When I was 25 years old I had a serious health scare. At I gynecologist’s appointment I was told not only did I have a lump in my breast but a suspicious cyst on my cervix.
I am going to give away the ending right now so you don’t worry, I am fine.
The discovery of both these abnormalities came at a routine ob-gyn visit. I was lucky to have health insurance provided through my job so I was able to afford to go to the doctor, even though I did not make a lot of money and lived on my own. My doctor performed a pap smear and a breast exam as she had done for years, but this time she found something worth looking into further.
I was terrified. They told me that I would have to have the cyst removed and examined. The catch is that the procedure would scar my cervix, making it possible that I could not carry a baby to term. This is the procedure to CHECK if it was cancer, not even the treatment!
The breast procedure was significantly less frightening. I had a specialist do an ultrasound on the area. It was nothing. He assessed that it was a blocked duct and would fix itself when I breastfed. Well good luck with that if I can’t carry a baby to term.
If you can believe it, I actually had a conversation with my fiance about getting the cyst removed from my cervix. I was going to do it, but I wanted him to know that I might not be able to have children. I think I was just convincing myself that I was still someone worth marrying if I couldn’t give birth.
I had the procedure, it was called a colposcopy. In laymen’s terms, a hot wire scrapes the abnormal cells off of this delicate organ. I was told to prepare with a few tylenol. I was told I would get my “period” after but to only use a pad. Then you wait to hear the results.
It hurt, and so did the recovery, not like major surgery, but definitely not nothing. And waiting to hear of you have cancer in your most private of places adds to the fun.
Turns out it was pre-cancerous. That means if I had let it go it would probably have turned into something serious. It didn’t because I had access to proper healthcare.
Fast forward a few years. I now have 2 children who I conceived without assistance and carried to term without incident. One girl and one boy; we are a perfect little family in spite of what happened. And there are an awful lot of decisions I have to make that could affect the rest of their lives.
One of those came just a year ago. A vaccine was available for something called HPV. It was a sexually transmitted disease that causes (gasp) cervical cancer.
There were a few thoughts going on in my mind when I found this out. The first was that I almost died because of sex. This was not AIDS which my generation grew up fearing, and no one warned us about it. The second was one my husband didn’t want to hear about, our children were going to have sex. Damn if I am going to let them die from it!
I was told that the vaccine is most effective from preventing the virus if given before children become sexually active. As far as I know, my daughter has gotten it in time. My son will be getting it next year. They have now linked HPV to oral cancers in men which often go undiagnosed until it is too late.
There are so many women who don’t have access to affordable reproductive healthcare like I did. Or pediatricians for their children who are thinking about their patients in the long term. Or who even want to discuss how sex really affects us in so many ways.
Mine is just one story. I needed to share it to help Protect Reproductive Healthcare.