The “C” Word

Jan 24

Since I was 19, I have gone in for yearly check ups with my “lady doctor.”  Every year, it goes as smoothly as one of these visits can go.  It’s not a good time, am I right?  But you do it, and you get the PAP smear, and then you get the letter that it was normal.  You think, “Well duh, I’m totes healthy,” toss that letter in the recycling pile, and go about your life.

Not this time.

THIS year, I went to a new OBGYN because mine retired.  If you’re a female, you know that this isn’t great news.  If you’re going to go through this awkward lady appointment, you at LEAST want to go to the trusted doctor that you’ve known for 8 years, right?  But anyway, I had to go, so I figured I’d give this new doctor a try.

The appointment goes well until one particular part that we’ll get to another time.  The WORST part of the day was finding out that my absolutely worthless utter crap insurance isn’t in network with my OBGYN office, so I had to pay out of pocket.  Luckily, they gave me a 50% discount for “not having insurance.” I could go on a whole rant about how much it upsets me to pay out the ass for insurance to have “no insurance” written on your chart.  But again, another rant for another time.  🙂

Anyway, a week or so goes by when I get a call from the OBGYN office.  I was in my living room when I answered the call, assuming it had something to do with the insurance ordeal.  I was wrong.  The call went something like this.

Nurse: “Hi, this is so-and-so from your OBGYN office.  We just wanted to tell you that we got your PAP smear results and they are . . . “

At this point, I was zoning out thinking, “Yeah, yeah normal, I have to get to the post office so chop chop . . . “

Nurse: ” . . . abnormal.”

What?

Nurse: “. . . abnormal cells, so we’ll have you come in for a procedure that will test further and send cells in for a biopsy.”

Biopsy = cancer.  They think I have cancer.  

I’m pretty sure my brain completely shut itself off at this point.  There is scientific research that says when we receive bad news, our brains kind of fade out to protect us .  After explaining to the nurse that I would have to check into finding an office that does take my insurance before scheduling any procedure, I hung up.

After I hung up, I fought the urge to cry.  I’m not a crier, I’m a doer.  I like to act.  But I couldn’t wrap my head around what she had.  The only words that really registered were “abnormal” and “biopsy.”  She never said cancer, but as soon as she said “biopsy,” CANCER was flashing in my brain like a neon sign.

Long story short, I called my mom.  I talked to Robert.  Later that day, I got on the phone my actual OBGYN.  She explained things a lot more clearly, but here’s where I’ll leave you with some tips:  PREPARE for your calls with doctors.  Write down your questions.  Be ready to take notes on their answers.  Stay calm, keep your head clear.

My doctor explained that my test showed ASCUS cells, which stands for “atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance.”  While ASCUS cells are only mildly concerning, they ARE abnormal.  When found with other abnormalities on your PAP, you go in for a colposcopy, which takes a more in depth look at your cervix.  During this procedure, the doctor will also take samples (“scrapings,” doesn’t that sound delightful?) for biopsy.

Now, some of the above details are things I gathered from Google after our talk to better understand what was happening.  While on the phone, I think all I heard was “could be cervical cancer,” and I called my mom crying.

I walked around like a zombie for the next week.  All I could think was, “If I have cervical cancer, I probably can’t have babies.  I’ll never have babies.”  And then I would cry.  I certainly couldn’t bring myself to Google, “Can you have babies with cervical cancer?”  At church on Sunday, I cried watching all the kids run around the lobby before the service because . . . what if I could never have any?

See, my whole young adult life, I worried that I would be one of those people who never WANTED babies.  I mean, it’s ok if you don’t.  But still, as you woman, you know that not wanting babies makes you like a freak of nature to some people.  It can may you feel like a freak to YOURSELF.

When I hit 27 and suddenly starting feeling excited little butterflies at the thought of having babies, I was excited.  I watch Evy on KJ’s instastory and LIGHT UP imagining having a baby of my own.  It IS something I want . . . very much.  Eventually.  So when I faced the possibility that it would be impossible, I almost hyperventilated for the first time in my life.  I actually felt myself start to panic and started trying to think of where I would keep a little paper bag.  Then I realized I don’t HAVE any little paper bags.  I truly felt like I needed one enough to go through that thought process.

While this may seem dramatic in hindsight, I was SCARED.  The kind of scared you don’t really understand unless you’ve heard the words “could be cancer” in relation to you and your body.  For two whole weeks, I carried this weight around.  I only told my mom and Robert, so the weight was heavy.  I didn’t distribute it around much.

Once I stopped feeling sorry for myself though, I decided to get proactive.  I called the Richmond OBGYN to talk to someone about my concerns AND move my appointment up so I could get this over with.  I waited until I could speak with new nurse who made me feel SO MUCH BETTER.  She assured me that 8 out of 10 women get a colposcopy in their lives, and I CERTAINLY didn’t need to be worrying about cervical cancer yet.  She explained the procedure to me in more detail and let me ask all of the questions I had written down.

The Good News

I had my colposcopy, and everything is fine.  I have to go for another follow up PAP in a few months, but it was a SCARE.  An ugly, scary scare, but I am OK.  I could write a whole other blog post on that experience, too, but it’s pretty personal.  I will say that if you’re about to have one, message me.  I’ll tell you anything you want to know in a private message.  It’s important to have some knowledge of what will happen, so really, I would be happy to help.

The reason I am sharing all this personal information so publicly is because of someone very close to me.  When I told this person what was happening, she said, “Oh my gosh, I haven’t gone for a PAP smear in like, two years.”

You guys.  We HAVE to take better care of ourselves.  Catching cervical cancer early gives you a much higher chance at beating it.  While we all know that PAP smears suck, we HAVE TO DO THIS.  Schedule your yearly appointment NOW.  Have your PAP smear AND a breast exam.  Search through your insurance provider to find an OBGYN in your network.

Don’t let years go by without checking on these things.  Make yourself a priority.  As women, we don’t do this much.  It’s in our nature to take care of everyone else first, but this is too important.

comments +

  1. Carrie Cheatham

    January 24th, 2018 at 2:52 PM

    Shalese! Abnormal PAP’s are seriously the scariest thing ever..especially because doctor’s can’t give you immediate answers over the phone! I have chronic ovarian cyst ruptures and while they were trying to figure it out i.e. endoscopy, colonoscopy, ultrasounds, blood tests, CT scans, etc. –the only thing I could think too was….wait, does this mean I can’t get pregnant? Am I ever going to be able to have that chance? So–I feel you, I love you and I’m here for you if anything else comes up! You’re a pretty badass woman, so don’t let the doctors getcha down 😉 So glad you’re okay! And kudos for following up with your doctor on this! Lady parts are so important and fragile <3

  2. Shalese Danielle

    January 24th, 2018 at 3:36 PM

    Oh Carrie!! “Ruptures” sounds terrible, and from what I’ve heard, very painful! It is SO scary to go through all the tests and then . . . wait. And wonder. And DEFINITELY stay away from Google. Thank you so much for your sweet words (LOVE you), and may we all take better care of our lady parts!! 😉

  3. Kristen Duke

    January 24th, 2018 at 4:10 PM

    Shalese, I just want to say… thanks for sharing! I have a pretty similar experience to Carrie that has been going on for the past 4+ years and it is seriously scary! Especially at first! I so wish that I had known before that so many other women experience this. It’s one of those things that more people need to talk about, because it is NOT taboo! Or, at least, it shouldn’t be. It’s actually way more common than you’d think. No doubt it’s good to have routine check-ups to catch things like this early if they are serious. I hope that more women see this and decide to do so themselves if they aren’t already. Glad you’re alright! 🙂

  4. Shalese Danielle

    January 24th, 2018 at 4:43 PM

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for saying all of this. It is, according to the doctors, so common, but I had NO idea any of this happened to women so much. It definitely feels lonely, so I’m glad you guys are sharing, too!! I’m hoping it inspires someone to make their appointment today.
    🙂 I hope that you’re doing well and feeling good!

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