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."
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.
"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