Thursday, August 21, 2008

a public service announcement

hello etsy wedding friends -- before i post any lovelies, let me take a moment for a public service announcement, and what also may be a bit of TMI, so feel free to skip if you're squeamish.

yesterday morning i finally went in for a laser procedure to remove pre-cancerous cells on my cervix. it was a minor surgery, and i was back at work today, but it caps four years of (to me) terrifying doctor visits and a lot of worries. some of the visits were terrifying because i lacked health insurance, and some terrifying because my mother had a similar problem at the age of 32 and ultimately ended up with a radical hysterectomy (different era and complications). at least she *had* her two kids already.

cervical cancer is the second leading cause of women's death from cancer worldwide. if you have the means (i didn't), and if you're under 26 (i wasn't), i can't encourage you strongly enough to get the vaccine. it's not perfect, but wouldn't you rather have 70% less chance of a deadly cancer if you could? i would love to spare my 12- and 17-year-old sisters what i've gone through over the past four years.

for those ladies over 26 -- if you haven't had your exam this year, go get it! yes, it sucks. just go.

now, as a reward for reading my sermon, a little funny story: my mom came to town tuesday night and thus met the new boyfriend, who insisted on driving us all to the hospital (at 6:40am, points!) and on waiting through the surgery (more mom points!). way to hustle, boyfriend!

so here we are in the pre-surgery room. me in cocktail napkin surgical gown sitting on gurney, wearing some sort of cafeteria lady hairnet (hott!), and NBF and mom sitting in chairs along the wall, chatting like old friends. all is going so well. i am congratulating myself for how well this is all going.

in walks doctor N, a brisk no-nonsense woman. we go through some post-op care. eating, check. anesthesia, check. then, and i don't know why i didn't see this coming, she says: "oh, and no sex for four weeks."

time stops briefly.

me: {{reddening}} uh... four *weeks.* [thought bubble: no no no no do not make a face]

NBF: {{reddening}} ... [thought bubble: no reaction! do not make a face.]

mom: {{maintaining chipper-positive-all-will-be-well smile}} ...

dr. N: not kidding. you need time to heal. four weeks.

mom: {{barely perceptible-to-anyone-but-me eye flicker}}

me: {{crimson}} got it! yes. no problem. four weeks! moving on.

cringe. glad we got all that out of the way before 7am. poor mom. poor new boyfriend.

all of you out there, take care of yourselves!


  1. Sorry to hear about the surgery, but I am glad that you are doing well and also willing to talk to people who don't know you about it. You have a lot of courage.

  2. I got the vaccine a year ago, after sleeping with my FH. My doctor says, "well, you probably have it already, but whatever" ??? Considering you have less than a 10% chance of getting a cancer causing strain and to that the fact that I've only slept with one guy ever who has only slept with one girl other than me and that's when he was in HS, I wouldn't say I probably have it. <-- my TMI

    Anyway, even though I'm marrying the guy, I got it anyway to please my mom and because, well, you never know.

    On the other hand, I can understand not getting the vaccine. It hasn't been out very long. Who knows what the long term effects could be. There are plenty of things people thought were safe (smoking) that years later they found out, not so much. Still, I think it's a better idea to take the chance with the vaccine.

    So, um, thanks for sharing your story! Hope all goes well for ya!

  3. This is my first comment ever on someone's blog, but I was moved to send my good thoughts your way. I had a diagnosed infection a few years ago that I was fortunate to clear without needing surgery, but I know how scary the process can be. Thank you very much for sharing your story, I know other people will find it helpful to see you coming out alright on the other side. Here's to a speedy recovery (and a short four weeks)!

  4. I work in a Cytology laboratory so I screen Pap's for a living... Kudos to you for getting the word out! Getting your annual Pap is the easiest thing a woman can do to catch cervical cancer early! I'm glad your surgery went well and to anyone else reading- get the vaccine if you can! That's all! Happy Friday & PS- I love this blog! :)

  5. I am about to get the vaccine. I was sort of on the fence about it b/c I've been good about yearly checks, never had a problem, and am getting married. Two interesting tidbits that made me go from "I dont think I need it" to "Sign me up!".
    1 - All cervical cancer is NOT caused by the STD (wow - first time on a bridal blog that that actual means what it sounds like and not a save the date!)Studies are LEANING towards that this vaccine might also prevent cervical cancer that just pops up b/c of family history or Fate's bad mood. Its not for sure, but even if its only a chance at preventing cancer - score!
    2 - Here's a major kicker. Our bodies fight HPV pretty well. Even those of us who have been regularly tested might have it and not know until our immune systems are compromised from something else. You can literally have it for 20 years before it would affect you and show up on a test! EEK! I dont care that I hate shots - this is worth it! (Oh and for many people who have Blue Cross Blue Shield - its $12 copay.)

  6. Thank you for sharing! I have only ever slept with my FI and wouldn't you know, I get HPV. I got it before all of the commercials about the vaccine started, and my doctor told me, well, you know how it prevents 70% of cervical cancer? Yeah mine is in the other 30%... Luckily our bodies are pretty good about fighting it off though, and since my last check up (I am on the 6 month plan :) ) I am HPV free! I still worry that since FI still has it (no cure :( ) I may get it again, but since I know his is one of the 30%, I am holding off on the shot. Although I didn't know it was only a $12 copay with blue shield... so maybe just to be safe...

  7. *HUGS*
    Just read this after writing a rant-y post about the healthcare system. I can commiserate with your terror and feel for you. Thanks for spreading the word of testing. :x

  8. I'm in the middle of the beginning of all this. The vaccine became available mere weeks after I had my birthday, making me "too old" to get it (I wasn't aware of it at the time). So far, for me, just the abnormal pap and positive results from the colposcopy. Next up: the surgery. It's all part of life, right?

    Of course, in the same year, my uncle was diagnosed with intestinal cancer (he just stopped treatment, and is enjoying life at home), my 5-year old cousin was diagnosed with adrenal gland cancer (he's in remission now), and my newborn niece was born with a busted heart (they can't figure that one out). We're just keepin' on.

  9. NBF sounds like a rockstar. as are you. thanks for sharing...

  10. wow, i am past the age for the vaccine. but i mean to get a checkup as soon as i have enough $$.

    glad that you nipped this in time.

  11. hey there! thank you all so much for your good wishes and for sharing your stories! i originally posted this (in spite of the TMI factor) in hopes that it would save someone else a bit of the trouble i've been through, and am hopeful that some of the info posted in the comments (thanks all!) is helpful to people as well.

    it's amazing the number of women who are going through this same situation, which feels really isolating. this is a mind-bogglingly common, now possibly preventable thing. we only find out if we talk about it, and it's not an easy thing to talk about. so kudos to all for taking care of yourselves and of each other!

    and seriously: thanks for reading.

  12. One of my girlfriends had to have the same thing done. It sucks, but at least you're taking care of it! I hope that everything goes we'll, healing wise (no sex!) and the story was fantastic :D

  13. Any woman who has had an abnormal Pap test or who is 30 years old should get the HPV Test along with their Pap! It can be done at the same time as the Pap. If your doctor knows you have HPV, he/she will have you come in every 6 months to make sure there are no abnormal cells developing. Go to for more info!


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