8th of March, International Women’s Day. On this special day that is dedicated to all women, I am also going to share this true story of mine.
Protecting myself because I need to be well to be there for them.
My close friends, family and colleagues would know that I was on a complete bed-rest for 7 months when I was pregnant with Alexis. I was diagnosed with Cervical Incompetence when I was 10 weeks pregnant. In layman terms, it means my cervix is too short and weak to hold my pregnancy. My doctor stitched me up to prevent me from premature delivery and ordered me to a complete bed-rest from 13 weeks. You can imagine how it felt for not being able to shower normally for 7 months and how did I keep myself busy while lying on the bed. Many people just felt I was unlucky but not many people know that my Cervical Incompetence could totally be prevented by having a yearly screening and a vaccination.
Back in 2009 after delivering my first child, my Gynae at that time did a routine pap smear for me during my first visit for post-delivery checkup. I had an abnormal pap smear result and the doctor advised that I did a colposcopy, which meant a biopsy to remove a small section of the cervix. Maybe it was because I had just delivered my first child, the procedure was very uncomfortable. The result of my colposcopy came back with a CIN1 and the doctor explained to me it was a HPV virus that could potentially lead to cervical cancer if left untreated. I did not know why I did not take the message seriously or realize the importance of it; perhaps I was young and felt things like that would not happen to me, it was more like a typical kiasu doctor trying to scare me. I did nothing about the CIN1.
Fast forward to 2013, 4 years after my last pap smear. I was trying very hard for my 2nd baby. I had 2 miscarriages back to back and was totally devastated as we wanted a sibling for Lauren badly. Another Gynae who was looking after me then suggested going for a round of pap smear. The result was again abnormal. I did not dwell too much about it then because I remembered my last result was also abnormal and I did a colposcopy for it. Somehow, the naivety side of me assumed the colposcopy was a treatment for the abnormal pap smear (in fact: the colposcopy was only a procedure to test for abnormal cells in your cervix). I went ahead with the 2nd colposcopy and the doctor told me I got CIN3, which was one stage before cervical cancer and I needed to quickly do a surgery to remove the affected part of my cervix. My CIN1 which I learnt about 4 years ago had progressed to a CIN3. I went ahead with the surgery and a huge chunk of my cervix had to be removed. Ok because the surgery was to remove a part of my body that I could not see or feel, I did not think it would have any major adverse impact on my life. No, I was totally wrong until I was pregnant with Alexis.
The Gynae warned me about my short cervix when he announced that I was pregnant. He told me he would most likely have to stitch me up and put me on complete bedrest. I ignored his advise again and told him I would be very careful. Until week 13, I woke up thinking I got a stomachache and then went to my Gynae alone (Hubby was away on business trip). Once he had examined me, he ordered me to be admitted immediately for a surgery to stitched my cervix up as it could not hold the foetus and had showed signs of opening up. I was at the risk of delivering at week 13! I cried while waiting outside the operating theatre alone. Lucky for me, the surgery was a success. The 1st thing I did when I woke up from the surgery was to request for a Doppler to hear the heartbeat of my baby. I could not describe the sense of relief I had when I heard those thudding sound. That marked the start of my 7-months of bed-rest experience. I set small milestones for myself like a 4 weeks goal because I knew my condition that I could deliver anytime if my stitch could not hold the foetus anymore. I aimed for 20 weeks because I read that if I were to deliver at week 20, my baby got a 50% chance of surviving. Then 24 weeks, then 28 weeks and my biggest goal was reaching 33 weeks of pregnancy. Because I knew once I reached 33 weeks, Alexis would be ok even if she had to be delivered then. I got into 2-minutes apart contraction at week 32 and I was sent straight into the delivery suit with doctors telling they needed to cut off the stitch and let me go into labour otherwise the contraction might force my stitch to tear and I would be in the risk of excessive bleeding. I begged the team to load me with muscle relaxants and I told them to give me some time to try to calm this contraction. Thinking back now, I realized I was really playing with fire and how dangerous the situation was at that time. The medical team at the emergency department loaded me with muscle relaxant 4 times within an hour (which was the maximum dosage allowed). The drug was so strong that I puked due to the bad headache. Eventually I did overcome the contraction and I was warded for 2 weeks in case I went into any contraction again. At week 35, my Gynae advised me to go for cesarean as he felt my baby was sitting too low and was a risk for me. I wanted to wait a few more days hoping to hit week 36 but Alexis was too eager to be out. One day before reaching week 36, Alexis came and met the world. I was so grateful when I finally held her in my arms. I am still tearing as I am typing this now that reminded me of the experience then. The baby who gave me the strength to fight this battle fiercely, who changed my perspective in life and made me believe I want to be healthy to take good care of my girls.
My only photo during the 2nd pregnancy as I was suffering from depression and this was taken when I was going to be admitted.
I am someone who believe we should never regret as we look back in life. But if there was one thing that I had regretted, it would definitely be the ignorance of my first abnormal pap smear result. Things would surely be different if I had heeded the doctor’s advice then. I would not have lost half my cervix and my pregnancy would not be that horrifying. Till now both hubby and I still discussed about life with a 3rd baby but we all knew the answer. How life-endangering it would be for myself and the baby. Anyway, I should be thankful that my CIN3 was treated before it became cervical cancer. I was so close to that.
After hearing my long grandmother’s story, I urged all woman to protect ourselves. Not just for ourselves but for our loved ones. I want to be well for my daughters and hubby. I want to be there for their graduation, their wedding and I want to look after my grandchildren. Like what you have always hear, prevention is better than cure. Precisely so hence I recently did another round of cervical cancer prevention vaccination. This was my 2nd course of vaccine. I did one a few years back but there is presently new technology to the latest vaccine so I wanted to protect myself further because I truly understood that this disease could be totally preventable. FYI, I do my Pap smear twice a year now.
I approached Dr Quek Swee Chong, a good friend of mine for a collaboration. This man with a heart of gold is always in support for educating women the importance of prevention and early detection of any illness.
Dr Quek trained as a gynaecologist in London and worked there for 10 years before settling back in Singapore. He was the Clinical Programme Director for Pre-Invasive Services and Head of the Pre-invasive and Screening Unit in KK Hospital, before setting up his own practice in Gleneagles Medical Centre at ASC Clinic for Women.
He has a special interest in women’s cancer prevention, particularly cancer of the cervix, and has conducted many training courses for doctors and nurses in cervical cancer prevention.
In addition, he also founded and heads the Himalayan Women’s Health Project 10 years ago. This is a humanitarian health project that provides free screening and treatment for women in the northern Himalayan region of Ladakh, India.
Dr Quek Swee Chong from ASC Clinic for Women
You ladies are super super lucky! In conjunction with International Women’s Day, Dr Quek has agreed to sponsor one session of his consultation, ultrasound scan and a pap smear worth $300! eFresh Singapore is so honored to have such a renowned doctor coming forward to collaborate with us! To do our part, the lucky winner will also walk away with eFresh Products worth $389.90 (all the best selling items on eFresh) after Dr Quek’s consultation.
The kind-hearted Dr Quek will also be offering 3 more ladies a super good deal for the cervical cancer prevention vaccine. (NEVER WILL YOU FIND THIS DEAL ELSEWHERE. I CONFIRM PLUS CHOP)
The package of 3 doses of this vaccine will be at the shocking price of $535 instead of $800. Basically Dr Quek is sponsoring 1 out of the 3 injections given. Thus the price you pay will be for 2 doses and Dr Quek will absorb the cost of the 3rd dose. eFresh will also sweeten the deal with a pack of Aqua Defence silk mask worth $49.90 for these 3 lucky ladies!
FYI, the 3 lucky ladies will be paying lesser than what I paid ok..
How to take part in these giveaway on our eFresh Instagram page?
1. Like this post on eFresh instagram
2. Follow @efreshsingapore on Instagram here and ASC Clinic for Women Pte Ltd on Facebook here.
3. Tag a woman in the comment of eFresh instagram post. 1 comment per tag please. Tag all the women you love in your life, your mum, your sister, your bff, etc…
4. Repost this post for the additional chance to win and also to share and protect more women.
Contest is open to women residing in Singapore only. Results will be announced on 30th March 2018 via DM.
Here was me getting my 2nd shot yesterday.