Shortly after my tiny goiter was rediscovered, I went to the gynecologist for my annual ladybits check. A week later, Dr. Safran called to say that my pap smear had come back abnormal, which wasn’t necessarily cause for alarm. Because it was my second abnormal smear in as many years, he wanted to take a closer look. Literally. So we scheduled a colposcopy, which is essentially an extra invasive and aggressive pap smear involving a speculum, a specialized microscope, a vinegar solution (I shit you not), and a biopsy instrument. The vinegar helps “highlight areas of suspicious cells” (thanks Mayo Clinic), which are then sampled and sent off to the lab. Pre-procedure, the mild-mannered Dr. Safran sighed and said, “I’m sorry. Everything I do is so uncomfortable.” “For you or for me?!” I asked, knowing the answer. The procedure itself was indeed uncomfortable, as was recovery. The worst of it was having something orange-ish, papery, and alien emerge from my body a couple of days afterward. I panicked then did what any sensible modern woman would do – took a photo and emailed it to my doctor, who calmly replied, “Oh, that’s just the material we use to staunch the bleeding.” Oh. Is that all?
HOW DO YOU NOT WARN A PERSON WHEN STUFFING STRANGELY COLORED THINGS INTO HER PARTS?! HOW?!
In less than a week, Dr. Safran called to tell me the samples exhibited moderate dysplasia, which is abnormal, possible pre-cancerous growth. Ack! The “pre” was comforting, but “cancerous?!” No one wants to hear that. Dr. Safran said we could either cut out the offending bits or go for a full hysterectomy given my age (ack again!) and history of fibroids. I spent a week or so weighing the options and discovering that multiple friends had undergone a LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure) with great success. Much as bidding adieu to tampons forever appealed, I ultimately decided to decline major surgery.
I met with the surgeon, Dr. O’Brien, who looked Doogie Howser young on first glance – this is a tough thing about getting older; I constantly feel as if I’m living in one of those adorable commercials where small children are dressed as doctors, lawyers, etc. My latent ageism aside, Dr. O’Brien clearly knew her stuff and agreed that the simpler procedure was best. We scheduled an appointment in early June. I asked work for the recommended three days off for recovery.
|While doctor O’Brien’s youth was alarming, I did appreciate her sparkly shoes.|
The surgery was scheduled for 8:30am, which meant a 6:30 arrival and a 5:30 wake up call. I was instructed not to apply any lotions or make up to my body. At 5:30, I’m lucky to apply clothes to my body successfully, so this was not a hardship. Neal and I drove across town to the tony Sibley hospital, and, my heavens, I get what the fuss is about! Sure, navigating the place was a pain in the ass, but being seated in a quiet, well-appointed waiting room where the only screens silently announce patient progress and the magazines are interesting (and current!) was a treat. We checked in at the desk, handing over my advance directive along with the other paperwork. Logically I knew major complications from minor ladybit surgery were unlikely, but I hadn’t had major sedation since I got my wisdom teeth out in ’91 and was a little freaked out.
Eventually we were taken to prep, where I changed into a hospital gown and the coziest free safety socks I’ve ever been given. I was informed that I was welcome to change the channel on the TV in the room but was comforted by the steady stream of relaxing nature images it already delivered (butterflies were an obvious choice, moose less so). I was seen by a stream of charming nurses, all of whom seemed to ask the same questions. My favorite of the bunch asked about pain. I replied, “Well, I have a minor headache, but that’s likely due to not eating or drinking anything this morning.” She smiled, looked at Neal, and said, “Isn’t she pleasant?! She is so pleasant!” Then she looked at me to say, “The way you responded – it’s like you’re a sort of storyteller.” I shudder to think of the BS medical professionals must have to deal with that makes my bleary-eyed banter delightful by comparison.
I was hooked up to an IV. The forgettable anesthesiologist popped by to say hi. I was given a very sexy hairnet. It was showtime.
The operating room was bright and shiny and felt like overkill for such a simple procedure. I recall thinking everyone in the space was delightful as we chatted about how great the first appointment of the day is. I also was sliding into lala land, so it’s entirely possible they were all jerks. I think I made it through two breaths in the mask before conking out.
When I awoke I was thrilled not to be dead and annoyed not to still be sleeping (as a friend who recently had surgery said to me afterward, “You see why Michael Jackson got hooked on that stuff!”). I perked up when I was brought ginger ale and crackers. Neal joined me. When deemed suitably stable and awake I got dressed and went home for three days’ rest.
Last week I visited Dr. O’Brien, who informed me that the cells were indeed CIN2, the margins were clear, and my cervix looks healthy. Crisis averted. Another medical adventure logged.