Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Part II - The Colposocopy

A colposcopy is when a gynecologist looks at your cervix with a telescope that shines light where the sun doesn't shine. The image is projected onto a flat screen TV. Beer and pretzels are not served. Upon seeing my cervix's television debut the phrase "one-eyed snot monster from outer-space" became indelibly etched upon my psyche.

A bad pap smear led me to a colposcopy.

The procedure began with checking into the hospital. Then I traded my clothes for a hospital gown. Then I was weighed and asked a series of questions about my periods, my reproductive history, and my current method of birth control. When I answered "lactational amenorreah" as my method (my baby was about 3 months old then) the nurse told me I could use whatever fancy words I wanted but it was just "having your head in the sand."

Well then.

She ordered a pregnancy test which took a long time to come back from the lab. I was left in a tiny room to watch a terrifying video about a procedure I wasn't actually scheduled to have. The video was all about how everybody is scared by a brush with cancer but there's no reason to freak out -- you can probably still have babies!

Ack! I have cancer? Ack! They are going to take a melon-baller to my cervix? Ack! I might not be able to have another baby? Ack! Ack! Ack!

The longer I sat in that tiny room with all the laminated posters of female anatomy in cross-section, the more anxious I became. By the time I was led onto the examination table and scooched into the stirrups, I couldn't stop crying.

A nice nurse reassured me that it was fine to cry.

"You're not used to all this," she said. "Crying is good for us. It relaxes us."

The doctor swabbed my cervix with a vinegar solution that helped him see whatever he was looking for. He told me to look at a picture of some fish taped to the ceiling above my head while he took a little nip of flesh out of my cervix with a little tool. It felt a little crampy and quickly stopped hurting.

Then he told me that if I wanted to "curl up into a little ball now," I could.

I did, in fact, want to curl up into a little ball. So I did.

When I sat up he sat down beside me and gave me a very sincere hug. Then he took out a pad of paper and drew me a little picture of my cervix and what he saw there. There were three little lesions - too small to see without magnification.

"It's called dysplasia. It's what we're screening for when we do pap smears. It may or may not be cancer. It probably isn't. It's very treatable. We will take good care of you. We're going to schedule for a LEEP procedure to get rid of this for you. Somebody will call you to explain the treatment and tell you where you need to go and when."

Then I was sent home with a commemorative sanitary napkin, hospital garment bag and bracelet.

I cried all the way home.

"Did it hurt?" my husband asked?


"Why are you crying mommy?" my daughter asked.

"I'm not sure honey."

I really wasn't sure.

I was unsure. 

But I couldn't shake the feeling that I had begun to fall down down down a rabbit hole.

Down the Rabbit Hole: An HPV Story
by Betsy B. Honest

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  1. I am assuming that there is a happy ending to this story, because I know that you now have another baby. This hope is seeing me through, because I am a 'read the ending first' sort of a girl and the stress is killing me.

    Also, I kind of want to kick that nurse in the shins. Really. Lactational amenorrhea isn't 100%, but it works pretty well for most of us who use it. Especially when we are in newborn-imposed dry spells that would make us more likely to conceive immaculately than the old fashioned way.

  2. I almost had to undergo one of these but after the third pap it came out okay and my Dr said I should be fine. I read all about them though and I agree. It's scary. Very very scary.

  3. Please don't worry, it does have a happy ending. I'm totally fine, I just need to process. And I want put this all out there because when I was going through all this I kept googling and googling but I found very few human stories about these procedures and it made me feel kind of alone. All this is really really common though so... hopefully I can provide some solace to some other woman who is googling colposcopy and such.

  4. Thank you for sharing with us. You are a fantastic writer and I love the humor you infuse into even the most serious topics. Looking forward to reading part 2! Oh and I hope you don't find this weird - since I don't really know you - but I also want to send ((hugs))

  5. I had one of these last year after ONE borderline smear. I have no idea why they referred me, since they are meant to give colposcopies after two positive results. Anyhow, I went, it was not at all traumatic, they found nothing and sent me home again.

    I know it's horrible to go through the procedures and the associated worry. Imagine how I felt when my doctor suspected I had bowel cancer (also last year) and I had to have a colonoscopy. Having experienced "oscopies" up both my vagina and my anus, I can assure you that the latter is worse! Glad it has turned out OK for you though.

  6. Stupid nurse! LA works just fine for anyone who knows what they're doing! Argh! I feel like taking a frying pan to professionals like that!!!

  7. I'm just still processing how to pronounce colposcopy. Now there's a fancy word.

    I'm glad to know there's a happy ending, and that you're sharing your story.

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