An Update from the Internet Hypocrisy Department…
When I was eyeballs-deep in cancerland last year, I had an epiphany: I’d start a foundation! Geared toward young women of the Internet age who flock to message boards and WebMD when they notice weird things, the Pappenstance Foundation would exist to get those ladies off their computers and in to see a doctor. We’re all so different, with varied ways of explaining our issues, and the plights we experience “down there” are not outwardly visible, so really the smart thing to do would be to exit those rabbit holes of armchair gynos and get in to see the real-life thing, right? (Getting the foundation started is still on my to-do list, so please don’t anyone steal it, ok?)
But I have to report that for the last three weeks, I’ve suffered from Internet hypocrisy. I’ve had some… issues. Some pains, some pings, some flurries… just weird things going on with my body. So, I um… I flocked to the Internet. I’ve googled some things. I’ve read some message boards and even weighed in on a couple of discussions that pertain to me. I haven’t gone so far as to list my symptoms on a message board and ask if anyone has felt the same, but I might as well have.
My justification? I think I’m so tired of going to see doctors and am so worried about being a hypochondriac that I just wanted to make sure I could rule anything out before I made the call. On Tuesday, the pain in my pelvis, hip flexors and thighs was so bad that I finally emailed my list of symptoms to my gyn onc. I apologized for bothering her. I made sure she knew I didn’t want to be a nuisance or sound like a worrywart. I ended the email with, “I’d hate for all of this to be combination of diet / kickboxing injury and waste your time, but I’d come in if you wanted me to.”
I’m not 100% stoked that she wants to see me and possibly move up my PET scan. Deep down, I wanted her to say, ‘why not keep track of your diet for a week and see if anything changes,’ or, ‘how about if I refer you to a physical therapist and we keep your regular appointment in June?’ Which is silly, because the right thing for her to do is to see me and rule anything out.
I made the first available appointment she had, which is next Tuesday at 9 AM. Not because I’m worried, really, but because that’s less time I’ll be giving myself to go online and scare myself with what ifs. I know better, and yet I can’t keep away. Somebody should start a foundation or something…
Dear Cervical Cancer and Radiation After-Effects
Thank you, sincerely, for helping me get over my aversion to pooping in public. The often unexpected urgency you have bestowed upon me in the most public of places, including but not limited to Target, cafes and my office, has necessitated my very quick acceptance that I can - and must - broaden my Number 2 Network to outside the home. I don’t think I could’ve done it without you.
Following Up on Followups
My first followup pap smear two weeks ago was unexpectedly anxiety-inducing. I couldn’t figure out why I wanted to cry as we approached the UCSF cancer center, or why this little voice in my head whined, “I don’t want to BE here” as we sat in the waiting room.
It wasn’t until we were back home after the 14-hour day that I realized this was the first time I’d been to that center and didn’t know what the outcome was going to be. Every other time we took the familiar route to Divasadero Street, I’d already had cancer—we were just making a plan to get rid of it. This time, I was back to that unknown state. The scariest state.
My gyn onc took a biopsy of some tissue she noticed. She said it looked like scar tissue, but wanted to take the sample because we live so far away and weren’t scheduled to see her again for three months. It’s funny, but I’m way more in tune with my body now.
“Is it up and to your left?” I called down to her from my perch on the exam table.
“Yep,” she answered as she snipped a bit of tissue.
I knew exactly what she was talking about. Wish I’d had that ability when a tumor was growing in there, but hey, what’reyougonnado, right?
After all that, the news is amazing. The best news. Biopsy came back clear, as did my pap smear. I have another three months and then will go back in June for a second followup. I have a feeling it won’t be as anxiety-inducing the next time around. By the fourth it’ll probably be old hat. By the eighth, I’ll be past that magical date when most cervical cancers recur.
But I won’t count down those dates now. Instead, I’ll just enjoy the little milestones that are getting me back to “good.” Working full time hours and not needing to take an extra day off for rest. Enjoying my magnificent display of apple blossoms cut fresh from the backyard. Having friends over for John’s incredible pho.
Not letting cancer or the memory thereof rule my day-to-day life. It’s a struggle still, but I know in time I’ll be strong enough to move on.