Tag Archives: Pap smear

Spread the Word… and ONLY the Word

Hey guys! January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.  If you have a cervix or not, please be an extension of my voice this month.  Please have the conversations that are uncomfortable to have with the men, women, and young adults in your lives.  The highlight reel would be:

  • Ladies, get your pap smear regularly (and for the love of all that is good, get the follow up if it’s necessary!). Check with your doctor to find out how often you should get a pap.
  • Parents, get your kids vaccinated against HPV!
  • Condoms are not fool proof here.  HPV, which causes cervical cancer (and 5 other cancers), is a contact disease. So unless you’re wearing a full body condom from start to finish when you’re revving up for, doing, and snuggling up after the dibbity, you are at risk of contracting HPV if your partner is infected.
  • HPV has no symptoms and usually clears within about a year of infection, but can “hide” in the body for years.  There’s no way to know for sure when an infection occurred or who the culprit is.  So even if you’ve been with the same person for ever and a day or you haven’t had sex in at least as long, you could still be at risk.
  • Even someone who has only had sex with one partner could be at risk if that person’s list extends beyond +1. And on that note, keep in mind that, while we’d all love to believe that our partners are 100% honest with us, there’s always, always the chance that they aren’t. Furthermore, since HPV is spread skin to skin and not by exchange of sexual fluids, penetration is not necessary to spread the disease. So, ladies, be your own advocate and go get a pap. Better safe than sorry.
  • Boys need to be educated and vaccinated too.  While it’s far less common for males to develop cancer (though the risk is higher in males having anal sex than in those not), men can contract HPV and pass it along just as easily… where on earth do you think all the women are getting it???
  • Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers.  If caught early enough, it can generally be wiped out.  There are rare cases, like mine however, where that is not the case.  I was getting my pap smears like whoa, and it just happened that the cancer in my body was far more aggressive than most (a 4cm tumor grew on my cervix in 3 months; a tumor that size generally takes years to form). All I can say is, I’d hate to think how bad all of this would have been if I hadn’t been so diligent with the screenings.

Please spread the word. If we can save just one person, I would be happy.  Imagine what it would be like if we saved a bunch 🙂

For more information, check out these sites:

National Cervical Cancer Coalition –  http://www.nccc-online.org/index.php/overview

The Yellow Umbrella – http://www.theyellowumbrella.org/

About the HPV vaccine – http://www.cdc.gov/hpv/vaccine.html

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The Doctor Is In

Ok. A few weeks ago I was kicking my own butt at one of those boot camp classes.  I was pushing myself to do one more lunge, one more push-up, one more lap… I was flipping tires and jumping rope like it was my job. By the end of each class, it was all I could do to not hurl all over the place.  But it felt good.

I had recently turned in my resignation at my job- teaching 3rd grade at a charter school in Florida- to move back to Chicago where I had planned to coach trapeze again and find work as a tutor.  So it was only 4 months after I started the job… so what? My husband is in the army, and he’s stationed in Germany.  He recently got a job with more normal business hours- a job that would be more conducive for a family.  I was leaving Florida so that I could spend my last 7 or 8 months in the states around my family and friends.

And…?

I had a follow up pap smear scheduled.  Follow up to 2 abnormal pap smears I’d had in Chicago, the most recent of which was at the end of July and showed abnormal squamous cells.  Let me be clear when I say that the results of that pap smear showed that I had HPV and ABNORMAL SQUAMOUS CELLS. Let it also be said that I told this doctor in Chicago that I had been having a pinkish discharge for about a month or so. She said she didn’t see anything abnormal but that she did see some yeast so that was probably the culprit. “Nothing to worry about,” she said.

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Ok, fast forward to my follow-up with my new GP doctor in Florida.

She goes in to do the pap and says that she sees a mass… a fairly large mass, in fact.  She goes through the routine battery of questions about my pap history and then calls the doctor in Chicago (the one that said, “Nothing to worry about”). The doctor in Chicago says her diagram from that appointment is clear. No mass.  Ok, so cancer doesn’t sprout up in three and a half months. This tumor must be benign. There are a whole host of tumors that could grow that quickly. My GP refers me to an obgyn who goes in, sees the mass and does a biopsy. When I come back for the consultation a week later, his opener is, “Did you bring anyone with you today?” Now, I watch Grey’s Anatomy, and I know that that question is code for “You have cancer”. ‘Nothing to worry about’ indeed. The biopsy did not say cancer, however. It said almost cancer, but the doctor said cancer.  He told me to forgo my moving plans and get on a plane asap so I could get the healing process started in St. Louis (where my family lives). That was a Monday.

Tuesday morning I was on a flight home. Wednesday I was sitting in an exam room with my new St.Louis GP- the one I had to see to get a referral to a gynecologic oncologist. A few days later I had my very first appointment with an oncologist (a word, by the way, that until recently scared the ever loving mess out of me).  He went in and said, “You want to have kids, right?” This question was alarmingly comforting. Yes, as a matter of fact, I do want to have kids. He did another biopsy, a deeper biopsy. In the post-exam chat in his office, he said it looks like cancer but that the biopsy results will tell us more. Until then we’re treating it as cancer. We scheduled a PET Scan, CPAP, and surgery. My head was spinning. Seriously, what was going on? Less than a month ago I was just going about my life- business as usual. And now my calendar was full of doctor’s appointments. I wasn’t kicking my own butt anymore- life was taking its turn at that.  But I still wanted to hurl all over the place.

A few days later, Dr. Mutch, the oncologist with the excellent patient care, called with the biopsy results. “It’s cancer, but I think we already knew that.” We did. I’d been processing the idea that I have cancer since that obgyn in Florida suggested I might.  I sent a text to the hubs- who, as I’ve failed to mention, is deployed in Afghanistan until February 😦 – telling him the diagnosis.  He called just as I pulled in to the dog groomer to pick up the pooch.  Imagine my car facing a giant plate glass window that looks right into the front desk of the groomer. I’m crying hysterically and talking for the better part of a half an hour, but I have my headphones in so I just appear to be your average hormonal lunatic. The hubs doesn’t know what to do to support me from the other side of the world, and all I want is for him to magically be transported back here and wrap his arms around me. There are no words that he could say that would work as well as magical transportation and arm wrapping.

That was Friday. Today is Sunday. I’ve officially had cancer for 2 whole days. Everyone that matters in my life has been informed- and given strict instructions not to feel mad or sad or sorry, only hopeful. I’ve been busy reading forum after forum and researching doctors for second opinions (the one I like the best happens to be partners with Dr. Mutch…).

I don’t feel sick, and I don’t have any restrictions, so it’s hard to accept that the diagnosis is real. I have a dull pain in my lower left abdomen, but I’m pretty sure I’m making it up. I started my period on Friday which would be fine if I were allowed to use tampons… grrr… Pads.Are.Gross. End of discussion. I’m trying my damnedest to stay positive and to keep the health affirmations running through my head. I’ve also loaded myself with various “anti-cancer” foods- turns out green tea isn’t so bad, and mushrooms have weird healing powers. Mario was on to something with the whole mushrooms-give-you-extra-lives thing.

This is the beginning. And right now I’m not as scared of the cancer as I am of losing my uterus.  My uterus and I have big plans that I’m not willing to abandon just yet.  Dr. Mutch seems hopeful that he can save it. So please send all your healthy, healing thoughts in the direction of my uterus and my lymph nodes.

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