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.”

Fuck.

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.

The day of the procedure

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.

After the procedure

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.

Melanie

Melanie is a freelance writer currently living in Portland, Oregon. She is passionate about education, financial literacy, and empowering people to take control of their finances. She writes about breaking up with debt, freelancing, and side hustle adventures at DearDebt.com.

Currently she puts more than 50% of her income towards debt, while living a frugal, fun life. In addition to her love of personal finance, art and music, she is also a karaoke master. Follow the adventure @DearDebtBlog.

65 responses to “Your Results Came Back — And They Were Abnormal”

  1. eemusings says:

    Oh wow, what an ordeal. You are a trooper, and here’s to a quick recovery. <3

    I think I'm due for my next one this year actually. I take BC like clockwork and they always ensure I'm up to date with smear tests and such. God I hate them but this is such an important reminder of how crucial they are to women's health.
    eemusings recently posted…When financial opposites attractMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Yeah, I feel like I’ve wasted SO much time in this vortex of stress and worry. Launching Lola was one of the only things that kept me sane. Regular pap smears are so important and now I know why!

  2. So glad it was detected and taken care of! I know worry will always be in the back of your mind, and there’s not much I can say for that. But this post shows how strong you are and that you’ve got great support from your doctor. Hang in there.

    • Melanie says:

      Thank you! Yes, prevention is key. So even though “high-grade precancer” sounds scary AF it’s still super preventable and curable. The procedure should take care of it. And even though I hate seeing the doctor so often over the next year, I’d rather have that than the converse.

  3. Wishing you all the best. My mom was diagnosed with colon cancer a few months ago. The chemotherapy has been helpful though.
    Colin @ rebelwithaplan recently posted…You’re Allowed To SuckMy Profile

  4. Linda Hoch says:

    Wow, what an “adventure” you’re having! I so appreciate you being so transparent and sharing this helpful and valuable information. Thanks and only good karma your way!

    • Melanie says:

      Yeah, something like that lol. I wanted to be transparent because I felt so alone and scared. And I know I’m not the only one. Thanks for the good thoughts! xo

  5. Just as superbly written as I expected. And I have no doubt this will encourage someone else to take good care of their health. I’m glad to see you had such good support by your side. On a more light hearted note, I can relate SO much to this: “The internet isn’t really where you want to turn when you have something going on that you’re nervous about.” Thank you for sharing your experience.

    • Melanie says:

      Thank you! I appreciate your support. I am so happy — 4 women have said they’re scheduling paps now 🙂 Ugh, the internet can send you down the rabbit hole and make your anxiety even worse!

  6. Dyana says:

    This one definitely hits home. I avoid paps like the plague but randomly decided to get one about a year ago. Results came back slightly abnormal with low-grade squamous cells and I was dang near writing my eulogy! I couldn’t sleep, eat, or focus on doing my job. I was on Google night and day. The LEEP procedure was recommended but I decided to give it a few months as I had just fought an infection before my pap. Three months later I went to a clinic at work to get a second pap and got normal results but I was still uneasy thinking maybe they missed something. My mind wouldn’t rest until I got a third pap with a normal result but I got pregnant after that. Once baby comes a pap smear is at the TOP of my list. Thanks for sharing your story and I am glad you are now doing fine!
    Dyana recently posted…Prepare for Your Child’s Future with a 529 Savings PlanMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Ahh! You know what I’ve been going through. I didn’t want to get the procedure done, but the precancer was the highest grade and I couldn’t really wait. I have spent so many hours of my life reading crap on the internet about this. About one percent of it was helpful, but 99 percent sent me straight to panic mode. Definitely get your pap smear soon and take care of it.

  7. I wish you the best, Melanie. And, thank you for sharing. By sharing your story, you encourage other women to get their annual exam and possibly prevent future health complications.
    Amanda @ centsiblyrich recently posted…Frugal Food: Vegetarian Ramen Midwest Stir FryMy Profile

  8. Brian says:

    Thanks for sharing Melanie. Hope you are recovering physically and mentally. It’s hard not to speculate, or assume when you hear the C- word. The anticipation of the result is stomach turning. Having gone through a similar scare with my wife I’ve witnessed what you are dealing with. A great reminder for regular check ups and a having great support system around you.
    Brian recently posted…Interview Series: Mustard Seed MoneyMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Yes, I am starting to heal. Slowly but surely. I am trying so hard not to stress but it’s hard. I am sorry you had to deal with something similar with your wife! Having a support system is so important. Honestly don’t know what I’d do without my boyfriend or my family.

  9. Argh, I hate that you’re right. I’m overdue for a check-up and I haven’t been motivated to go. But I will now. Thanks, Melanie!
    Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life recently posted…Just a little (link) love: Thor in the world editionMy Profile

  10. I’m really sorry you had to go through this, Melanie! I can’t believe how quickly the change happened. This is an excellent reminder for all women who may be tempted skip annual preventative appointments.
    Kate @ Cashville Skyline recently posted…How I Boosted My Credit Score Above 800My Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Yeah, not fun :/ I am shocked about the change in a 2-year time period too! It’s so important to keep your preventative appointments. They could save your life!

  11. Thank you so, so much for sharing this.

    My mom also had abnormal paps and had that procedure done. It’s gotta hurt like a motha’ (sorry), but my mom was completely fine and cancer-free. I can’t imagine how freakin’ scary that would be. But I’m very glad you went to your doctor and got tested. That’s why paps are so important!!
    Please also remember to do monthly breast exams, ladies (and gents). I signed up for text reminders from BrightPink.org and they remind me each month to do my self-exams.
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…When Should I Start Investing?My Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Ugh, I’m sorry your mom had to deal with this too 🙁 Luckily with the anesthesia, it didn’t hurt too much, it was just majorly uncomfortable. I am bad with remembering to do breast exams. Thanks for sharing the Bright Pink resource!

  12. Oh man! I’ll be praying for you! Your post reminds me that I’m overdue for a pap smear myself… I was supposed to have one last year but never did. Off to call my doctor!

  13. Thank you for sharing. I’m actually due for my annual pap soon and I completely forgot to schedule it! I know it was very uncomfortable to hit publish on this one but you could save a life. Thank you for using your public persona for good!
    Julie @ Millennial Boss recently posted…10 Books That Changed Me..and Those That Didn’tMy Profile

  14. Personal stories are the most powerful. Never be afraid to share them. Even a story like this relates to men who have daughters or a significant other.

  15. Wow, I was putting off going for a doctor appointment, but I’m scheduling one now!

  16. I’m so sorry you had to go through this, Melanie. I appreciate your bravery in publishing this post as I’m sure it will help others to get the preventative care they need. I’m not a great patient, but I have learned the hard way that it’s better to go to the doctor regularly to take care of issues before they become serious. Thankfully they caught your situation before it was any worse.
    Gary @ Super Saving Tips recently posted…How Will You Handle The Final Affairs Of A Loved One?My Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Yes! I HATE doctors, needles and am extremely squeamish. Which is why this situation was so painful and hard. But I’m getting it taken care of and managed.

  17. Chonce says:

    I’m so happy you shared this! It’s always good to raise awareness. I had a very similar experience 2 years ago. I was moving/switching doctors when my abnormal results came back and I didn’t really understand what they were saying so I actually waited 18 months before getting another pap and the results were still abnormal. I had to get the biopsy done and I was freaking myself out and doing a ton of research. I had so much anxiety because I am so sensitive to pain. I got the biopsy done and it was horrible and painful. My mom came with me because she is the only person who can calm me down in certain situations.

    I had the LEEP done too and they put me to sleep for it THANK GOD, or else, I don’t know how I’d make it through. The worst part is over those and the LEEP is very effective. I had to do 2 follow up paps 6 months apart which both came back normal and now I’m just going once a year. Good luck when you go in for your follow up. Everything will be fine.
    Chonce recently posted…Debt Mindset Series: Escaping the Debt TrapMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      I am so sorry you had to go through this! I was not under during the LEEP but there was local anesthesia. I did ask for an anti-anxiety pill though, which thank goodness my doctor prescribed! I feel much better taking action, but am also eager to just go back to “normal” — but as you know need several follow-ups to prove that first!

  18. Hi Melanie, I went through the same thing in my 20’s and I know the anxiety. Fortunately, I was part of the 90% and it hasn’t come back, and I’m in my early 40’s. You are very brave to publish this, and it will probably help a lot of women!
    Primal Prosperity recently posted…Manifesto for a “Free Range Nation”My Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Oooh that’s great to hear! I hope it doesn’t come back. I don’t feel brave at all. I feel scared and wanting connection. Am so heartened to know I am not alone and that others have gone through it. Am happy many women have told me they are getting checked!

  19. Robin says:

    I had the LEEP procedure done in 2005 and it hasn’t come back since then. Hope all will be well for you too!

  20. Joe says:

    Hope that’s over with and you won’t have to deal with it again for a long time. Michelle needs to get a biopsy later this year too. Very scary for everyone.

  21. Andi Blackwell says:

    I’m overdue. Thank you for the reminder.

  22. Thanks for writing this post! I think there needs to be more awareness of how important PAP smears are. I only just got my first PAP smear when I was 22 years old. I wasn’t sure what to expect or how often I was supposed to be going. Glad to hear you’re okay and that the hard part is over!

  23. Oh Melanie, I’m so sorry for your scare. I know that I have delayed pap tests many times. This will serve as a wake-up for everyone who reads your blog. Thank you for sharing your story. High hopes that you are in that 90% effective group. Take care.
    Fruclassity (Ruth) recently posted…Workplace Sexual Harassment Happens to Men Too: Interview with Mr. SSCMy Profile

  24. I’ve had abnormal test results before and then had a biopsy but didn’t need the LEEP procedure (I didn’t even know what that was til just now). Everything went back to normal on it’s own. I hope all of your precancerous cells are gone now. You are so brave to share your story with so many people. Thank You.

  25. Centsai says:

    We are so sorry to hear about this but we are happy to know that the procedure went well and that you are on the right track back to recovery! You will be in our prayers!
    Centsai recently posted…5 Tips for Filing Your Taxes as a College StudentMy Profile

  26. Mrs Money says:

    I too had an abnormal pap and went through two LEEP procedures and a CO2 laser ablation of my cervix. I haven’t had any cancerous cells since, thankfully! I’m always happy to chat with you if you ever need someone to talk to about it!

    • Melanie says:

      Oh wow! I am so sorry you had to go through that, but grateful to know I have someone to talk with if I have to have more procedures. It’s so stressful. I am grateful for you sharing your story!

  27. Kelli says:

    So sorry you went through that, but thank you for sharing your story!

  28. Liz says:

    Thanks for sharing your story! I had an abnormal pap last year, and they had me go in for the biopsy. Apparently my pre-cancer cells were not at the level where they would recommend any further treatment, so the doctor told me to sit tight, wait a year, and see if it got any worse. The most frustrating part was how little information they gave about the whole thing. Thankfully, when I went back in this year, my pap was normal. And in doing some research, I’ve discovered that irregular paps are more common that I thought, and that catching it early drastically reduces the risk of it turning into cancer.

    • Melanie says:

      Yeah, I had no idea how common it is either. I am glad you are fine and didn’t have to do any further treatments. Though it’s not fun, having procedures that prevent cancer is huge and a lifesaver!

  29. Sara Rosso says:

    Thanks for sharing – when I went through this (10+ years ago) no one was talking about it and it was really scary. After I was diagnosed I realized some family close to me had also had it done but hadn’t talked about it. The good news is the LEEP is very effective, and regular checkups afterward are the best prevention.

    I actually blogged about it at the time – I was living in Italy – http://www.msadventuresinitaly.com/blog/2007/01/31/keeping-your-legs-crossed-in-an-italian-hospital/

    • Melanie says:

      I was so nervous and never heard about it. Now SO many people have told me they’ve been through the same thing. I wish we talked about these things more as I was so nervous and scared. Glad we are spreading awareness and helping others 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story!

  30. Anon says:

    Thanks so much for sharing. I had a LEEP two years ago and agree the information on the web is terrifying. My first doctor recommended general sedation at the hospital, which sounded really frightening and serious. The second doctor I consulted did it in her office with only a local and it was awkward but pain free, and almost no recovery time. The wait and fear were definitely the worst parts, and I hope your results are worry free from now on.

    • Melanie says:

      Yeah, worrying about it was the worst part. It was painful and uncomfortable for me, but feeling better now. And I’m all clear for now! So hoping future tests are normal and healthy!

  31. Michelle says:

    Melanie! I’ve also had abnormal results and it’s the most frightening thing ever! I’m so happy that all is ok and I’m so happy that you brought up this very important topic that many times gets swept under the rug.
    Michelle recently posted…Jessica Garborino-Every Single Dollar GGF (again)My Profile

  32. Just seeing this story now!!! Thank you for sharing your story. It’s so important for people to take care of themselves. I got a pap last year after waiting 5 years (I know – that is horrible!). Everything was normal but I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t wait that long again. Melanie, stand strong – you got this!!

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