trip for the new year (and also save more towards our house!) so we’ve set two limits; one for our ‘main’ gifts, and one for our stocking fillers. We always go overboard at Christmas and spend a small fortune, but really we’re just so happy to spend Christmas together and see both of our families so the the gifts part really isn’t important! I hope I stick to the set budget, because buying gifts for Matt really is one of my favorite things to do and I always feel like I just have to get all the things he’d like, hah!

Now you know how much you’re going to spend per person/couple, add those figures up, and divide it by how many weeks there is until Christmas. If you’re doing this today – if not, why aren’t you doing this today?! – it is 15 weeks until 22nd December. As you don’t want to be waiting for the balance of your money to be saved by the last weekend before Christmas, I’d divide your total by 14; meaning the week before Christmas all of your shopping should be completely done! Of course, you can save more than this figure each week, because the sooner you save that total the sooner you can have that money back for whatever else you want to spend it on. Also, if you’re not able to save that amount each week, maybe take another look at your totals for each person and adjust accordingly; your family and friends don’t need you to spend all of your money on them as that is NOT what Christmas is about, so be realistic with your figures.

So, where are you going to save this money? For me, the most logical thing to do is create another savings account; this means you can see the money mounting up, and you can also easily save each week by adding a standing order to your current account, meaning the money goes out each week and you don’t have to manually do anything. Of course you’ll need to adjust your budget to suit this money going out each week, but that’s another post!

It might also be beneficial to save extra money that you are wanting to spend at Christmas related to giving; we’re all so much more generous at Christmas (although it should be an all year round trait!) and there seems to be lots more giving opportunities. Whether it’s donating to charities, buying food for your local food bank, donating toys for children that don’t have them or something else entirely, even if you saved a few pounds each week you’d have an extra buffer ready to be able to give. Matt and I sent shoeboxes with Operation Christmas Child last year and we’re so excited to do it again; you pay a donation to be able to track your box, and fill it with sweets, toys, games, colouring books etc for children who would otherwise receive nothing on Christmas Day. Ours made it to Africa last year, and I can’t wait to see where they go this year! If you’re interested in participating this year, please check out the details here.

So, maybe you’re now freaking out that you need to save so much each week to be able to buy the gifts you want to for your loved ones. Don’t worry, you have so much time to be able to save, it’s more than three months until Christmas (which for me is now only two pay cheques, oh my GOD!) Here’s a few ways you can save money in the rest of your budget:
– limit eating out; cooking at home is way cheaper (and way more fun) than going out to eat all of the time. Check out Mix And Match Mama for some amazing recipe ideas, you’ll never want to go to a restaurant again!
– make your tea/coffee/hot chocolate at home; instead of stopping by Costa or Starbucks on the daily, make your own and you can take it on the go in the cutest re-usable (and collapsible!) cup. You can still enjoy in moderation, because after all it is Bonfire Spice season, YAY!
– have a No Spend month before December; basically eliminate everything from your budget that isn’t the absolute essentials. Of course you need to pay for your car, home, groceries, petrol etc, but do you need a clothing allowance this month? Or a beauty treatment? Give yourself a little ‘pocket money’ to spend at your own leisure to keep you encouraged, but for the most part you can forego everything but the necessities for a month, it’s life changing I promise you! You will absolutely hit your goal quicker if you do this.
– get creative with date nights; at home date nights (or friend nights) can be just as fun as going out, and as a bonus there’s no need to wear makeup, hallelujah!
– check out sales and offers in the buildup to Christmas; even before Black Friday hits our shelves and screens, there are so many good deals to be found – you just have to look! I like to add a separate column to my Christmas spreadsheet where I can list what I want to buy for each person (Matt’s so lucky because I do all of the choosing for gifts, he just gets to take the credit with me hah!) and then keep an eye out for discounts or deals.

December is always a crazy expensive month; with all of the gifting, giving and partying going on it seems that you’re constantly spending money, so I hope if you do plan a little in advance then you’re not going to feel the pinch so much! Also, if you get most of your December wage to yourself, think of all the extra Christmas chocolates you can pick up! 😉

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post (and don’t think I’m completely mad). Some people save all year round then beef their savings up when Christmas gets closer; do you do that? Or, are you now going to start saving after getting this little kick up the butt? I really hope this helps you, please leave any extra tips and tricks you do too!

-G x

My Smear Test Experience, And Why You Shouldn’t Fear Yours

Happy Sunday, loves!

As you may have guessed by the title, today’s post is very personal but also very important. If you’re due a smear test, or you are expecting to get a letter through the door any day now to book your first appointment, DON’T WORRY! Are you feeling a little apprehensive? Nervous about a nurse having a good ol’ nosy at your downstairs? Well, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re one of the elite who don’t care about this kind of thing and just get on with it like the adult you are, I salute you! You may get a good laugh at my expense in this post, though.

A smear test (also known as a cervical screening test) is designed to check for abnormalities to cells on your cervix. It does NOT test for cancer, although the test is able to prevent cancer in patients as any abnormalities found can be treated, therefore preventing possible cancer in the future.

I received my letter to book my smear test around six months before my 25th birthday. It was the end of November/beginning of December when I opened my letter, and after telling Matt how nervous I was at the thought of it, I put the letter in a drawer, mentally putting off booking my appointment until after Christmas. I was very nervous and worried about the concept of a smear test, and even more about waiting for the results afterwards. January rolled around and to be honest, I was still putting off booking my appointment. The #10yearchallenge trended for a few weeks in January, and apart from cringeworthy throwbacks, something I seen all over social media was photographs of Jade Goody, who sadly passed away from cervical cancer aged 27, ten years ago. Her story was being re-discussed, and an encouragement on ladies attending their smear test was brought up again.

I’m sure Jade Goody’s name will be familiar to everyone based in the UK, as there have been so many campaigns to lower the age for smear tests after her incredibly sad and untimely death. Currently in the UK, smear tests are free for all women from six months before their 25th birthday, and recurring tests (if all is well) are carried out every three years, until the age of 49, when it changes to every five years. These test times can vary based on your results, and we’re very well looked after by our NHS. That being said, it’s currently thought that at least one in three women do not attend appointments for their smear test, often due to embarrassment of the test. As the testing process is so frequent, it’s going to be a regular part of any woman’s life, and it’s 100% for our benefit. As I mentioned above, I was very nervous at the thought of the test process and I see why people are put off, although after having my test I really feel there’s no need to be! It is completely normal to feel nervous and apprehensive about something you’ve never done before, but a simple test that takes less than five minutes could literally save your life. And it’s free, us Brits love a bargain or freebie, right?

My Experience

So, after seeing all of the #10yearchallenge posts (which were to raise awareness, and for me it clearly worked) I knew I had to book my appointment. The night before I booked it, Matt and I were lying in bed talking before we fell asleep, and he told me he’d also seen the #10yearchallenge posts, and thought it was really important I booked in soon. I relayed how terrified I was, and after talking out my concerns with him I felt so much better. The next morning, I plucked up all of the courage I could muster to book my appointment and was told I couldn’t as I wasn’t yet 25. What? I explained that I’d received a letter to arrange my appointment, but was told by the receptionist that as I wasn’t yet 25 she couldn’t book me in. I reluctantly booked just a pill check (as I wanted to do both appointments at the same time) and hung up the phone.

I was at work when this happened, so after relaying the story to my co-workers and having a quick read of the NHS website, I knew what I’d been told was incorrect and that I should be able to have my test any time from six months before I turned 25. I called back and was told that actually yes, I could book my smear test and that I’d been given incorrect information. It may not seem like a big deal to some, but as I was already so nervous to book my test I could have trusted her word and put it off for a further four months. This could have been the difference, literally between life and death, if something is found to be wrong. It makes me terrified to think that if someone else was told this, they would have accepted it to be true and potentially not booked their smear test. Please note, I do not blame the receptionist for this! I just think more training should be provided to anyone giving any kind of medical advice on behalf of the NHS.

Less than a week before my scheduled appointment, my test was put back a further week and a half, with little explanation. This really didn’t help my anxiety and worry over the upcoming test, as it meant the time between booking my appointment and the day of my appointment was just over three weeks. Matt had promised we could get a Chinese takeaway that night (on a Wednesday! Takeaways for us are strictly reserved for weekends only LOL) so I had something to look forward to afterwards, the cutie. A few days before, I tried to read every source of information I could find for background on what to do and expect, and I talked through my concerns and worries with Matt, my mam and my co-workers. Nothing’s off limits with the girls you work with, right?!

My test was booked for 9am, and I’m a little embarrassed to admit I spent the whole night before mulling over it, and not sleeping very well. I woke up a few times during the night and was so jealous Matt was sleeping like a baby snuggled into me! When it was finally time to get up, Matt was so good to me, he knew I was super nervous so was making me laugh all morning and trying to help me relax. I got ready – spending a little extra time doing my makeup because that always makes you feel better, right? – kissed Matt goodbye (doing my best Ross I’m fine impression) and drove to the surgery.

The GP surgery was pretty much empty due to having an early appointment, and I was called in before my appointment time. This turned out to be the biggest shock of the day, I didn’t know that ever happened! After a very awkward moment of trying to find the examination room I was supposed to be in, the nurse welcomed me in, called me ‘lovey’ and I instantly felt ten times more comfortable. We chatted a little about the day – very little traffic, lovely sunny morning after it rained through the night. You know, the typical British conversations you have with a stranger. We quickly ran through my pill check and sorted out my repeat prescription for another year, then it was time to have my smear test. I’d already told the nurse I was very nervous and hadn’t slept well, and whilst explaining the method and purpose of the test she was so kind and calm. She had a great way of being informative and reassuring at the same time. All practice nurses I’ve met have been this way, and it’s truly a testament to how good they are at their jobs.

I was asked to step behind the curtain and remove my clothes from the waist down (I wish I’d thought about this earlier and wore a skirt or dress, but I digress) and sit on the bed. All I could think about was how my downstairs looked at this point, my focus wasn’t even on the test! I was given a sheet of paper to cover what dignity I had left, and instructed to lay back, putting the soles of my feet together and my knees out wide. And to relax. Turns out, it’s not the most relaxing environment or position infront of a stranger, and as much as I was trying to pretend I was mid-yoga session, my knees were firmly locked. The nurse was chatting throughout this whole time and without even realising I’d totally relaxed. She told me the speculum* was in place and now she was going to take the sample of cells from my cervix. She inserted a small brush to take the sample, and warned me there may be mild discomfort caused by this. Personally, I barely felt anything, just a slight twinge for literally a second or two. She then told me the test was over and I could get re-dressed, just like that!
*a plastic tool inserted into the vagina to open the area and provide easy access for the test

From taking my clothes off to putting them back on was less than five minutes. That’s less than five minutes of feeling slightly awkward and uncomfortable, that could save my life! The actual test process was, I guess, less than two minutes. The nurse told me the letter with the results would be sent out in two to three weeks, and that everything looked healthy from what she could see. That made me feel so reassured, and also pretty damn stupid that I’d been so unnecessarily worried for months. I texted my boyfriend and my mam with an update (and to tell them I didn’t cry LOL) then went to work as normal to get on with my day, eagerly waiting for Matt to finish work and bring home the Chinese takeaway I’d been promised! Spoiler: it was delicious.

My smear test was carried out almost a week ago, so I’m currently waiting for a letter to see if everything is okay or if further testing is required. Further testing does not necessarily mean something is wrong; sometimes results are inconclusive, and a second round of testing may be required to rule out potential abnormalities. Other outcomes could be that low grade or high grade abnormal changes are detected, or HPV is found, therefore further testing may be needed. A colposcopy is the next round of testing, if a second smear isn’t required, then further information can be given based on those results. I’m not as worried about the results as I expected to be, and it’s not really crossed my mind too much post-test. One thing I have thought about a lot is how I’m incredibly grateful to live in the UK where the testing process is free, and encouraged, and that this simple procedure saves so many lives every year.

My Tips

DO book your test as soon as possible. It could literally save your life.

DO talk about how you’re feeling with your partner, family and/or close friends. Whoever you feel most comfortable with is the person(s) you should go to. Also, tell your nurse any concerns/worries on the day.

DO your own research. Being prepared is the best advice for any situation, and knowing what to expect takes the worry out of the situation, even if that’s just a little.

DO plan something for afterwards to look forward to, even if it sounds a little daft. Takeaway and snuggles all night with your boyfriend highly recommended.

DON’T stress about your upcoming test, try to think about it as little as possible.

DON’T worry about the nurse seeing your hoo-haa. She’s seen hundreds, if not thousands, and I guarantee she couldn’t care less what yours looks like.

DON’T back out of your test then re-book for a later date. I had a wobble a few days before and almost did this, but it would have made re-booking even harder.

DON’T tense up during your test. As hard as it is to chill out, try to forget what’s going on down there and let yourself relax.

Thank you so much for reading! I hope you found this post helpful, and that it provided a little bit of a relief (and maybe a laugh at my expense). Please, please, please book your smear tests in girls, and encourage your family members, friends and co-workers to do the same. If they’re feeling a little worried, you can always direct them to this post!

-G x