Thousands of women are diagnosed with Cervical Cancer every year. Some may live to tell their stories. Others may not. I dealt with this frightening condition twice and I feel grateful that I was able to move on and remain healthy and alive for my children.
It all started out on a good day that would eventually turn bad. My husband and I were going about our normal weekend routine. He was watching television and I was playing with kids. All of a sudden I felt this excruciating pain in my lower abdomen. It was so horrible that I could not stand straight. I was pregnant, so I thought it was related to the pregnancy. Boy, was I in for a shocker. The pain just would not subside after resting and other attempts at relief. It did fade away some, but by nightfall, I realized it wasn’t going anywhere, so we headed to the ER, leaving the kids with my mom.
At the ER, I explained that I was pregnant, but not too far along. I hadn’t even seen an OB/GYN yet because we just found about the pregnancy not even a week earlier. After numerous blood tests, an IV drip (in case I was just dehydrated), and the dreaded pap smear test (an uncomfortable vaginal swab test given to women routinely in detecting abnormalities and STD’s), I expected the results to reflect something about the pregnancy. It didn’t happen.
The doctors came back to reveal my results and I instantly knew something was wrong. The look on their faces said everything. The male doctor revealed my results to my husband and I. He said that the pap test came back abnormal. “What does that mean?”, I asked with concern. Well, basically he told me it meant that some of my blood cells could be either pre-cancerous or cancerous, but further tests would need to be done. I had to schedule an appointment with my regular physician for that. I asked what this meant for the baby and he gave me a vague answer, only telling me that depending on the outcome of any future tests, my doctor and I would have to discuss it. He wouldn’t go any further than that. I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be good, but still I pressed on, awaiting the day I saw my doctor.
During the visit with my doctor, he explained to me about the colposcopy, the procedure they would be doing on me that day. Basically, they use an instrument called the colposcope to look at the cervix and detect any abnormalities. This procedure can cause a miscarriage, being that it is slightly invasive. I went on with the procedure anyway, knowing I needed to have it done. Unfortunately for me, it didn’t take long before they saw it. They commented that the mass of cancerous cells they found was so large and so pronounced that even when they looked at my cervix without the colposcope’s magnification, they could see it easily. I was scared to death, but being a mom and a master at holding in feelings to mask them from others (mainly children) in hard times, I did not show my fear. Instead, I asked the doctor to explain to me everything about the next step to be taken and to be honest with me about the predicted outcome. I told him he didn’t have to leave out the medical jargon. I was very interested in hearing it in its entirety. Medicine has always been a subject I studied up on regularly, so I wanted the honest, clear, naked truth, with nothing missing.
The doctor proceeded to tell me that this mass must be removed at the soonest possible appointment availability in the cancer clinic upstairs. If it was not removed, it could spread and become much worse, possibly threatening my life. He put it into much more technical words, as I had requested, and let me know all the risks and why I should have it done. Of course, I scheduled the appointment that day from my doctor’s office. The doctor also told me that the baby I was carrying was at risk of being lost by the procedure and may even have been lost due to the colposcope procedure, which I had a feeling about from the beginning. Being the curious person that I am, I had already looked up all this information in my medical books and also on medical websites. I pretty much knew what was coming, but I still felt the need to hear it straight from my doctor. Maybe some part of me had hoped what I read was wrong. It wasn’t.
Once it got to appointment day to have the mass removed, I thought I was prepared for what awaited me, no matter how horrible it might me. I was more concerned about the baby inside of me, if it was even still there. I had had some minor cramps and a small amount of spotting shortly after the colposcopy and hoped it was nothing. As I walked into the cancer clinic, all I could think about was this poor baby inside of me that had to endure all of this, as well as what my kids would do without me, should something go wrong and the procedure failed. Something was telling me either my baby wouldn’t make it or I wouldn’t make it. I’m not sure where the thoughts were coming from. I just knew something was going to happen.
So, fast forward to the procedure, and there I was, lying uncomfortably, with a hospital gown on and three doctors working on burning a cancerous mass out of my cervix. The procedure was called a LEEP, or Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure. The instrument used is a wire device with a loop at one end that is called a wire loop electrode. It is attached to a generator used for this and other surgical procedures. This causes the wire to transmit an electric current that when placed on the affected area, it cuts quickly to remove the affected tissue. This procedure is very invasive, so there is a high risk of losing a baby if you are pregnant. The area is numbed beforehand, however, I did feel a sharp pinching on the inside, as it was doing its duty. My affected area was a rather large area, so someone with a smaller affected area may not have such pain, or the pain may be short-lived. The doctors talked to me throughout the procedure, explaining all the medical terms, as well as discussing other medical-related themes. This is not what they normally do, however, I initiated the medical discussions, as I am highly interested in medical matters.
Anyhow, aside from the pinching, the procedure was not as bad as I expected. It was fairly quick. I seemed to be finished in no time at all. The doctors then, once again, warned me of the things that might occur as a result of the procedure. I might be having some slight bleeding, so I was directed to wear a sanitary pad home, just in case. Tampons are not allowed after a procedure such as this, due to the risk of infection. Also, my baby might be lost, which would cause abnormal heavy bleeding (heavier than my menstrual cycle). Since the pregnancy was in the early stages, bleeding may be the only symptom I’d experience and I would likely not notice anything else releasing, as the baby might be too small to see at that stage in development. There were other risks rattled off as well, such as hemorrhaging and a myriad of other complications. I left the clinic with an information packet in hand, should I forget anything they had warned me about more than once. I was relieved that the cancer was likely gone, and that a follow-up appointment would determine that for sure, however, I was overly stressed about my poor baby growing inside me.
Over the next few days or maybe even a week or so, I experienced heavy cramping and bleeding. The first two days were the worst, as far as the cramps and bleeding went. After those first couple days, I felt somewhat drained inside, energy-wise as well as physically. To make this horrible part of the story short and less painful, as you might have guessed, I lost my baby. That was likely the cause for the drained feeling. Something (or someone) was no longer there. I knew somehow that this would happen, however, no matter how much I prepared for this, I still was very upset. It wasn’t fair for this poor baby.
So, my follow-up appointment not only determined that my baby was gone, but that the cancerous cells were gone as well. There was a positive side to all this. I went on a whole 3 years without any further pre-cancerous or cancerous developments. I got pregnant again and had a happy healthy little girl. One year later, I gave birth to her little brother.
Following her little brother, I felt extremely tired, but chalked it up to having a baby and thought nothing of it. When my youngest son was merely 5 months old, I again found out I had cancerous cells in my cervix. But, the worst part was that I was pregnant again, as well. I know by now you’ve got to be thinking that I must have the worst birth control method out there. The truth is, I have tried many different methods, and all good ones, including the pill (more than one kind) and Norplant. The doctors say I’m just extremely fertile – lucky me. Anyhow, here I was in the exact same boat as before, only now it was worse because I knew what to expect.
This time the doctor suggested I go through a different method of ridding the cancerous cells. He was to freeze them, which would kill them off. The basics were about the same as before. I laid onto the gurney in stirrups. The freezing probe was placed onto the affected area. The difference between this method and the other is that instead of a sharp, pinching pain, I felt a horrible cramping pain. Recovery from this procedure was worse than the last one. The symptoms were the same, but for the first couple of days, I could barely move.
As you likely predicted, I lost that baby as well. But, I have had no cancerous cells since, so I still feel lucky. I do still think of the poor innocent babies, but I feel comfort in knowing that they are now with God and I will one day see them again, when the time is right.
That last bout was about two and one half years ago, so that’s two and one half years free of cancerous cells. Some would call it lucky. I call it a gift to my children and family from God.