My Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Today I wrote about getting your schmear or your mammo, but now I want to tell you why.
I write this in hopes that it might inspire someone, somewhere, anywhere to pay attention to the signs and the signals that your body is telling you, not just about the sort of cancer I had but for any illness whatsoever. I write this in hopes that it might give someone else the courage to speak up when you know in your heart something’s wrong even though doctors might be telling you there isn’t, to seek out second opinions (because no one knows our bodies like we do) and most of all, to stop putting off that check-up, that pap, that mammogram, that colonoscopy, all of those tests that are so critical. And lifesaving.
This post comes with a warning. It isn’t for the faint of heart. You will walk away knowing way too much information about me. I would never normally say any of this out loud, to be honest, and I really haven’t, even in real life. Except for the fact that I KNOW there are others like me. More than 12,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year, and according to Cancer.org, more than 300,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and an entire population of people, 1.6 million of them, will be diagnosed with some form of cancer. That just makes me cry.
Here it goes.
The symptoms for cervical cancer are the following:
- Bleeding from the vagina that is not normal
- Bleeding when something comes in contact with your cervix, such as during sex or when you put in a diaphragm.
- Pain during sex.
- Vaginal discharge
People, these are not pretty symptoms. This is what I went through.
In early 2011, I experienced my first symptom. It was my anniversary. There was “relations.” I bled
and it was like someone was murdered. Literally, there is no other way to put it. I was mortified for so very many reasons I can’t even begin to explain. All I knew is that I looked down and thought, “Oh MI.GOD.” It was devastating.
The next day I called my OB-Gyn and scheduled an appointment. (WHAT THE HELL IS THIS??!!)
They couldn’t find anything so they labeled it a “cyst” or a “polyp” that must have come off on its own or perhaps it was a blood vessel that ventured too close to the surface and got punctured. These things happen after giving birth sometimes.
I breathed a sigh of relief that nothing was really wrong. I even remember telling my best friend over the phone after the appointment. Whew. That was close.
During that appointment, they basted me with silver nitrate to close up the (possibly) offending blood vessels.
The months passed and there was still some bleeding during “relations.” Nothing like the massacre that occurred the first time, but still. Something wasn’t right. And I knew it.
And it hurt. A lot.
I couldn’t wear tampons either, they hurt too much, too. Life “down there” was pretty miserable to be honest.
More months passed and then came the stuff. Oh GOD do I hate the word “discharge” but that’s what they call it.
I needed to wear a pad because of it. I thought it was the stuff that occurs when you’re ovulating, just a little extra, but in the back of my mind, I knew better. I scheduled another appointment to get looked at but the only person that could see me was a nurse, so I scheduled it anyway. She saw a little lump of something and recommended I see the doctor. I wasn’t alarmed because at this point it was still “just a polyp or a cyst, probably, which are really common.” Also polyps and cysts can cause pain and discharge, too. I can’t possibly have cancer. Other people in stories have cancer. Not me.
Two weeks later, I saw the actual doctor. It felt like she was in there up to her elbows, scraping and feeling around and looking with that big metal prong. I hated every second of this. It was so uncomfortable.
Again (since now this was the fourth time I came in) I mentioned my other symptoms. I said, “I also have some bleeding during sex and some discharge but they’re probably not related, I just thought I’d mention it…” I trailed off. You know, no biggie. I was there to find a polyp. There’s no way this is all related.
Ironically, by the way, this was the one time I hadn’t consulted Dr. Google with my symptoms and diagnosed myself with two weeks left to live. I’m a chronic self-diagnoser. For some reason, I really WAS convinced that these symptoms were unrelated.
She took some biopsies and finished the exam and looked at me and said, “They are absolutely related.” Her mouth said what she saw was probably a polyp but her face said something very different. I can’t explain her face but I remember it even now, her expression is burned in my brain, her mouth said “polyp” but her face was saying cancer.
I tried not to be scared after that appointment and I was actually very successful at talking myself out of something being wrong.
I waited for the results. I still did not Google. If I had, I would have seen that I had all the classic symptoms of cervical cancer.
Four days later, I got a phone call from her office.
Dr.’s Office: We got your results back and the doctor wants to know if you can come in.
Me: Ok, great. When? (Next week sometime?)
Dr’s Office: How’s right now?
So that’s when I really knew.
I started to shake. And as you know, that’s when I tried to find my waterproof mascara.
For some reason, I didn’t have my husband with me to go to this appointment but I did have my Bloggy video camera in my purse and I had no one to talk to about how scared I was during the drive so I picked it up and hit “record.” Yes, I videotaped my trip to the doctor’s office. I haven’t looked at this video since that day until now because I thought it would be too upsetting. I’ll share this too, one day.
So my body had been telling me for the past year that something was wrong. The doctors didn’t necessarily miss it, they just didn’t find it. I was terrified about the diagnosis because I had the symptoms for so long. There was no way in my mind that it hadn’t advanced. It had been a whole year!
As it turns out, the tumor did not progress quickly. I don’t know how that possibly could be. It was big. But it was non-invasive. They removed it during a hysterectomy a few weeks after the initial diagnosis. This all happened very, very quickly.
My cervical cancer was not do to HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) as part of a sexually transmitted disease. That is actually the most common form however, and most of all, preventable, because there is a vaccine. For me, cervical cancer really was, just very random.
I don’t know how I got it or why. I work out, I eat right, I have recently stopped eating processed foods. Cancer runs in my family in various forms, though, from skin cancer to breast cancer and everything in between.
But I found it early. It did not get me.
Why did I take so long to post about this? I’m not sure. Posting about the pee bag was somehow awful yet funny. These symptoms to me were a little more traumatizing. When things aren’t right in that region, it’s just sort of a nightmare. I’ve been embarrassed to say this out loud but I know that it has to be said. I know that other people are embarrassed by the same thing and you don’t have to be. Sometimes the things our bodies do just aren’t pretty. Period. But they’re our bodies.
I see my life through different eyes now. In so many ways. From appreciating it to taking care of it.
Oddly enough, this particular cancer is not my cause or my platform. KNOWING YOUR BODY is my platform. Going to check something you know in your heart is not right is what I am begging you to take away from this. Treating your body as good as you possibly can so that it will be good back to you is what I passionately want to share. It truly is a matter of life or death. How you eat, how you move (except for in the very rare instances of a 104-year-old who drank and smoked every day of his/her life) will dictate your story’s ending. Or beginning.
TREAT YOUR BODY RIGHT. PLEASE, I BEG YOU.
If in some way, you can celebrate life as a SURVIVOR because you found this early and beat it, I will gladly tell you all my grossness. It is, after all, just a body. And it does things that sometimes we can’t control. I am not ashamed. Not anymore.
I want you to survive more than I am embarrassed by this.
Please listen to your body. Follow your instincts.
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