Today’s post is not mine. The words that follow are from my friend Pamela. Friend is a small word for something that spans over 30 years, but it’s the word we use nonetheless.
Ok, so here’s the thing, over the past few weeks I have looked Cervical Cancer in the eye, stared it down with resolute bravado, and punted it to the kerb with a solid boot. I have avoided making a big fuss, kept it low key, cringed away from any associated drama and taken sympathy in small doses. I have jumped on and off the Big C rollercoaster in record time and have come away with a story to tell. I ask that you take a few minutes to read it.
After months, even years of symptoms tap-tapping away at me like a persistent kitten’s paw, I have endured blood tests, scans and intrusive prodding in an attempt to find out what was going on inside. Just a few weeks ago I took a repeat test, a simple, routine test, which managed to reveal everything on the tip of a cotton bud. Indeed I had to undergo further testing following those results, but I have no doubt in my mind that it was that one simple test, on one ordinary everyday day, that gave me the chance to kick this.
I, like most women, despise having a pap smear. The potential act of undressing in front of a relative stranger and giving them full access to my pink bits fills me with dread. The smear itself gives a nasty sting and I bleed like a stuck pig for days following. There is nothing nice about a pap smear. Nothing. It’s yuck. In a big way. But I’ve now learnt that despite the yuck, it’s worth it.
I have always been one to groan and roll my eyes when those little reminder notes wedge their way into my letter box letting me know I’m due for a pap smear again. And again. And again. But this once vocal disser of the dreaded Pap is now grateful beyond words that she lives in a part of the world where smears are not only encouraged, but expected.
When I was first given my diagnosis, emotions clashed. Yes I felt fear, anger and upset, but at the same time I felt lucky. Of all the horrid cancers that have struck my friends, family and acquaintances, I got a potentially good one. A ‘happy’ one. One, that when caught early, does not mean the end.
For me, my diagnosis was a swift cuff to the back my head, a reminder that no matter how busy I am and how fast I keep running at work and home, I am not invincible. That I need to slow down, listen to my body and take care. It was the gift of a relatively easy fix; a blip on my mortal timeline that would soon be behind me.
Seven days ago I folded two fresh nighties and my Kindle into a basket and strode into hospital. I refused to let myself become consumed with anxiety or black thought. Was I scared? Yes. Was I dreading the inevitable post-op pain? Yes. Did I grieve the imminent loss of the part that once cradled babies blossoming in my belly? Yes. Did I cry when I heard the newborn babies cry just 5 rooms along? Yes. Did I feel that somehow, in some very strange way, I had failed as a women? Yes. Yes. Yes. But above all, I felt lucky.
Not once did I lose perspective or give into potential doom and thunder. I trusted that my very sweet, teddy-bear-of-a Gynie was going to take care of me. He would fix me in just under 3 hours. The cancer, still in its early stages, would be coaxed out of my body contained in the protective tissue of my deflated uterus. Onwards I would go. Looking forward. Rarely back. Feeling lucky.
So in the last week I have hurt, I have smiled, I have cried, laughed and felt everything in between. My Mum has been a Godsend; my beautiful man, a bastion of strength. Today I have showered, dressed, painted mascara on my eyelashes and managed to pull a pair of warm socks onto my own feet. I still face another week without driving and then a further four of limited activity. But after that… in the long run… I live.
In the last few weeks I have discovered that in fear there is strength. In pain there is hope. In early diagnosis there is the possibility of a happy ending. I have also discovered that you actually use your pelvic floor when screeching at an uncooperative pre-teen (ouch!) and that the love of a dog can make you smile regardless.
So here I am, rabbiting on. Why? Because now it’s my turn to pass it on.
It’s my turn to become that persistent kitten’s paw. I’m tapping here at the side of your face telling you that I’m not going to stop until you book in for that pap smear. I’m not going to stop until you ask your mum, sister, wife, aunt, grandma, daughter or best friend if they are up to date with theirs. I’m also tapping on your other cheek to remind you that when your doctor offers you a complimentary breast exam, you need to put aside the awkward and whip them out for a quick feel.
Boys, I’m tapping at your faces too, telling you that it can be as easy as a simple blood test. Maybe a routine finger and cough; yes it can be intrusive and uncomfortable, it’s actually a gift. Use it.
Today I am feeling sore but lucky. I’m grateful that I, and those I love, are given access to a health system that can keep an eye on us, cradle us, remind us to live safely and, with a blessing or two, save us.
Ok so my story is over.
My rant is over too.
But I’m still here, tap tap tapping.
Go make an appointment with your GP today.
Please note that these are my own personal thoughts and feelings and experiences and I am fully aware that the journeys of others may be very different.