Cervix wars.

15 Jul

Note: If you are easily affected or worried by others’ medical stories like I am, and/or are going to have a biopsy or procedure similar to the LEEP, it’s okay to wait to read my story after it’s over, or to not read it at all. I promise. I’d rather commiserate with you than make you miserable!

I dub today LEEP Recuperation Day #3. Here’s what led up to it:

A story I don’t share much, because, honestly, I try not to think about it much, is the story about the invasion of my cervix by pre-cancerous cells. Really, some of my good friends don’t know much about the situation. Not that there’s much to tell. It’s something I’ve been dealing with for about 4 years now, and the 6 month checkups/colposcopies/biopsies have become pretty routine. Each time I get anxious, but my last couple of checkups have really taken the cake in that department.

Let’s call the first one the “false hope” incident. It went as follows: I contacted the women’s health center near my home (not the center that performs the colposcopies, but the one that requires a yearly well woman exam to ensure my birth control prescription gets renewed,) because I had just recently visited the dysplasia center, and wasn’t sure if I needed to make my well woman appointment or if I just needed to make an appointment to renew my prescription. A very sweet, well-meaning nurse informed me that I wouldn’t need to have another exam (sweet,) and I just needed to come in and talk with the doc about my prescription. She went on to ask how my last dysplasia appointment went, and I told her I was still waiting for results. She checked my chart, and was elated to tell me that the results were normal. Now, I tried not to get too excited, because, as you may already know, pap results can be normal while biopsy results may be abnormal at the same time. So, I explained I’d also had a biopsy, and asked if those were just the pap results. She assured me that “all of the test results came back normal,” and I was in complete shock. Seriously, I had to sit by myself in that quiet room for a few minutes for it to sink in. After the shock wore off, I was extremely excited, and shared the news with my family and some friends. For a few weeks, it felt like a baby elephant had been lifted off my shoulders. After 3 years, those low-to-medium grade precancerous cells had finally left my body! Then the results from the dysplasia clinic came in the mail. The results were (you probably guessed this, because you’re smart) abnormal, and I was a dangerous combination of crushed and very, very angry. Punching things angry. As I side note, I just want to say that kind of anger is okay, just as long as you don’t punch anything living; I don’t advise punching anything too hard, either. Fortunately, the office manager I spoke to at the women’s health center was incredibly sympathetic, and we had a conversation about how we both wished the results protocol was handled differently in the JPS system. I knew she couldn’t fix the problem, or the fact that I still had those nasty little cells, but it was helpful to have her to talk to. Sweet lady, whose name I’m sorry I don’t remember, I will always be thankful for you.

By the next 6 month appointment, I had come to terms with the results (again.) I thought things would continue on as they had for the past few years, which I was used to, and I reminded myself to think optimistically. There was a mantra of “the cells can still go away; they haven’t progressed” playing on repeat in my mind for a while. Then came the incident we’ll refer to as the “Why the *?&^ didn’t they tell me that?” incident. After the colposcopy and a particularly painful biopsy that was meant to remove the offending spot on my cervix, I thought, “Finally! Why didn’t they do this before?” When the doctor offered, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. An extra dose of pain was fine if it meant getting rid of the cloud of impending cancer hanging over my head. As usual, I waited weeks for the results, trying especially hard not to get too excited over the prospect of the dysplasia being gone for good. Let’s keep it real – I’m an optimist, but I’m not a fool. When the results came in the mail, though, what I read came out of left field. It was a notification to schedule a LEEP procedure to remove the pre-cancerous cells, and there was something scribbled in the margin about severe dysplasia.

Hang on. Can I just take a second and mention that, while I admit that I wouldn’t have the best penmanship in the world if I wrote that many notes in a day, I’d make darn sure that, if I was a doctor, I wrote patients’ test results and follow-up instructions clearly? Nothing incites a feeling of doom like getting an important message that may be really good or really not so good and not being able to read it. Dear reader, do everyone a favor. If you know a medical professional, or if you are a medical professional, could you please kindly but firmly remind your friend or yourself that legibility can either be sweet mercy or cruel torture? Thank you.

I called the clinic to clarify what my mail meant, thinking that my mild to moderate cells had gotten worse, and found out that the severe cells were in a different spot entirely. Now my not so threatening spot had a very threatening friend. No one had mentioned this to me during the actual exam, and since it’s a teaching hospital, they’re supposed to inform you of every little thing they do when they do it. In other words, someone should have said, “I’m going in for a second biopsy because I see a new area of dysplasia.” All I knew was that the doctor was trying to remove the original cells by performing a more extensive biopsy. All of a suddden, I got to experience a new procedure that involved way more slice and dice than what I was used to.

Needless to say, I was pretty upset. Not so much about the procedure, because it was something I’d talked about with my former doctor as a possible treatment. The LEEP procedure uses and electric loop to scoop out tissue and cauterize the area so that it will heal faster. In other words, they cut out the area, then burn it. If it sounds horrific, it’s because it is. I mean, if we’re going to compare it to other horrific things in the grand scheme, it’s not so bad. If you’re a woman reading this, though, you know that anything involving the maiming or removal of the physical symbols of your womanhood (breasts, reproductive organs, or genitalia) can be psychologically damaging. Frankly, another thing I just try not to think about. What I was so upset about was that, once again, I wasn’t given the correct information the first time around, and I felt violated. I spoke to another office manager, who was nice, but thought that she was talking to me because I was scared of the procedure. When I told her the reason I was upset, she really couldn’t do much but listen. At least she did that.

Fast forward to a few days ago. Fortunately, my husband was able to go with me to my appointment. Also fortunately, the wait wasn’t long, and the nurse and doctor were incredibly informative and asked several times if I had any questions. The nurse turned on one of the machines so I wouldn’t be surprised by the noise, and I had seen the familiar face of my doctor before in another visit. Unfortunately, the screen that magnified the area of the procedure was positioned so that the doctor could view it during the procedure, which means that it was also positioned for my viewing displeasure. I turned my head to the left and the nurse gave me a mask to squeeze for the numbing injection. The whole procedure was over in less than 10 minutes, and I was on my way home. After about 45 minutes, the numbing med wore off and I felt the full effects of the procedure. After taking the Tramadol prescribed for my fibromyalgia symptoms a couple of hours later, I was reminded of how well it works. These past couple of days have also been reminders of how blessed I am to be able to rest when I need to.

Today, 3 days later, I went to see The Amazing Spiderman and eat Mexican food with my husband and brother in law as an early birthday celebration. I have little to no pain from the procedure, I’m following the instructions the nurse handed me, and life is doing what it seems to do best. It’s going on.

Gentle hugs,


P.S. – If you would like good info about the LEEP procedure or any other procedure, I encourage you to ask for information from the clinic or hospital where you are a patient. You can also check out WebMD here. While there are plenty of medical discussion boards out there, I would recommend visiting them in moderation (or staying away altogether) unless you have a pressing question you forgot to ask your doctor who can’t be reached, or that isn’t explained on a credible website. My body, just like everyone else’s, is just that: mine. No one experience will be exactly the same as another. I sincerely hope yours is a good one!


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