A Public Cervix Announcement

Last fall, I went to a meeting of the Bolton Empowering Women’s group. The leader, Sarah Neal, shared her story of losing a friend to cervical cancer. She was 32 years old. To honour her fight, Teal Power was born.

At my last physical in January, in addition to the standard blood-urine-mammogram, I asked my doctor if I was due for a Pap test. She looked at my records and said “no, not for another two years”. (The Ontario Government only allows for one test every five years if you’ve had two clear tests in a row).

My mind flashed back to Sarah’s story and that little voice we all have inside us told me to ask for a test anyway. Friends, we all have that inner voice. That gut feeling when something needs to be said. Listen to that voice.

I asked, since I was there and naked anyway, if she could do one and I’d pay out-of-pocket for it.

“Sure, no problem” she said and so it was done. Then I forgot all about it.

Until her name appeared on my phone three weeks later.

“Listen, not to worry” she began, “but your Pap test came back abnormal. This is nothing to worry about, but I’m going to make a note in your chart for you to come back in six months to have it re-done. These abnormalities can quite often resolve on their own”.

And back I went in July for the re-test. And three weeks after that, her name appeared on my phone once again.

Still abnormal. A bit worse this time.

My panick-y little brain went into overdrive, but she was calm and reassuring and booked me into Sunnybrook Hospital for a colposcopy.

I researched the doctor I’d be seeing and felt reassured just by seeing the ton of awards and accolades he has received over the years. One Rate Your Doctor commenter described him as “The King Of The Cervixes”.

Huh. I bet I could design a crown for him. I think it would be pink and have flaps.

Anyway, to prepare for the test, I booked a wax and pedicure near the hospital. My husband had to remind me that this is a medical procedure, not a date, but I figured I floss before going to the dentist, right? Plus I wanted to make a good first impression.

Big mistake. First, the doctors and nurses don’t care what things look like down there. Second, the first part of the test involves the spraying of an acetic acid spray. Yowza.

The rest of the test consisted of a scope, not unlike the ones that optometrists use, and a lot of swabbing. When they found an area of concern, the doctor injected a local anaesthetic in order to take a sample for biopsy. The injection was totally painless and very effective as I felt neither the needle nor the subsequent snip of tissue. There is a t.v. screen next to your head, where you can watch the procedure. I asked if it gets any other channels, and it doesn’t, so if an up-close play-by-play of cervical biopsies isn’t your thing, just close your eyes. Maybe bring headphones too, as I felt a bit woozy when I heard the medical resident ask for the biopsy instrument with “the bigger teeth”. Geez. Still, the most painful part of the day was paying the $23 parking fee for two hours.

So now we wait for the results. They have re-booked an appointment for me in six weeks time. The nurses and doctors were very reassuring, saying all the things patients want to hear: “mild”, “treatable”, “don’t worry”, “seriously, don’t worry”. Their calm, confident manner left me feeling that I’m receiving truly exceptional care, regardless of the outcome.

I feel silly wasting so much brain power on worrying about this test and the results. Folks, I’ve had more painful dental cleanings. Please, for the sake of your health, for the sake of the people who love you, get a Pap test done every year. I shudder when I think I almost let this go for another two years when there was a change for the worse after six months. Thank you, Sarah, and thank you, Teal Power.

Go. Call your doctor. Book one now.




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