The Powerful Act of Sharing Our Women’s Health Stories | wit and pleasure

It was another Thursday. And I was being weighed by a nurse with a cloying tongue, while simultaneously looking over the number on the scale, hoping I was giving off an “I’m totally cool with my weight” vibe fighting off a listless look.

“Is it too early for you to try to give us a urine sample?” It’s definitely a weird question to ask a stranger at nine in the morning. But the nurse hummed the phrase like a perfect bird as she led me to the bathroom. And I, angry at being there with a happy stranger and my dumb vagina, said, “I haven’t had coffee, but I’ll try it in college.”

In 2012, I had my first abnormal Pap smear. The entire ordeal was heartbreaking and horrible. I got the call from my doctor while I was at work, I cried on the stairs and left early. I thought I was going to die. From there I had my first colposcopy and tried to look brave beyond disgusting. I blamed myself for everything and wondered deeply about the human condition. Bad news is just a part of life. And it is a reminder that you are alive. The test results came back negative. And the following year I came back and went through the process again. I never cried in a stairwell again, but since then I feel this stubborn, leathery growth on my chest getting bigger every year.

Every February since 2012, I have had an abnormal Pap smear. I think it’s been a year somewhere I’ve come clean, but the abnormal cells keep coming back. Most have ended up with a colposcopy and a negative test. But, while I’m always grateful that my body fights, I can’t help but feel weak when the cells keep coming back. I want to have them removed, but surgery would put me at risk of having children in the future.

Bad news is just a part of life. And it is a reminder that you are alive.

Bad news is just a part of life. And it is a reminder that you are alive.

Bad news is just a part of life. And it is a reminder that you are alive.

I try to say this mantra to myself every time. But, the unknown can be so daunting. Even if the only thing that is promised to us is life or death. I don’t regret being so direct. It’s the truth. And the truth is hard.

This year, however, Pap smears, colposcopies and doctor visits took a strange turn. The cells became a little more threatening. I think my doctor called the cells a “Level 3” but I can’t fully remember. If you’re talking about my vagina as a video game, I’m worried. My body just wasn’t healing the enemy cells. And they were getting worse. My doctor told me over the phone, “I know you’re frustrated. But that’s why we see every year. In women, especially your age, cells can turn into something cancerous when we are unaware; And we want to make sure we catch the bad guys.”

Next, I instantly scheduled a LEEP. LEEP is short for Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure and, to put it scientifically, the process uses a wire loop heated by electrical current to remove cells and tissue in a woman’s lower genital tract. While it sounds horrible, in fact it is. But when I went into the doctor the morning of the procedure, I still didn’t know.

A machine that looked like a backup generator, made in the eighties, greeted me. The nurse and nurse-in-training gave me a brief introduction to the procedure while they checked my blood pressure. They told me that the machine looked a lot like a vacuum cleaner. And that I can feel the electric wave in my legs. And, as a restaurant would tell me they’re off the special, that “the adrenaline shot is honestly the worst part.”

Excuse me? An adrenaline rush? In my… vagina?

I instantly panicked. They had to bring me crackers and apple juice. And let me tell you, quickly eating cookies before someone shoots your cervix with numbing medicine and adrenaline is no easy task. The sound of the machine made me feel like I was in a dentist’s office and the shot of adrenaline was worst. I felt like I was about to give a million performances in my stomach and then in my chest. Nerves slipped through my fingertips and I pictured my purple toes under the bare fluorescent lights.

I am so frustrated by the lack of power and transparency around women’s health and the silent stories that surround them. Why do we have to feel so alone?

As I sat there dealing with my sudden adrenaline rush, a wire snare, one that looks a lot like something you’d pull balloons with at the beach, cut through the abnormal tissue on my cervix, enough to cover the size of my neck. the tip of a finger. . From there, my cervix was Burned to stop any bleeding. Burned!! How did I not know that this happens regularly to women?! And now me!? AND WE GET NOTHING BUT A TYLENOL AND A DIAPER TO TAKE FROM THE HOSPITAL?

It was over almost as quickly as it started, but I had to stay there as the adrenaline subsided. And, as usual, the doctor handed me a giant pad packed tightly in a cardboard box and said she would call me when she got the results. I returned home fifteen minutes later with strict instructions not to have sex, exercise, or wash my vagina for two weeks. Perfect, since my general stress level and hygiene rules wouldn’t allow me to do those things anyway.

Since my LEEP procedure, a dozen realizations began to light up for me. They were real and difficult. I have been dealing with abnormal pap smears and the procedures that come after them, in private for nine years. I wrote about the stigma behind talking about women’s health in an article for wit and pleasure a few years ago called “Abnormal Stories of Loud and Beautiful Women.” And I want this to be my answer even louder. A spirited follow-up, if you will. That is why I shared my story above. I am so frustrated by the lack of power and transparency around women’s health and the silent stories that surround them. Why do we have to feel so alone? Why don’t doctors tell us about our health differently? Why does it cost us so much money? The women’s health experience must be heard loud and clear. (Writer’s note: I realize that my lifestyle and experience do not account for many more women who have tougher and less privileged histories than I do.) But for now, this is mine.

For one thing, abnormal Pap smears are extremely common in women. According to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, of the three million Of women who get an abnormal Pap smear a year, less than one percent will be diagnosed with cervical cancer. Even more, for something so common, annual colposcopies cost me $600-$900 out of pocket each spring. If I didn’t have insurance, each one would cost me thousands. Doctors always recommend screening for cervical cancer and I have not missed a colposcopy since. When this started in 2012, I didn’t make a lot of money and had to start a payment plan. It took me a year to pay off the bill, just in time for the next one.

I also recently started talking to my doctor about having children. It’s something I felt right to start discussing, even though I’d been sitting in a room with his head between my legs with a cotton swab every year anyway. We discussed when she would rather go off birth control and she mentioned that she was proud that he didn’t smoke cigarettes. “Plus, if you want to get pregnant faster, you can always lose 5 to 10 pounds.” She said this rather quickly and moved on to the subject of blood tests next, but I just sat there with my tongue sticking out, counting my rolls under my paper gown like counting sheep before bed.

He handed me some pamphlets that looked like they were printed in the early 1990s, even though the publication date said 2002. One of them said “Screening and Diagnosis of Cystic Fibrosis” and all I could think of was another “failure.” . He could be responsible for discovering that he was a cystic fibrosis carrier. Between everything else.

The thought of getting pregnant instantly made me feel like everything could go wrong. And I found guilt everywhere in the pregnancy. You are too fat. You drink too much. You smoke. Do you wear your seat belt? Your genes could transmit diseases. Something could be wrong with your blood. Don’t have those abnormal cells removed. Take out those abnormal cells. Watch, watch, watch. Money money money.

Bad news is just a part of life. And it is a reminder that you are alive.

I strongly believe in that. And if we hear each other’s stories about women’s health, we can be so much better. Bad news is a part of life and if we can’t hear the bad news surrounding our health, what are we doing? If I had known the details of a LEEP procedure, it would have been better. If I could have known earlier about the common aspects of abnormal Pap tests, it would have been better. If I had known that my weight is not the reason why I cannot have children, that raising a family does not depend exclusively on my abdomen, it would have been better. We can still be frustrated by the lack of empathy that manifests itself in women’s health. But, we can be better to change it.

I don’t know how to change the polite and calm murmur of women’s health right now. But I hope that my story and this moment that you are reading can start a conversation strong enough to make us louder within our many stories.

It’s a big request and I don’t know how to change the polite and quiet hum of women’s health right now. But I hope that my story and this moment that you are reading can start a conversation strong enough to make us louder within our many stories. They are not the same stories but we deserve to hear them because they are not the same. I have written this in some way many times, but the stories keep us alive.

You are not alone in your health journey. You’re not alone in the crumpled up paper from the doctor’s office, stuck to your sweaty buttocks. He’s not alone when he places a strip of duct tape on his thigh so that an electrical current can ripple through his ankles and knees. You’re not alone when your doctor says the results showed mild dysplasia and clear margins; when you wonder what that means and where the next year will take you. Or the next. You’re not alone when your doctor tells you that you can get pregnant faster if you lose some weight. And, most importantly, you are not alone when you feel like you are.

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