When we are young, we are invincible. There is nothing that can hold us down, nothing bad will ever happen to us.
Then we have kids and the reality of mortality creeps up on us. What happened to the days of “do whatever you want now, because you have your 30’s to makeup for it.”
Well, ladies, my 30’s are here and it’s time to pay the piper.
A month ago, I got the first scary health news I have ever gotten. I have been healthy my whole life. My parents are healthy. My siblings are healthy. Nothing on the radar but your normal back pain and degrading eye sight (and maybe a little balding for the men…)
I had received an abnormal pap smear a few weeks earlier. My doctor was sure it was nothing but wanted to do a biopsy and colscopy to be safe. She said the pathologists couldn’t determine from “the smear” (I love calling it that) how abnormal the cervical cells were.
Ok, I’m an optimistic person. It’s probably nothing. But I googled. Oh boy, did I google.
People, we know not to google. Why do we still do it every time. It’s like torture. Why do we like to torture ourselves? So, I googled and worried, and worried and googled, all the way up to the appointment.
Ladies, I pray for your health that you never have to have cervical biopsy. But I also pray that you never have to go through the actual procedure, because it is one of the most uncomfortable things ever. It’s like a pap smear on steroids.
You have to sit in pap smear position, like a turkey being prepped for stuffing, for 30-40 minutes while the doc is….just in there….all up in there. There is scraping and snipping and swabbing. My legs were so sore afterwards from keeping them from clamping around the doctor’s head.
Y’all it is hard to remain relaxed and limber when someone is literally inside you with tools. Try it. If any one of you can remain completely relaxed without any medications, I will treat you to dinner.
My vagina doc and I have a strange relationship. I am obsessed with her. I guess it’s really just weird on my part, she’s pretty normal. No one else is allowed in there. No one else is allowed to deliver any of my babies. I am a one OB-GYN kind of girl, totally faithful.
As she was in there, trying to stop the bleeding from the snipping, she says, “oh no, I think you might be pregnant.”
Sharp intake of breath. Instant bubble guts. Color drains from my skin. Eyes pop out of my skull.
She thinks she’s a fudging stand up comedian. While I do appreciate her trying to distract me from the discomfort, the adrenaline pumping through my tense body is not helping me relax.
I secretly plot to get her back one day. We finish up, mostly making jokes and talking about our kids. She informs me I will hear from my favorite nurse in the next two weeks, but she wasn’t expecting anything crazy.
This gives me hope.
I continue my over booked, amazingly blessed and exhausting life for the next few weeks. I do my best not to google. The doc’s demeanor and reaction has given me peace of mind.
Cut to a few weeks later. I am in Michigan at a conference. I am trying to catch up on some work and Jersey Shore while winding down in my hotel room. An email pops up.
“You have a new message in your medical chart.”
“Don’t look at it. Don’t. Just don’t. Wait until the nurse calls you. You will totally misunderstand it,” said the rational part of my brain.
I looked. I didn’t listen. I barely even hesitated.
The lab results stated CIN-3. You better believe I googled the tar out of that. All night.
For those of you that have not had to deal with this before, there are 3 levels of cervical dysplasia. CIN-3 is considered highly severe, or if you’re feeling dramatic, pre-cancerous.
And… I’m sweating. I am 5 hours away from home, with a day left at a conference. How am I going to make it through this? And you can’t drink heavily at work, so that’s not a option.
What I didn’t know at the time, was that it can take years to go from CIN-3 to cancer. At the moment it felt like every second was a step closer to the C word.
So I pace and wonder for the entirety of the day. I have to tell my boo, but I should wait until the nurse has called me. Why hasn’t she called me yet? I should draft a will. Goodness, why am I being so dark?
Should I tell our parents, or will it just freak them out? Man, I am overreacting. This is probably nothing. I think I’ll have a Diet Coke, it might be my last. Stop, thinking that way!
I finally get a phone call around 2pm. Hey, Nurse C! No, I don’t know what’s going on. I have not prematurely read the results and been creating an alternate reality in my mind. Spiraling, what’s that!?!
She very clearly states that it is NOT CANCER, but pre-cancer (I guess she’s dramatic, like me.) They want to get me in ASAP to discuss treatment (I don’t like that word.) Can I make it in that Tuesday?
Yep, see you then.
Tuesday comes and I meet with my BFF Gyno. She explains the process of developing cervical cancer and that it is a slow growing cancer, and we are no where near that stage. She talks about how we caught the abnormality early and I probably won’t have to deal with it again after they scoop it out…..
I’m sorry, did you just say scoop it out. She did. She said scoop it out. She explained the LEEP procedure, complete with a personal, hand drawn picture of my cervix and the affected area.
She talked about how some people have to be sedated, but I’m such a champ she doesn’t see a necessity for that. She knows me so well. She knows I hate to be seen as week. I told you she was special.
I schedule the procedure out for a month away. It must not be that big of a deal if they are willing to wait a month. I leave feeling at ease.
In the month leading up to the procedure. I do a lot of research. Yes, I googled it. It wasn’t that scary this time.
What I discovered was that a lot of women go through this same thing. A lot of people walk through this scary hallway of uncertainty and never say a word. Ladies, why don’t we talk to each other about this??
We live in a time where women have never been so vocal or empowered, but we don’t talk about our cervical scares??? I can’t tell you how shocked I was at how many people I knew that had had similar experiences.
They were at their house googling it and freaking out just like I was. They were hiding it from other people just like I was. They were suffering alone, just like I was.
So, I have decided to put it on blast. I’m spilling all my own tea. Today I am having my LEEP procedure. And I’m going to tell you all about it. Come on this journey with me, won’t you??
Do I partake in my work cafeteria’s taco Tuesday lunch? The smart answer is no. But, I did not follow that advice. I did in fact indulge in a taco salad. Sorry Doc. (It might be my last one…)
Is ‘making” beforehand a necessity? Yes. I do not want to try and hold that in while spread open like a science project.
Should I take Ibuprofen en route? Yes, if they would let me drink a martini, that would be better, but I am sure there is some sort of policy against this. This is a negative of living in a conservative area. Too many rules.
Is shaving a priority? Absolutely not. My doc has seen me at my most vulnerable. I am sure she has already judged the hairiness of my legs years ago. Not an issue. It’s cold outside this week, I’m sure she looks like a Sasquatch under her scrubs too.
A bout of yoga before? I meant to attempt this. Being limber is important for making it out of this alive. I forgot and am stiff and inflexible going in. You win some, you lose some.
Thong or full coverage under garments? I go full coverage. Listen, I am a new found fan of the thong (thanks to my new booty gains-raise the roof), but there are some things that require a full crotch panel. What goes in must come out, am I right ladies??
I am pretty sure I made all right decisions, except for the Taco Tuesday.
We got there with 15 minutes to spare. When they call my name, my husband hesitates. He clearly doesn’t want to go into the procedure room with me.
Too bad, grab my coat.
I pee in a cup for the mandatory pregnancy test. It’s negative, thank the lord.
Nurse C then instructs me to disrobe from the waist down. Standard. She then informs me that I need to remove all metal, even if it’s a snap in my shirt or in my glasses.
Hmm, that’s weird.
She then states that she will have to “ground” me with this large white pad, because of the electricity they are using.
They are going to ground me so I don’t get electrocuted. You heard that right. So I don’t get electrocuted. This is supposed to make me healthier, but there is a risk of electrocution. The nerves are pumping now.
I oblige. Doctor knows best.
So I strip down, grab my thin, crispy lap sheet and wiggle up onto the cold table; complete with stirrups. I look down and see the below illustration.
This lightens the mood. The artist should be fired and shamed publicly. Is that even a woman??
Let’s do this. I am ready to move on from this already. The doctor comes in and it’s straight to it. Scoot down and spread ’em!!
Everything seems to be fine during whatever prep work they are doing. The doc is chatting with the hubs and spraying vinegar all over my cervix. So far, not so bad.
All of a sudden I hear my husband say, “geez, that’s a needle.” The doctor and nurses immediately shush him. I had no idea there was a needle coming my way. Now I know it’s coming. I tense up. Damn you, Jess.
The three pokes are uncomfortable, but tolerable. I didn’t ask, but I am assuming it was a local anesthetic. I’ll take that, numb that sucker up, girl!
The nurse informs me my heart might start to race and I could get shaky, due to the epinephrine in the local. Before she finishes the sentence, it has already begun. I now have to relax while holding my legs open with forceps that have a hose attached to it. (This is to suck out the fumes from burning skin. Please, let that one marinate.)
Then the scooping starts. Yes, the scooping. The apparatus literally looks like a long-stemmed flossing stick. The main difference is is electrically charged and ready to cut out parts of my body. Let that sink in.
Before she starts a question pops into my head. Earlier I had been snooping, and saw one of the sample cups labeled “top hat.” Seriously, it was labeled top hat. So, of course, in my nervous state, I had to know!
She started laughing and explained it’s purpose. It’s a deeper sample she will take if the cells look deeper than anticipated. Dang it, I shouldn’t have asked. That is a fun name, though, very technical.
Let me be clear, I have a very high pain tolerance. I can get through pretty much anything. The scooping hurt; not like screaming and wishing for death, but it is not what I wanted to experience as that current moment.
Then they have to cauterize the cut. Nothing like a long thin rod burning your flesh while you patiently sit and wait for all of this to end.
To distract me, Nurse C asks me if I want to see the sample they scooped out. Nurse C, you know me so well, of course I do! Bring that plastic jar on over here.
What I saw in the sample jar can only be explained as two quarter sized chicken cutlets. They were raw chicken pink and floating in a pink-tinged liquid. I am pretty sure my jaw dropped open. That seems like a lot. Like an amuse-bouche sized amount.
I’m sorry, are food-based references about my biological samples too far? Oh good, I didn’t think so. I find this kind of stuff amazing. I mean, if you’re going to cut out part of my body, I am going to look at it. I never get to see it any other time. This is my only shot.
I wince in pain a few times as the burning hot heat is sent in waves through my central nervous system to my brain where it tries to ignite my flight mode. Back off pain and terror, this ain’t my first rodeo. I birthed a baby with no pain killers. I am Sheba.
I make it through the final stages of the procedure, mostly unscathed and a few ounces lighter. I am told that nothing should enter my lady parts for 6 weeks to ward off infection and they will see me with the final results in 2 weeks. We shake hands, while I’m still pants less, and my wonderful doctor rides off into the sunset on her gallant stead to make someone else her finger puppet.
I am ready to exit the building, go home, get some work done and maybe eat anything I want to because I flipping deserve it!
So, there you go ladies. It wasn’t the worse thing that has happened to me, not even close to the most painful. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not volunteering for it any time soon. I’ve been through much worse.
As I sit here and write this, I am still uncomfortable. It’s to be expected, I was burned from the inside. But I am thankful. I am thankful for a doctor I can turn to, insurance I can fall on, a boss that allows me to work the final hours of the day from home, a husband that supports me and a groups of friends, co-workers and family that always care and help me conquer my fear. I am thankful for a God that coordinates it all, right when I need it.
Mostly I am thankful for the annual medical exam that my doctor insists upon that caught this in the early stages. Had I been lazy about it and waited (and that’s highly likely because I hate pap smears), who knows what could have happened. I almost skipped it, but they wouldn’t refill my birth control; and I hate pap smears less than the idea of being out numbered by my own children.
I am also thankful for this platform to share my story. My hope is that there is someone going through the same thing, googling the same thing, feeling the same thing and my extremely funny account of my experience will bring some peace and calm to their situation.
So, ladies, let’s start talking and sharing about these apparently super secret procedures and test results. Someone out there needs your story. They need to hear what you went through. We are stronger in numbers. We are safer together. We can strengthen each other through our stories.
So start spreading….your stories…..just your stories please……