There are few phrases that can strike terror into a woman’s heart faster than the six little words: “Your pap smear came back abnormal.”
I have raised a child with spina bifida. For the past fifteen years, I’ll be honest, the medical care of everyone else has come before mine. When my grandmother had her first heart attack, I was the one in the ICU demanding they find out why this lucid, gentle woman, in the space of thirty minutes, had turned into a combative and incoherent person. (Turned out it was an allergic reaction to a drug they gave her.) I was the one demanding a stroke team eval when the staff wanted to sit back and thought they were dealing with an Alzheimer’s patient. I have forced my hubby to get his colonoscopy and waited (although blubbering like a blithering idiot) for him to make it through hernia surgery.
Me, not so much.
I’m a fairly independent person. I consider myself a denning animal, like my dogs. If I don’t feel well, I try to suck it up and go on with life, or curl up somewhere dark until I feel better. I try to deal with it on my own. Even when I had to have back surgery, my poor hubby nearly had to sit on me to make me stay in bed when I was insisting he could go to work and leave me alone at home. I despise being reliant on someone, feeling weak.
When I go to the doctor, I usually go by myself. The conversation between myself and hubby is usually, “When is your appointment?” “Oh, soon.” “Want me to go with you?” “Hell no.”
Today, for example. A follow up from two weeks ago, to do a routine biopsy of something the doctor is pretty sure is benign. My pap smear results were also in from the previous appointment. Yes, bad me, the first one I’d had in a couple of years.
I deal with stress with snark. It’s how I roll.
“So,” I said all cockily, metaphorical balls dangling in the breeze to hide my nerves. “How’d my test come back?”
My OB/Gyn sat down with “that look” on her face. “We need to discuss that, Mrs. Richardson.”
Then those dreaded six words. Followed by a handy-dandy color brochure with all sorts of options my doc could highlight showing me what it had come back as, what our next step was, and, depending on what that showed, what the next step following that might be. (Which, of course, leaves me stressing about the other options listed in this helpful brochure, where we haven’t gotten to yet, but might.)
Oh, did I forget to mention I have a history of cancer on both sides of my family?
So the ballsy, snarky bitch, after sitting there in shock and going through the biopsy (hurts like a bitch, thank you very much), promptly got on the phone after the appointment to update hubby and proceded to bite his head off.
No, not one of my finer moments. And yes, I did apologize.
Once he got home and I cried in his arms.
You know, it’s fine to say oh, probably nothing. Probably working myself up over nothing. Just a scare. Lots of people have abnormal pap smears and they’re fine.
Let me tell you what, when you’re going through it, no amount of logical thinking and rationalization will take that sharp knife edge of fear away from your jugular.
The whispered “what ifs” that sit there echoing in the back of your head. And there they’ll remain until next week, when I have my next appointment and get the next round of results.
I mean, I celebrate my first annual perpetually 39th birthday this year. I’m young. And I’ve never been one to sit and wax melodic about milestone birthdays. Once I hit twenty-one and could buy alcohol (ironic, since I’m not a big drinker) it didn’t matter. I didn’t stress thirty. I usually have to literally do the math when someone asks how old I am, because I can’t remember.
Seems life sometimes likes to slam you face-first into contemplations of mortality.
Those six words sure are one way of doing it.
Six little words.