I always debate whether or not what I am going through or dealing with in my personal life is worth putting on the blog. If you ask any one of my friends, they will tell you I am an open book so I feel maybe that is a good quality. And with most things, it’s always good to bring awareness, if only to help one person, or to just be a reminder.
So how exactly did my littlest Fitz help possibly save my life?
During my first check up with the doctor after Fitz was born, they did a pap smear. I hate those things. There is nothing more annoying than having to take your pants off and wrap yourself in a paper towel in a cold doctor’s office especially after the trauma of birth. I felt that it was silly to give me a pap smear right after a baby. I mean it will probably come back abnormal just because I had a baby. I called my best friend whom had had a baby exactly two weeks after me to complain.
I put it in the back of my mind. Two weeks later they called and said it was abnormal. For some reason I expected it. I called my mom and complained, “well of course its abnormal, my body isn’t right yet from just having a baby!” I was told they needed to do a colposcopy, which if you have ever had one, they kind of snip or scrap more cells from the cervix to test further. UNFUN. I had one back in my 20’s that came back abnormal. I remember her telling me, “ Eh, women get these all the time, nothing to be afraid about. Sometimes they can be abnormal just because you recently had a cold. Cell change happens for various reasons. It came back normal and no reason to worry like she said.
Two more weeks came and I had the procedure which again, was unfun. I tried not to worry, in fact, I’m so busy these days raising what feels like a herd of needy cats, I hardly had the time to think about it.
Two more weeks past and I got a call from the nurse. I knew, KNEW it wasn’t good news. Sometimes you just know. I cried after the phone call. More because I had no idea what was even happening. I mean, less than 9 months ago I had a pap smear that was totally normal. How could I possibly have an issue before I was really even due to have another pap smear??
The nurse told me that my results came back, abnormal with High grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (HGSIL). This is also called cervical dysplasia (another term I had never heard). She told me she didn’t want me to panic (too late) and that I needed to have another procedure called LEEP which stands for Electrosurgical Excision Procedure which all I heard was OUCH OUCH OUCH. She said it was NOT optional. ( I guess some women think it is)
She explained to me that it could be done in the office or in the OR and I could be put under. I was so nervous about being put under and the fact that I was nursing Fitz and knew he wouldn’t take a bottle that I opted for the office visit, which is what most people do.
The whole time I was thinking, is this it? Is this the dreaded 6 letter word? Immediately your mind shifts to losing your hair, getting sick, and of course dying. I knew I was skipping ahead a bit, but the worst floods in and blurs your mind. (Dramatic, yes)
So what is HGSIL? Well, its pre-cancer. It’s when there is significant change in the cells on your cervix. There are 4 levels and mine was a 4 which meant getting rid of the pre cancerous cells was needed. If you are a 1-2, usually they just watch it.
I scheduled my procedure for 4 weeks out. At the time, I was stunned. If I have cancer, I need it gone tomorrow! Not in a month! Looking back, my senses about everything were heightened. Not to say that this isn’t a big deal, or maybe I just understand it better now, but it wasn’t completely urgent. My husband at the time was overseas feeling helpless and nervous knowing I was going through this scary time. I felt terrified. I thought, I have such a wonderful life, a new baby, please don’t let me have cancer.
When I went for the procedure, my mother in law came to watch the babies. The procedure took about 15 minutes. It was slightly painful, mostly the smell of burning flesh was hard to handle. I was so nervous when the doctor told me to take a few deep breaths as she started, I nearly passed out. My vision got black spots and I couldn’t hear. I had passed out once on the bleachers during practice in a play in high school, so I knew where it was going. I held my breath and eventually I kept myself from fully blacking out. I felt like such a wimp. The last time I almost passed out, I was getting my belly button pierced… thank goodness that fashion trend went away…
After the procedure, the doctor informed me that they will test this tissue again to see if it is cancer. It was possible that it could come back as cancer and from then I would see an oncologist for a deeper biopsy to test for spreading. She said as of now I have pre-cancer and that gives me a 1% chance that it would be cancer within a year. I was liking my odds but also know SOMEONE has to be the 1%… She said that it could go away on its own or I could continue to have these sessions cutting out tissue. She informed me that instead of one pap a year I would now need four. If the next 4 came back normal, I would then be free to resume normal paps (one a year).
That two weeks waiting for the results were scary. I was surprisingly calm once again, with faith in God that we would tackle whatever it was. My husband caught me in the bathroom staring off into the air the night before my results appt. He admitted that he was terrified. We joked that if I died, he’d need to marry one of my single friends who would love the kids as much as I do. I laughed and he laughed but it wasn’t funny and we both knew it.
On a side note, I’m not afraid of dying. I’m afraid of leaving my loved ones. I’m afraid of not being there when my kids grow up. Of them being too young to know how fiercely their mother loved them. Their whole lives would have to change because I wasn’t there. After we climbed in bed that night I told my husband, “It will be whatever, but if it is something scary, I will fight like hell. I’m not going anywhere. If Meme can beat cancer twice, and my mom fight off a brain tumor that nearly killed her silently for 10 years, I can get through this.”
That was a dark moment. Looking at those little kids faces, it was all I could do to stay normal around them.
The next day I went to the office alone. I felt If the news was bad, I needed to process it alone first.
The doctor said, you have pre-cancer but no cancer. She will need to see me in June to test again. I was so relieved. I was so sure I was walking into a room with the word CANCER blinking over it. I felt I was going to live another day. I had so much to be grateful for and even though this was probably not a death sentence, it sure made you count your blessings.
While I’m not out of the woods completely and there is always still a chance of cancer ( or any cancer of course) right now, we monitor the situation.We we take solace in the fact that I can keep testing every few months.
Thank goodness I love my OB/GYN so much, id just prefer to meet her for coffee or run into her at target…
So here is my reason for writing this. I never knew that cervical cancer was something I really had to think about. If it weren’t for having Fitz, I may have skipped my annual paps. ( I hate going to the doctor) Maybe I wouldn’t have skipped, but maybe I didn’t schedule it for a while. Maybe this could have been different news.
Cervical cancer still kills thousands of women a year, but it doesn’t have to. Now we are so lucky that we have all these prescreenings and procedures to help. There is also vaccinations for girls ( between 9 and 26) to help prevent HPV which causes cervical cancer.
I highly recommend the vaccination which was never around when I was growing up. I highly recommend getting a good doctor and checking up on yourself like clockwork.
After opening up to a few friends about this, I found that another friend went through the same thing. Its not uncommon, I guess we just don’t talk about it. Which in the end its nice to talk, had I talked to my friends before, maybe I would have been less nervous and perhaps less dramatic.
Being a mom and worrying about all the things we have to worry about. Being a women and worrying about all the things we have to worry about, cervical cancer should not be one of them. Get checked. Get the vaccine ( if possible).
So shout out to baby Fitz for being born and keeping me healthyJ