”This is our purpose: to make as meaningful as possible this life that has been bestowed upon us . . . to live in such a way that we may be proud of ourselves, to act in such a way that some part of us lives on.” – Oswald Spengler
I haven’t decided yet, how I feel. Maybe, it’s the idea that I need wrap up everything in a box, or party bag with a ribbon so it can come to the world fresh and beautiful, bedazzled with hope. For cervical cancer, we have a choice of orange or teal ribbons. I don’t feel like I want a ribbon, though. I want, a do-over.
Truthfully, I’m not hopeful. I feel, defeated. A hysterectomy and treatment for cervical cancer at 31? It’s too soon. The statistics say I am supposed to be at least 15 years older. How is this all happening?
I did everything right, or so they say. I went to my 3 month check-ups, the colposcopies, the biopsies, the scans. I waited 6 months after my child was born to go back, that I missed. I wanted to forget, but they say, that didn’t matter. I educated myself about every single acronym and each abbreviation of the descriptions of what my body had produced. My body made this cancer. This feeling is: Anger.
I can’t get that idea out of my head, my body didn’t fight hard enough, or strong enough. In fact, I pictured my cervix as a parking attendant, waving a flag and allowing everything to take over. That’s where the anger came from. My cervix was lazy and this happened because it laid down instead of standing up. Lazy. Failure. They have to see if it has spread to the vaginal canal, (I wonder if I’m not supposed to type, “vagina.”) But nothing about this is professional, or beautiful, or lovely, or earned. My ECC was positive. My body allowed my cervix to fail harder than usual. It’s growing inside the cervical canal, not just on the outside. This feeling is: Desperation.
I’m questioning everything. The “survivor” and “hysterectomy” websites colors of teal and purple with flowers and “inspiration,” are directly against my want to take a cue from the Doors and paint it all, black. I think about standing in the tampon aisle and bawling hysterically, shooting dirty looks at the women who are buying the Pearl varieties, (because I just started justifying having pretty tampons.) I also lament over babies. Not that I could handle another pregnancy, but I could surely handle another baby. It will be final, there will be no more babies. This feeling is: Confusion.
Then, bizarre thoughts come up. I waited my entire life to get inked, because I couldn’t decide on a tattoo. The commitment of having something on my body forever seemed terrifying. Ink would ruin the symmetry, and beauty of something pale and plain. How would that work with summer dresses? I should have gotten all of them. Because now, it’s decided for me. I did everything right and still, there are going to be scars. This feeling is: Bitterness.
Somehow, through everything, I can’t stop thinking about the timing. My body gave me sweet Daniel and perfect Ava. I could sit for hours and wonder about the “why” and the “but…” and that seems silly. There is only one reason my body grew this, scientifically speaking: It failed to heal the dysplasia caused by HPV. What normally takes 10 years to develop into cancer, has developed several times over 7 years, some at 3 months, some at 2 years and some even sooner. It may be my superpower. With all that said, I feel like scientifically, it is what it is. Metaphorically, there is room to build something amazing from such a great loss. I have an incredible network of family and friends, survivors and sisters. It feels amazing when they reach out. I feel blessed and loved. This feeling is: Thankfulness.
I can’t explain it. It’s here. It’s on the table. Almost 7 years of cervical cancer has come to this. I tried every operation and every procedure, from cold knife cones, to biopsies, to cryotherapy to LEEP surgeries. It’s time for it to leave my body. Would you understand if I said, “I’ve grown accustomed to the fear of cancer?” What if it goes away and without the battle, I don’t know who I am, anymore?” I even loathe the term, “survivor.” It’s come to mean something bizarre and sometimes, egotistical. The women I know who have been in my shoes, are my greatest strengths and we all worry together. After the hysterectomy, if it returns, the fear is much deeper. If it can grow on other surfaces, if it’s learned to trick the body to that level, there is significant damage. Two friends of mine lost their lives a few years after hysterectomies. It came back. It grew and they perished. The hysterectomy is one of the last things we do. This is where it all becomes very real. It’s the Battle of Mordor, the Helm’s Deep.
You shall not pass, cervical cancer. You shall not pass. And this feeling is: Strength.