A Shaftesbury mum has joined-up with a fellow childminder to encourage women to take the cervical smear test. Sammi Shah of Bluebells Childminding told Alfred why she’s keen to support Cervical Cancer Prevention Week.
Sammi Shah is busy. We sat in the kitchen of her new home on The Maltings, as she kept one ear on the baby monitor connected to her daughter’s bedroom. Sammi had just finished a full morning of childcare sessions. We had a few minutes to talk as she enjoyed a brief sit-down.
Before Sammi moved to Shaftesbury from London, she was always on the go. Visiting the healthcentre for a smear test just seemed too difficult to fit into her diary. “I personally never went to my smear test. It was because I moved around a lot with my husband. I never valued the importance of it,” Sammy said. “Me and my husband were thinking of starting a family so, of course, I wanted to make sure I was as healthy as I could be. That pushed me to go.”
When Sammi had taken her smear test, the result scared her. “It came back as abnormal and I had to do more tests and biopsies. In the end, I had to have surgery. It could all have been prevented if I had gone for my first smear test. It could have been detected. Because it is preventable, it’s so important for me to raise as much awareness as I can,” said Sammi.
She knows women who are worried about going but assures them that the procedure doesn’t last long. “It takes just a few minutes to go and get tested and then get the results. It is very uncomfortable, which is why a lot of people tend not to go and they can get put off. But the nurses are so friendly. They make you feel at ease. It’s nothing they haven’t seen before. It can save your life – that’s the main thing. If I had put off my smear test for another couple of years – it was precancerous cells – who knows what could have happened?”
Now Sammi is a parent, she understands the importance of this regular health check. “Especially for a mum, if you have got children. I think about my daughter all the time. I imagine not being there for her. It is so scary. It’s your family and if you don’t have a family, it’s your life. It’s really important to take care of it,” she said.
Sammi has partnered with Kat Bromley of Mini Muggles Childminding to raise cash for a cervical cancer charity. The women have arranged a ‘Stay and Play’ charity fundraising event to coincide with Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. It takes place on Thursday from 9am at Shaftesbury’s Lindlar Hall. There will be coffee and some special snacks inspired by Sammi’s former life in India
“There will be a lot of onion bhajis and samosas, which hopefully parents will love. We lived in Mumbai for two years. I’m used to making Indian food all the time,” Sammi laughed. She will also make some Indian sweets and says that she tasted local specialties in different cities when travelling in India, although she warns that some of the recipes are incredibly sweet. “I have got a couple in mind. It all depends on how much time I have before. It is nice for the parents to taste different cuisine,” she smiled.
There will be advice packs available to read at the session too, because Sammi says she has been concerned to read statistics that suggest fewer women are now going for smear tests. “I have lots of information so the mums that come will be given lots of posters and leaflets that they can take home and read. Perhaps they can pass them along and tell family members and friends.”
Sammi is aware that busy mums might need extra support so they can attend their smear test appointments. “I’m also offering one hour of free childcare for mums. So is Kat. Hopefully, this helps mums to go for the smear test,” said Sammi.
Sammi has been spreading the word about her event to her friends in and around The Maltings. She has quickly established a network of fellow mums.
When Sammi moved to Shaftesbury in 2018, the former High-Level Teaching Assistant decided to launch her own business, Bluebells Childminding. “The job market in Shaftesbury is not high. Before I came here, I looked and there wasn’t much around. This was really natural and because we have a space I thought, ’Why not?’”
Sammi relocated from Enfield. She and her husband chose our town to bring up their daughter after visiting a number of communities around the Home Counties and southwest of England. She hasn’t looked back since moving. She says her business is doing well and she’s enjoying life in Shaftesbury.
“I love it. I think it was the best decision that we made as a family to come to Shaftesbury. It’s an amazing town and as a new mum, I’ve made so many friends. Me and my daughter go to lots of groups like Father’s House and the Children Centre and everybody is friendly. I know more people in Shaftesbury than I ever did in Mumbai, Enfield or Sheffield, which is a lot. Everyone is lovely. I’m glad we live here,” said Sammi.
You can book your hour of free childcare if you are attending a smear test by contacting Sammi on Facebook at bluebellschildminding. And she’s hoping for a good turnout at her event at Lindlar Hall. “It’s on 23rd January, next week. It starts at 9am and then runs to 10.30am. It’s £1.50 and £1 for children under six months.”
All the money raised will go to Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.