I know most people think when I say “C word”, they assume it’s “cunt”…if only. That’s not what this is about…it’s a much uglier “C word”, one that terrifies the strongest of people and ruins lives by taking those we love, and sometimes us.
Back in July, I went to the beach after having gotten my yearly “lady” checkup. I was happy, drunk, and in love with life. I started pursuing my side hustle, and it made me feel artistically fulfilled. Then I got the call from my doctor. They never call it what they think it is. They don’t want a lawsuit in case they’re wrong. “Abnormal cells” was a word I was used to, after all, I’d had abnormal tests come back before. I’d had the be-hated colposcopy done before. I’d also skipped a year of PAPs out of fear of having one done again (they hurt). It had always just been a lightly abnormal cell result. Not this time.
I was at work when I got the call (who calls you on your lunch break at work for this?). Precancerous cells. “What does that even mean?!” I remember thinking. They wanted another appointment to come talk to me. I barely heard myself schedule the appointment. They aren’t allowed to tell you it’s cancer over the phone, because they could be sued. I felt the world crash down…all my hopes, my dreams, everything..was I going to have to go through surgery, immunotherapy, radiation? No, I told the doctor previously as a disclaimer, no chemo, no radiation.I thought I was going to vomit. Would I even live to see what I’d worked for, all my plans and hopes come true? I’m not even the age where one typically has to think about this kind of thing.
I became the statistic the world, my immune system, and life had failed. I began to hate the Gardasil commercials. From abnormal cells to CIN-3 in the year I skipped. How fast does this go? I did research, I became obsessed. There was no valid, recent research due to all cases of CIN-3 being treated immediately, as Stage 0 Cancer in Situ. What if, in the 3 months between the colpo and the surgery, things had gotten worse?
Then I spoke to the surgeon. I asked for best and worst case scenario. “Best case- we do the surgery and remove all of the cells, nothing is outside of what we expected, you heal well, and go home, and your immune system fights off the virus. Worst case – we find cancer and deal with it then”. There it was again. That word. And now, they were telling me they don’t know for sure what’s there. I lost it again. Everyone brought it up. My dad found out- the last person I ever wanted to know. He had a meltdown, I was on cleanup duty.
I’m not a strong person. I’m scared. The surgery date creeps closer, and I’m trying to cope. I’m not afraid of the surgery. I’m afraid that they don’t know what’s going on. I don’t want children, never have. With my genetic and viral issues, why would I be so selfish as to pass that on to some poor SOB? So now I’m stuck waiting, trying to calm myself, weighing my odds and options. Best case scenario- they get it all. Can’t guarantee my body will fight the virus, my immune system is terrible. Worst case scenario, they take everything but the ovaries and I walk away without ever having to worry about the C word again. I can live with that.