“It’s hard to tell you how I feel without hurting you…” – Soho
This is also an essay on how what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and that there is hope-for each and every one of us. You can read my tags, or About feature and see that fate had dealt me a raw deal, and that was 27 years ago! The hits keep coming, but I will bow to no evil, stay true to my faith and carry on, as He has great and good plans for me, and you, my beloveds.
I had just read the article in Ladies Home Journal that was written by Susan Dey, the ex Partridge, about her cervical cancer and how she knew she had it-her symptoms. Karl was on a business trip, and I was alone in our house, which had been stress-cleaned by me the minute he left the abode. I had been having similar symptoms, and as I headed up the stairs to use the ladies, a feeling of foreboding swept over me, like so much dust, so dreadful…..so real. Shake it off, Michele, my thought cloud read.
And, as fate would have it, I saw the odiferous, grey discharge-which sent me reeling and running to the telephone to talk with my mother.
“Honey, I am sure you are fine. Just make sure to go to the doctor this week.” Incredibly comforting, yes. But I knew………and I was internally combusting at warp speed. Earlier in the year, I had been diagnosed with HPV-given to me by a long ago boyfriend. Back in 1998, there was no talk of the vaccination or the virus, really. Only now does it make sense. I had no money for the antibiotic, and, being the hair brained procrastinator that I am, I let it go. Only now, five years later would I be paying for my ignorance.
The next day? A nurse called me with my pap smear results, which was taken two weeks before.
“The doctor needs to see you to explain the results,” she said.
“What do you mean? I need to speak with the doctor, please tell him to call me.”
“You have cancer,” she said.
With that, I insisted, demanded that I be seen by my doctor. She had no right to say that, especially over the phone. I wanted answers, and I wanted them now. She told me she would call him, and to expect a return call within the next few days. NOT GOOD ENOUGH. I in no way think of myself as special, a prima donna, nor do I think I deserve anything more than the average Joe-but I had just moved to the area, and I had been having problems with spotting for over a year. My gynecologist?
“You look great and your test results are great.” I called him repeatedly, this man who hated women…only to be told the same thing: “A little spotting is normal.” I had left him behind in Phoenixville, and the new doctor I was seeing saw it right away. I wish I had sued the bastard, but hindsight is always twenty- twenty.
The phone rang the very same evening. It was Dr. Overholt, asking me to come into the office, apologizing for his nurse, apologizing for the news. As I sat, in paper robe and smiley face socks, I felt more vulnerable than at any other time in my life. My heart pounded, my hands shook, how could this be? I had never missed a pap in my life, why wasn’t this caught sooner? Will I be able to have children? Will I be able to live a life free of this sniveling coward we call cancer?
He explained to me that I had carcinoma in situ, Stage I, and that he was referring me to a gynecologist who specialized in Cervical Cancer. I met and loved Dr. Lape from the moment our eyes connected. He explained that I would have to have a cryosurgery first, and then-a biopsy of my uterus-to ensure it hadn’t spread and to remove the tumor. His best advice?
“Don’t listen to ANYONE but me. Don’t go looking for trouble. Any questions, this is my home phone number. God bless you sweetheart, we got this.”
And so it was, after three cryosurgeries (in which the cancerous cells are frozen and destroyed) a biopsy and D&C, that I lay on the couch, my Tylenol #3 and a heating pad for comfort. My parents took me to my first freezing, and afterwards took me to lunch and tucked me in when we returned home. I remember feeling as if I had been beaten below the belt, the pain was tough, the recovery tougher. More cells were found, more cryosurgery. And finally, freedom. The freedom that comes with knowing you are free of the dastardly C word.
I was never told I could not have children. And I didn’t find out until I lost our first child-an uncaring doctor asked me why we didn’t use birth control if I knew I couldn’t carry. He gave me a script, called it a “spontaneous” abortion and referred me to the local Planned parenthood, where I was given another scraping, and released.
Driving home, it hit me like a ton of bricks. My girlfriend Annie, not taking her eyes off of the road, shushed my tears. She held my hand. She took me home and put me to bed, with a stuffed teddy bear and a sippy cup.