Today, I picked up the phone to call my doctor. I had my mind in thoughts elsewhere this week, partially because if I am doing good, there’s no time to think of my body destructing. There was #NoH8MN to direct, and various board positions to attend to. I have a full-time job. There is no time, for cervical cancer.
The sweet nurse put me on hold and I waited almost 10 minutes to speak to the Doctor. It had been 2 weeks. My colposcopy results should be in. The second pap they did should be in. The first ones lacked the news we wanted, so we pressed harder to find out what was going on. I was hopeful, I felt good. I had just gotten off the phone with a friend and said in passing how I just didn’t have time to even DO pap smears. I was busy taking over the world.
The doctor was so sweet. She listened to me tear up and she stayed on the phone when I screamed. I don’t make it a habit of screaming at sweet doctors but she told me to and so, I did. My results came back again, as high-grade abnormal cell damage. ASCUS with high-grade HPV. After going through this 3 times, I buckled. I got angry, and then I pondered ripping out my cervix, (all 20% of what was left,) and making the damaged tissue and breeding ground listen. I had just dreamed of a baby, and a future and world domination. This year, I’ve seen 3 friends buried because of cervical cancer. I have dreams, god dammit. For the past 2 weeks, every dream has been with me and an infant in my arms. No one has wanted to have another baby as much as I.
The doctor put a friend of mine on the phone from my clinic and she told me, “It’s time to really think, Katie- about letting your fertility, go.” I knew it would come down to this. I wrongly assumed I would be 35, or maybe 45. That I would have made VP and a baby, would no longer fit in my busy lifestyle so it wouldn’t hurt as much as it does right now. After hearing countless friends and acquaintances, from our small Cervical Cancer Survivors Club had died this year, (3 just in the past 3 months,) I’m absolutely terrified. They left behind families and dreams and busy careers. I never imagined myself having to fight this battle again.
I tweeted it. Mainly because when I had sent the first tweet, I truly thought the news was going to be great. I thought we’d celebrate. I was going to bring Ava out for ice cream tonight and we were going to start work on gathering supplies for friends affected by the tornadoes. I have a pile of clothes, toys and blankets to put in the car. I don’t have time for THIS.
I don’t have insurance. My insurance I do have, doesn’t cover my pre-existing cervical cancer. This is going to be an adventure, one that over 4.500 women every year, die from. One that MILLIONS survive. The statistics are staggering. This is my 3rd battle with cancer. Women who have cervical cancer multiple times in their lifetime face a huge risk of mortality by 40. I’ve had it 3 times in 3 years. I just face a huge risk of having to show the world what I’m made of. There’s nothing left of my cervix to really take out. Once the rest goes, everything will need to go. There’s no other treatment they can really do to keep a part of me intact to grow another Ava. I have dreams of a little girl named Sophie, and she is mine.
The fact is: I can’t stomach another LEEP, or another cone biopsy. My body is tired of the pain and my mind is tired of, “what can’t happen, anymore.” If this is the end, and they give me a hysterectomy, I’ll count myself lucky. Because without me, my daughter would grow up alone. That’s not an option. I’m most scared that it’ll be chemo, or radiation. In an effort to be optimistic, I grew out my hair. The first time since high school, it touches just beyond my shoulders. It fell out during the last round. I can’t bear the thought of seeing it go. Perspective tells me, I’d be a beautiful, bald and powerful person. Perspective tells me not to think about it.
Before the doctor hung up, she said, “I need to make an appointment for you, right away. It’s advised you see another MD and an oncologist.” They told me not to worry. I didn’t. I just tweeted with gusto, and facebooked. My parents drove a while and sat with me. Ava was obnoxious and adorable on the couch. And now, when Ava is at her grandparents and the man I love is flying in tonight, at 12am to come hold me, I know… It’s going to be okay. But it’s going to be HARD. And it’s going to be SCARY. And I just wasn’t ready.
I think I did it correctly. I’m too busy have cancer, or precancer or anything else that will keep me from my goals. But life- REAL LIFE, is what happens off your calendar and at idle Monday evenings at 3pm. I’m totally ready to be totally angry and use that anger to propel me forward. But, I’m also totally ready to be completely thankful for Planned Parenthood, good friends and amazing readers that let me express each and every emotion so when it’s all over, I’m ready to conquer.
With treatment, 80 to 90% of women with stage I cancer and 50 to 65% of those with stage II cancer are alive 5 years after diagnosis. Only 25 to 35% of women with stage III cancer and 15% or fewer of those with stage IV cancer are alive after 5 years.
Interval evaluation of the patient after therapy is imperative. Recurrent cervical cancer detected at its earliest stages might be successfully treated with surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of the three. Thirty-five percent of patients with invasive cervical cancer have persistent or recurrent disease after treatment.
Average years of potential life lost from cervical cancer are 25.3 (SEER Cancer Statistics Review 1975-2000, National Cancer Institute (NCI)). Approximately 4,600 women were projected to die in 2001 in the US of cervical cancer (DSTD), and the annual incidence was 13,000 in 2002 in the US, as calculated by SEER. Thus the ratio of deaths to incidence is approximately 35.4%.