After watching her mother pass away from cervical cancer, Nikki Kaukau's worst nightmare became reality when the results of her own cervical smear test returned abnormal.
Fearful that her fate would mirror her mother's, Nikki ignored Waikato District Health Board's (DHB) recurring colposcopy clinic letters in hope that "the problem would disappear."
Only by the persistence of Waikato DHB's cervical screening support system was Nikki empowered to make a decision that saved her life.
"I thought the longer I stayed away from the colposcopy clinic, the more likely my abnormal cells were to go away. That was until a Waikato DHB cervical screening coordinator appeared at my doorstep to explain more about the abnormal cells and why a colposcopy was necessary," Nikki said.
Waikato DHB Population Health assistant group manager Clare Coles said Waikato DHB cervical screening coordinators support women who have been referred for examination at a colposcopy clinic. A colposcopy is required following the detection of abnormal cell changes in a cervical smear test.
"They gave Nikki a ride to the clinic when she had no transport, talked with the anaesthetist about her concerns, and got her back home after her surgery. That's what we are here for - information and support. We walked alongside her, and will walk alongside other women, the whole way," Mrs Coles said.
According to cervical screening support staff, fear is one of the key barriers preventing women from attending colposcopy clinics.
"It's a killer, fear. I was freaked out - I knew you get so far and then it's cancer. That's what my Mum had and that's what stopped me from going. Nikki said.
"I didn't want to hear the worst of the worst, so I hid. And I know others do the same."
Waikato Hospital alone holds about five colposcopy clinics per week and at every clinic at least one woman does not turn up. Many women also fail to come in for their six month follow-up.
Waikato DHB's message to these women is worth listening to.
"Don't let the fear that you might have cervical cancer stop you, because coming in for your colposcopy can prevent you from getting to that stage. We will support you in any way we can" Mrs Coles said.
And Nikki is living proof of this.
"After getting the information that I needed to go in for my colposcopy, my life is completely changed. The weight is off my shoulders - I have a new job, I am happy with my kids, I feel free."
"I ask all my girlfriends 'have you had a smear test?' Not because I am okay and you may not be, but because I wasn't okay and you may not be. That could be you. Having your colposcopy can get you the treatment you need, if you need it.
"I would do anything to encourage women to go. It's worth knowing."