The doctor gave me a valium and told me to take it 45 minutes before the procedure, which I did, eagerly. I don’t do drugs and I won’t even take someone else’s prescription painkillers so this is the closest I’ll ever get to tripping on shrooms in the back of some guys truck. It didn’t feel like anything and I was deeply disappointed. I think it says more about how anxious I am as a person than the strength of the prescription.
You have to do a pee test before you have a LEEP procedure because they don’t want to apply electricity to your cervix if you may be hosting a fetus. Which is understandable. I set seven alerts on my phone to drink water because I don’t drink a lot of water and when someone tells me to pee, my bladder peaces out.
When you get into the procedure room they tell you to take off your clothes from the waist down and get on the table. Then they leave you alone in the room with all of the sharp objects, test tubes, and orange canisters that have your name printed on them: SPECIMEN. There aren’t any magazines in this room. The door is thin enough that I can hear the nurses talking in the hallway, which I remember from my consultation. I don’t know if this is on purpose or not but I always hear them talking about other patients like WE’VE GOT A BLEEDER IN ROOM TEN. Did I mention there weren’t any magazines in this room? I hobble to the courtesy chair and snag my cell phone and go take photos of everything, a process which I will later repeat when pieces of my bloody cervix are floating in some kind of clear liquid.
The doctor and her nurse come in and they’re so wonderful. I realize that I might be happy to see them because I’m high. I actually find myself wondering if there might be some reason I can come back and see them. Do you do brazilian waxes? Wait, this is a gyno. Or is she some other kind of doctor? Am I saying this all out loud?
They insert the speculum and she tells me that she’s going to shove a needle into my cervix to numb it. She doesn’t use the word shove but I’m high so I start laughing anyways as she pokes me over and over and over again. The nurse asks if I can feel any pain and I twist up my face like I’m trying to think about it and she starts to laugh too. They apply a grounding pad to my thigh which is sticky and heavy and I note that I prefer it over electrocution. While she uses the wand to slice off pieces of my cervix, we talk about what we’re watching on Netflix, and the pure longevity of OJ’s cultural significance. I can’t feel anything but it sounds like a vacuum cleaner. She says she made a mess all over the floor and I get a little light headed thinking about blood dripping down between my legs onto the linoleum.
No sex or tampons or any penetration of any kind for four weeks. No excessive walking and no exercise for 24 hours. You may experience mild pain and some bleeding.
On the internet I read that charred pieces of your cervix fall out of your vagina and it smells like burning flesh. One girl describes being unable to have sex even after the four weeks are over because she is so scarred by what she’s seen. I ask my doctor about the burning flesh. I ask if pieces of me are going to fall out. She looks at me with a diplomatic yes.
“Well, you know when you have a scab and it starts to heal and it’s gooey? It’s more like that.”
She tells me that it won’t hurt too much and I tell her that she’s a cheat and a liar and she folds and reluctantly prescribes me Vicodin. When we get to the pharmacist he tells me feel better! I don’t really have a script for what to do in this sort of situation so I say “you too!”
The next three days are a blur of television and pizza. My boyfriend takes care of me with grace and kindness and occasionally a firm “why do you want to see how bad it hurts before you take painkillers?” (Because I’m a woman and I can handle anything! Small foot stomp!)
I receive a flower delivery which I first think is a package of vibrators I’m expecting. I am pleasantly surprised when I unwrap daffodils instead. I don’t know how this whole dry packing thing works. I unwrap them and place them in the sun and they immediately open. I think how could I be so lucky that someone would deliver me flowers. A couple of hours later another friend comes by with a box full of things. Wine and bread and cheese and books and a candle and food and little gifts that have me reeling. Three cards packed with sentiments. Another friend has given me some weed to make me feel better. I am literally swimming in kindness. Really, a little seasick actually. I think perhaps I should get sick more often.
Then I start to wonder if perhaps I’ve underestimated how afraid I should be. Everyone seems to think I’m really sick. I mean, I am. I could die. I mean, I could really die. What if all of these gifts are the last kindness I’ll ever receive? I smear some cheese on bread. I mean, you know, this is like a sign. What do you call it? A premonition? No. Foreshadowing. Her friends delivered her a basket of goods because they knew even before she did that life was coming to a close. I drink some wine and contemplate my demise. It tastes like angels are farting in my mouth. Seriously, this wine is so good that halfway through the bottle I convince myself that white wine must be less alcoholic than red wine. If this is how I go out, I guess it could be worse.
The nurse calls me a week later and tells me I don’t need to come back for another year. At that point I’ll just get a regular old pap test. No snippin’ and no electricity. And, no, you’re not going to die and no that wasn’t ever really on the table, were you even listening to us?
I roll my eyes so hard she can probaly hear the firm clunking of my optic nerve as it rotates ball in socket.
What is a LEEP procedure? Think of it this way: (a) Pap (a swab with a giant q-tip) (b) Colposcopy (snipping of cervix where area was irregular) and (c) LEEP (cutting away the irregular part to remove it entirely or help the body heal it more quickly).
79 Million Americans are currently infected with HPV. It is so common that most men and women will have it at least once. Most of the time HPV goes away without any of these procedures. Usually there are no symptoms.
Everyone (regardless of gender) should be vaccinated against HPV! Especially because men cannot be tested for HPV!
While I had CIN 1 (mild changes), others have more advanced changes. CIN 2 indicates moderate changes and CIN 3 indicates severe changes. Catch any abnormalities as soon as possible so you can receive additional help fighting off the virus if necessary.
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