I remember the afternoon so clearly. It was a Friday summer afternoon. I’d just finished work for the day and opened a pear cider. I was in the kitchen with my husband preparing dinner. I was in a good mood, I was feeling upbeat and carefree. My soul was in a good place. The weekend was upon us. Then my phone rang at 4.40pm and it was my doctor asking me to go in and see her first thing Monday morning. My heart sunk, I sat on my bed in tears. Scared, frightened, unsure. I had my husband hugging me tight.
Two weeks prior I had gone in for a routine Pap smear. I was 6 months over due with this one as I had been pregnant with Kyle. I hate having Pap smears. I wasn’t concerned about being over due because I thought I’ve got out of having it done for an extra 6 months (yay!). That’ll be the last time I ever say that. After the procedure, the doctor said they’ll call if there’s any issues with the results and if I don’t hear it’s good news. So when they rang I knew something wasn’t right.
My results showed positive to abnormal cervical cells. They’d progressed to stage III, also known as CIN III which is the pre cancer stage. When my doctor told me this, all I heard was “pre cancer” no matter how much she told me it was not cancer. The realization of being one stage before cancer is scary right. I mean, thank the heavens it isn’t cancer as primarily that is what you don’t want. But coming from a family with cervical cancer in the past, and being one who never broke a bone, had stitches or any kind of surgery, this was my kind of scary. I’m a play it safe kind of girl. This was my first time dealing with a situation like this.
I was booked in for a biopsy and nervously went to the hospital to have it done. The gynecologist and assistant could see how nervous I was. I was teary, shaking and couldn’t control my fear. The fear as such wasn’t that I was scared of this procedure, I just didn’t know exactly what to expect. I didn’t know if it would be painful, if I would bleed afterwards, my mind was overthinking with thoughts of what if they see a lump in there. I started thinking of my mum and how much I wanted her there holding my hand. I’ve learnt to control my mind and the way I think, and I knew thinking of my mum would only make me more upset so I stopped. The spectrum was inserted a solution was put on my cervix to make the abnormal cells appear. I was getting more nervous now. The assistant held my hand and kept talking to me, telling me to look at her and asking questions about my sons. She was amazing. The gynocologist asked me to cough, I remember replying with “I don’t think I can cough, I’ll probably shoot the spectrum out” hahaha! (Gosh, Connie!). They laughed and said just a gentle cough. I did a gentle cough and the gyno took her first sample. Again, I was asked to cough and the second sample of the cells were taken. I watched her place them in little jars. I remember thinking “So that’s what my insides look like” haha! Yep another “Connie” moment. But I was relieved, I didn’t feel a thing. The samples being taken didn’t hurt one little bit. I didn’t even know she had done it. The spectrum was taken out and I think that was the worst part. It was like the placenta after birth all over again. It felt horrible and then there was a gush of fluid. I stood up carefully to get dressed and the bed had a lot of fluid and a bit of blood on it.
I asked the gyno, “What do you think, did it look bad”. She responded with “It didn’t look too bad, my guess is you will be downgraded to stage II and go to monitoring” I was so relieved. Thinking thank goodness! But I didn’t want to get my hopes up. She had only seen it, not tested it. I went home perfectly fine with minimal bleeding. Then I waited three weeks for the results to come back. It felt like a lifetime.
In the meantime, I wanted to put it out of my mind and live in the moment. Take each day as it comes and deal with the results when they come. My husband and I would briefly talk about it here and there and he kept saying to me “This will be another one of those things that we get scared over for nothing”. When I was pregnant with Kyle, I tested high risk to Trisomy 18 in the 12 week scan. It was the most scariest time in our life by far. But everything turned out perfectly and we had a beautiful healthy baby. That’s why my husband thought this is just another test for us.
Results day came and this time my husband came to the appointment with me. We waited and waited in the waiting room. Time was going so slow. Kyle was getting restless and tired. A girl came and sat beside us who had just been in. She sat next to her sister and mum. She’d been told she’d need surgery. I watched her face. Her sister said “Oh that’s good” she replied with “No, that’s not good”. I felt for her. I thought to myself that will be me next, I can feel it. My name was called and in we went. I sat there more nervous that ever before. The gyno surgeon told me my results almost immediately. “You’re high risk CIN III, you’re going to need day surgery”. My heart sunk, I was crying. I couldn’t talk. He was informing me of the procedure and I couldn’t bring myself to talk. I was scared of surgery. I’d never had anything done like this before. I’d never been under a general anaesthetic before. I’d be having the LETZ procedure done. This is where they insert a wire loop to cut out almost half of your cervix. I was freaked out. After the talk, I was taken to the waiting room to fill in a form for surgery. I couldn’t fill it in. I was crying and shaking. People in the waiting room were staring at me. The receptionist came over and asked if we’d like some privacy. She took us into a private room and sent in the gyno’s nurse to have a talk to me. She calmed me down almost instantly. She was so reassuring and nurturing. She informed me more of the surgery. I felt at ease slightly. I couldn’t thank her enough for giving her time to help calm my nerves. I handed in my forms and was told id be phoned within the next three months to book in surgery. Three months? Wow, that could be whenever. I didn’t want to wait that long but again, I put it in the back on my mind and chose to live in the now.
Go ahead four days. I was picking Kurt up from school and getting him in the car. My phone rang. Private number, who could that be?! I answered and it was the hospital. They wanted to book me in sooner than expected. In ten days they could get me in for day surgery. I was shocked. I thought I’d be waiting a while. I hesitated but said yes book me in. A letter came in the post a few days later with all the information I needed. Once again, I thought this is still a week away, I’ll forget about it for now and keep living my life instead of spending my days with headaches and in fear. There was still some fear there, but I was controlling how I let it affect me.
I reached out on instagram for some stories, asking any of my followers who had this procedure done to please message, comment or email me. I needed some reassurance. I knew my friends and family couldn’t help me with that. None of them had had this done before. I had so many caring followers comment with their stories and well wishes. I had emails, I had messages coming through thick and fast. I was completely at ease. Hearing these womens stories touched me and I could relate so much. It was the best move I had made by reaching out to them. For people I had never met, they were so forth coming and nurturing. Informative too. I didn’t feel scared anymore, I didn’t feel anxious. I wasn’t worried about any pain. I couldn’t thank them enough for their stories and words.
The night before surgery had arrived and I was in a positive head space. I had control over my emotions. I was nervous in a small way. But nothing like I’d imagined. My husband kept bringing the topic up and I’d tell him I don’t want to talk about it, I’m ok. The day was here and I was quieter than usual in the morning. I was hungry and wanted my morning coffee. You have to fast before hand. My husband asked me if I’m ok, I told him I was. This was the time I was glad I’d been through all I had to learn mind power and have control of my emotions. I was handling it well.
We took Kurt up to the neighbours so he could get to school while we went to the hospital. We had to be there at 8.30. Kyle came with us as my husband was going to come home and wait for me. Driving to the hospital hit me like a tonne of bricks. I could feel the tears coming. I was telling myself to control it. I was thinking of my mum. She should be here with me! I felt anger come over me. She should be here in the car with me taking me there. I was getting upset. I got control of my emotions again and thought of my boys. Do this for them. You don’t want to regret this in ten years and be dealing with cervical cancer at 37. Prevent it now. We arrived at the hospital and I stepped out of the car. I was crying again. I kept telling myself, “no you said you would be braver than this”. I took a deep breath and we went in. I checked in at reception, waited, had my prep done, waited some more. Then I was called in. It was time for my husband and Kyle to leave. He gave me a big hug and kiss and in I went. I got in the doors and my nerves were going. The nurse assured me I’d be ok. I got into my gown, had circulation stockings put on and laid in the bed for an hour waiting again. This for me was the best part. While waiting my nerves were calming down and I was becoming sleepy. 11.20am came and it was my turn. They wheeled me in to further prep me. I was crying again. “Damn it Connie, you big sook. Be braver than this” I was telling myself. All the surgeons and nurses helped calm me. I told them I don’t want to know what they are doing, it would scare me too much. They stuck ECG pads on my chest and I had to have a cannula put in. Boy do I hate needles. I asked them to give me a moment so I can get my mind ready for the cannula to go in. I got myself together and in it went. The nurses were talking to me and kept me focused on them. Then I could feel this cold sensation going up my arm, I asked them “Are you putting me to sleep” they said “Oh no, not yet” I replied with “Ok good, I don’t like that bit”. And that was it. I was out. I woke up at 1pm in recovery. My girlfriend/neighbour is a nurse at the hospital I was at, so she had one of her work collegues there to look after me. I woke and she was there right beside my bed telling me she’d be looking after me for Krista. I felt at ease. Then I thought, hold on, I’m not in any pain. I’m just tired and lethargic. Did I really just have surgery?! I stayed in recovery for an hour and a half, was given some food. Then I was given the check over and given the all clear to go home. I could not believe I had just had surgery!
Home to bed, and I took it very easy. Resting and laying around. I kept up the panadol just for peace of mind. That night I was starving and demolished my dinner. I then had the best nights sleep. The next day I woke feeling good. Up I got doing my usual potter around and it hit me. I was feeling faint, dizzy, nausea’s, headaches. Hubby put me back to bed and demanded I stay there. I did. I felt horrible. No pain or aches, just very mild cramping similar to period pain. I was bleeding but it wasn’t heavy. There was fluid leaking though. That’s all normal. It was the nausea that was the worst. I stayed in my pyjamas all day resting. That night I slept amazing again. Wednesday I woke up feeling great. But hubby and I both decided I should still take it easy for the day. I wanted to work as the orders didn’t stop coming in and I could see the back log piling up. But I rested and did what I needed to for my body. Thursday came and I was better again. I was up and about as usual, paint shirt on ready to work! House duties resuming as usual too. I was still bleeding but it was very faint and light. I was more so leaking a fluid, which they said you will do. That part I was over! Almost three weeks later and it’s like I’ve got my period, even though I’m not due. I’ve had enough of this part. You can only wear pads, no tampons for six weeks. No swimming, no intercourse, no baths for six weeks.
Next Friday is results day. I’ll go in to be told what they’ve found in my cervix. I’m putting faith in to some good news. In three months I will have another biopsy done to see if the abnormal cells are gone, then go to monitoring meaning Pap smears every six months until I get the all clear. Then yearly paps, and back to two years. I’ll keep them up every twelve months for peace of mind. If my biopsy shows abnormal cells it’s possibly back to surgery depending on how bad they are.
If surgery ever had to happen again, I wouldn’t be so scared. I’ve been there and done it now, so I know what to expect. It wouldn’t be my first time going into the unknown.
My word of advice to women. Get your Pap smears done. You see the signs in the doctors surgery and on the back of toilet doors saying “A little awkward for a lot of peace of mind” and it is exactly that. Cervical cancer is preventable by having your routine paps done. Five minutes out of your life to save your life. It’s worth it every time. Love yourself enough to look after yourself.