Hi! Remember how I told you I was dealing with a bit of a health scare? Well, I decided to open up about it. This post is graphic in nature and isn’t for the squeamish. I am sharing my story, as it happened, detailing what went on. I debated publishing this for weeks. But February is National Cancer Prevention Month and I wanted to do my part and share my story.
Late 2016, I was in need of a new prescription of birth control and I wanted to get it before the new administration took effect.
The doctor was happy to prescribe me birth control — helping me stay joyfully childless — but only if I got a pap smear.
“Sure,” I said.
I got on the table and nervously started to spread my legs. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than being spread eagle with your feet seemingly miles apart, yet equidistant in the cold and uninviting stirrups.
“Relax,” said the doctor. Relax? How can I relax? I don’t know you and you’re already getting a bird’s-eye view of my vagina.
I let my mind wander as she placed the cold metal inside my cervix. I remembered being in Venice walking over the beautiful cobblestone floors. I thought of being on the beach in Rio.
Though it was for just a short time, the seconds stretched into minutes, which seemed like hours.
Afterward, I put my clothes on and was happy to have my refill.
A month later, I got a call from my doctor. “Your pap smear results came back abnormal and we’re going to need to do some additional testing.”
“Okay,” I murmured as I tried to catch my breath.
I went in for another appointment. This time, they put a vinegar like substance inside of me to get a better look at the abnormal cells. They saw some abnormal cells and took a biopsy. Getting a portion of my cervical tissue taken out to send back to a lab is about as pleasant as it sounds.
I anxiously waited to hear back. I tried to immerse myself in work. Have fun and forget about the whole thing. But it was always in the back of my mind.
Then my doctor called, and of course, I missed the call. She left a message saying she had the results and to call her back. I tried to call back but it was after hours.
All of the possibilities were swimming in my head as I tried to remain calm.
The first thing the following morning, I called. I got the results — the ones I didn’t want to hear.
“We found high-grade precancerous cells on your cervix and we’re recommending you get the LEEP procedure.”
My doctor tried to reassure me, “Get the ‘C’ word out of your head. This is not cancer.”
Yes, it’s not cancer. But it’s pre-cancer. It could be cancer. Eventually. The LEEP procedure was recommended in order to surgically remove the abnormal cells, to prevent it from getting any worse.
For several weeks, I read everything I could about my diagnosis and everything about the procedure. It didn’t really help.
I read about all of the horror stories. Stories of how uncomfortable and painful the procedure was. The internet isn’t really where you want to turn when you have something going on that you’re nervous about.
At times, I became paralyzed by anxiety. I didn’t want to go through with the procedure, but I had no choice. It was a miracle I got anything done.
The day of the procedure, I worked right until I had to have the procedure done. I just wasn’t sure how I was going to react afterward and wanted to get everything done.
I took an anti-anxiety pill, which helped take some of the edge off. My boyfriend went with me, so I had a hand to clasp when I was feeling pain. I listened to music to try and distract myself.
The most uncomfortable part was feeling the needle inject my cervix with anesthesia to numb the pain. I think my potty mouth may have let a few “f” bombs drop. After that, I tried to let my mind wander far, far away.
The LEEP procedure is essentially using an electrical current to burn off your abnormal cells. My most vital and private of body parts was being burned. Though the procedure was uncomfortable, it was fairly short and I was out of there in 15 minutes. It wasn’t as bad as some of the stories I read, but it was far from a good time. Perhaps, I’m one of the lucky ones.
I went home and took a nap. All of the worrying leading up to it suddenly took it out of me. I was in some pain, but mostly a mild discomfort.
I’ve been working from bed mostly since the procedure last week. According to Planned Parenthood, the procedure is 90 percent effective. I have good odds that everything will be fine and dandy. That this will just be a blip of stress.
I go back in a month to make sure I’m all healed. For the next year, I will need quarterly visits with the doctor to monitor the situation.
I am nervous and scared. The goal of the procedure is to remove the bad cells, but they could always come back.
What concerns me is that I’ve had normal pap smears my entire life. My last pap was two years ago and within that time, I went from normal to having the most serious type of precancer. The current recommendation for women with normal paps is to get a pap smear every three to five years, depending on your age. What would have happened if I waited one more year? I don’t know.
The good news is that a pap smear can help you detect any changes and help prevent cancer IF caught early.
I remember hoping that I’d just get a quick prescription and I could avoid the whole appointment altogether. Boy am I glad she persisted. For now, I wait to hear from the doctor that they got everything. I continue the rest of the year with regular check ups. And I try to practice gratitude and eliminate stress and worry.
As part of National Cancer Prevention month, I urge all of my lady friends to schedule a pap now. I know it’s so uncomfortable, but having cancer or any other type of problem is much worse. Men, go see your doctor too. And support your lady friends and lady loves by encouraging them to get a screening.