My Thanks for Wellness : The 12 Days of Thanks

In the past, I have experienced a lot of trauma directly related to holidays.  As a child, my father would throw these epic temper tantrums, because he really wasn’t interested in participating in them.  He didn’t want to go out, and he was hell bent on making everyone pay for forcing him into it.

That, in turn, had some serious effects on the family.  My mother would get into a frenzy and suffer from terrible anxiety prior to each holiday.  On the day of the holiday, she would frantically try to get everything together and do as much damage control as possible.

My brother, who has autism, would pick up on this and throw temper tantrums of his own.  He also has the OCD component involved with some forms of autism, so things would have to be absolutely perfect.  If they weren’t, all hell would break loose.

Then, we would arrive at the homes of our family members.  They were just as stressed out as our own family, and always in plainly terrible moods.

The holidays season was usually a complete disaster for my entire family.  We were pretty poor while I was growing up.  There was the business of buying a complete Thanksgiving dinner, despite the fact that we would dine at my overly crowded aunt’s house anyway.  It was at my brother’s demand.  Then, there was the obvious inconvenience to my mother for cooking a Thanksgiving dinner when she absolutely despises cooking.

Rinse and repeat for Christmas.  However, with Christmas, there was the overwhelming burden of buying Christmas presents on a very limited budget.  As much as I can fault my parents for things, when I was a kid, they really did their best to not disappoint us on Christmas.  However, the stress of it all saturated the air around me.  The mood that hung around me was charged and dark.  And I picked up on all of it.

As I grew into a young adult, Thanksgivings and Christmases became disappointing and tedious.  Presents became fewer, and my parents became almost resentful toward me for having to buy me presents once I was an adult.  I was still obligated to participate with a smile on my face, even though I carried all of the bad memories of fighting in the car and vicious attacks from my brother.

My husband and I married, and just before our first Christmas as a family, he was laid off.  We were scraping by with a newborn son.  It was probably the most disappointing Christmas of all, when we basically had to ask our family for handouts, just so we could get by until the New Year.  It was just more likely that Xan would be able to be hired in a new job in January.

That was the Christmas the broke me entirely when it came to the holiday season.  I had few fond memories of Christmas to draw from.  The ones in the recent past had been so gloomy.  Everything about it was depressing, and there was hardly a reason to look forward to it.

Instead of loathing the holiday season this year, I decided to start a project called The 12 Days of Thanks.  This year, I would like to focus on all of the positives.  And I want to practice expressing gratitude for all of the wonderful things in my life.

Today, for my first installment of my series, The 12 Days of Thanks, I want to give thanks for wellness.  Both in body, mind, and wellness in those in my family.

I have had some serious health problems in my life.  In addition to having a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, I suffer from somatic health problems.  They are all relatively minor.  I have been plagued with asthma and allergies my entire life, causing me difficulty with breathing and recurring bronchitis most times I get sick with something minor.  I suffer from “knock-knee”, which caused me to develop tendinitis   Every time the weather changes, my knees ache and swell.  Throughout the years, I have developed prediabetes and developing heart disease, mostly related to a combination of bad genetics and weight.

But, worst of all, I battled cervical cancer for four years of my life.  Thankfully, my case of cervical cancer didn’t require me to undergo the usual methods of treating cancer.  However, it did cause me to go through a number of uncomfortable exams, painful biopsies, and two different surgeries that may have compromised my reproductive ability.

Despite all of these, I am thankful for my wellness.  On November 10th of this year, I celebrated my one year anniversary since my LEEP procedure.  So far, I’ve been free of cervical cancer for over a year now.  And in another six months, as long as my tests come back fine, I will be cleared of it entirely.

I am grateful for the periods of wellness that I experience within Bipolar Disorder.

And I have so much gratitude toward the doctors that helped me get to this point of wellness in my life.

But, most of all, I am grateful for the wellness of my family.  Xan rarely catches any of the illnesses that pass through this house.  And if he does, it’s relatively mild.  Beast is well, with no serious health problems.  Although he does have Autism Spectrum Disorder, I can be thankful that it isn’t worse than it is.  I grew up with my brother, who has ASD much worse than my son.  I realize that it could have been a lot worse.  And, I’m grateful for the Early Intervention he received from the most wonderful professionals I’ve ever met.

I’m grateful that my family is well, and continues to do well.

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Leep-Into-Cin – Part III

Part three and recent parts of my fight with cervical cancer

As the Pendulum Swings

Warning: The following content can be considered graphical in nature.  It may contain material that may not be appropriate for certain audiences.  Children under the age of 18, those of the male gender, and others faint of heart may want to take extra care while viewing this.  Use your own discretion.

Bringing in the Big Guns

After the experience where I was left stranded on an operating table, I had grown animosity toward that doctor that performed my surgery.  I refused to see her, and I refused to go through any more procedures.  It didn’t matter.  I had lost my insurance again and there was nothing I could possibly do.  The only other option was to return to the clinic so that they could slowly kill me with their negligence.

I did break down and go to the clinic, but only for a required Pap to receive birth control.  I…

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Leep-Into-Cin II – Part II

Part two of my journey with HPV and Cancer

As the Pendulum Swings

Warning: The following content can be considered graphical in nature.  It may contain material that may not be appropriate for certain audiences.  Children under the age of 18, those of the male gender, and others faint of heart may want to take extra care while viewing this.  Use your own discretion.

July 19, 2007

C.S. and I walked through the neighborhood in the early morning hours.  The air was thick and heavy like wet cotton, but a chilled wind passed every few moments, carrying with it the scent of midsummer rain.  Our discourse was just as thick, but much more warm.  It was like other evenings, but with an electric charge of an impending thunderstorm in the air.  We walked the desolate backstreets with a course for a local convenience store.  Everything was quiet, with the exception of our conversation and the light patter of rain beginning to fall.

Mid-sentence…

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Leep-Into-Cin II – Part I

Finding out about HPV and cervical cancer

As the Pendulum Swings

Warning: The following content can be considered graphical in nature.  It may contain material that may not be appropriate for certain audiences.  Children under the age of 18, those of the male gender, and others faint of heart may want to take extra care while viewing this.  Use your own discretion.

One Bad Apple . . .
Twelve years ago, almost to the day, the relationship with my first love started.  We had gone circles for over six months.  He eyed me, and I fancied him.  We spoke almost daily and we had become great friends.  There were many late night conversations, spilling out our hopes, dreams, fears…  But, he was forbidden fruit, the tastiest of them all.  He was my best friend’s boyfriend.  After over a month of clandestine meetings, secret phone conversations, secrets, and lies, I came clean.  And within six months after that, we were no longer…

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The C Word : 30 Days of Truth

Warning: The following content can be considered graphical in nature.  It may contain material that may not be appropriate for certain audiences.  Children under the age of 13, those of the male gender, and others faint of heart may want to take extra care while viewing this.  Use your own discretion.

Day 16 : Someone or something you definitely could live without.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl.  She fancied herself wise and experienced in the world at the ripe young age of fifteen.  Since she was the age where she considered herself an adult, because she had an adult body, she started to do adult things.  Being in a monogamous, committed relationship, she decided herself old enough, and educated enough by the health classes in the public school system, to start having sex.

That naïve little girl grew up and discovered that her monogamous relationship existed only with one party.  Seeing as how she was much older now, at the ripe older age of 18, she considered herself naïve in the past, but much wiser now.  She knew of sexually transmitted diseases and let out a sigh of relief at the knowledge that she had used condoms at every frequent instance of sexual intercourse.

That girl, she is me.

Throughout the years, I had gained a new definition of relationships and explored my sexuality.  I wasn’t much for one night stands, I preferred a committed relationship, but as it turns out, I was not particularly good at staying monogamous.  Sometimes, I would have a momentary indiscretion and have repeat ex-sex.  Other times, I just fooled around with others for a self-esteem boost.  None without protection.

Protection is a term that should be used loosely with condoms.  When used correctly, condoms can prevent pregnancy in 99% of cases.

HPV doesn’t care about condoms.

I could live without HPV and the cancer it caused me.

For those of you that find yourself at a loss for the topic of HPV, I’ll give you a rundown.  Human Papilloma Virus is a sexually transmitted disease that transmits itself from contact to contact with partners.  It is a virus and can stay dormant in a person’s system for years, kind of like herpes.  Except, with HPV, there are often no immediate outward symptoms.  There is no way to tell if a person has contracted the virus with either partner.  It is a silent illness with a potential for being deadly, if left untreated.

HPV is actually so common that upwards of 50% of the population will contract the disease within their lifetime.  Being a virus, in many cases, especially with younger patients, the illness will resolve itself without any intervention.

Otherwise, it is an unimaginable hell.

In 2007, I underwent a colposcopy with a biopsy to determine the cause of my abnormal pap smear.  A colposcopy is a diagnostic procedure where the doctor sprays a solution on the cervix to make it clear.  Abnormal cells can be detected when they don’t turn clear.  If they are discovered, the area is biopsied to determine the progression of abnormality, essentially meaning cancerous in nature.

A pap smear is uncomfortable enough.  They take an instrument and scrape a layer of skin off of the cervix for testing.  It is one of the most painful gynecological procedures I had gone through at that point in time.

I was diagnosed with cervical dysplasia termed CIN-I, the least threatening development.  I was in my early 20’s, and the doctors had decided that I would get regular screenings to monitor it.  I was assured that it would resolve on its own, being that I was a younger woman with no history of chronic illness.

A year later, I was 34 weeks pregnant with my son.  The doctor had determined it was necessary to check on the dysplasia.  The growth had become bad enough that they risked preterm labor to get a sample.  CIN-II.  It was not resolving on its own.  I had defied statistics.

Six months later, the doctor performed another colposcopy with a biopsy.  CIN-III.  It had progressed again, one step before invasive cancer.  That was when I had my first surgery.

The surgery is actually a pretty outdated, but not quite as invasive, procedure with a very low success rate.  It was cryosurgery, where they take a cold probe and freeze the bad cells off.

For this surgery, they lied.  The doctors told me that it would be uncomfortable and not too unlike a colposcopy.  Seeing as how I endured one during late term pregnancy, I felt confident.  Instead, I ended up being left in a silent room with my legs in the air.  “Wait five minutes and then get up.  And you’ll be all done.’

I was alone in that room.  I attempted to sit and found that I couldn’t.  It was extraordinarily painful, and I rolled to one side on the table, nearly falling off.  I pulled myself up, and limped out of the office holding my stomach.

Everything from the waist down was in as much pain as it was postpartum.  I limped out to the parking lot, and had to stand to wait for my father.  I went home with no medicine, unmedicated bipolar disorder, a seven month old infant, and a gushing crotch.  They fail to mention that the cryosurgery makes you gush fluid for another month after the procedure.  And there is really no way of telling the success of the procedure until the next six month pap screening.

I had one good pap smear.  The next two showed abnormal cells.  I was back in the office for another colposcopy with a biopsy.  It revealed that I had developed CIN-II again and I required another more invasive surgery this time.

That surgery is called a LEEP procedure.  For this surgery, the doctors put the patient into a twilight state and take an electrified loop to the cervix.  In this instance, the doctors are able to tell post-op if they were successful.  My margins came back clear.  That was November 2011.  My first follow up in May 2011 came back clear.  It was the first time in four years that I had been cancer free.

In the latter progressions of this cancer, symptoms start to become evident.  Doctors say they are not, but in retrospect, they are.  First, I was getting sick constantly.  Every virus that came past, I contracted.  I had the flu twice a year every year since my diagnosis.  I had numerous cases of bronchitis and constant ear infections.

In addition, there were changes in my lower regions I didn’t immediately notice.  I spotted between periods.  I almost always bled after sex or any insertion of pretty much anything.  Bumping the cervix eventually became painful, and sex was not quite as enjoyable.

I was always tired.  I had always felt like I was worn down.

I find that I am worried today.  I panic over every instance of spotting.  I started getting colds again.  And I won’t be able to know if the cancer has returned until November, after my regularly scheduled screening.

What if I have to go through yet another biopsy?  Another surgery?  Each surgery reduced the chances of being able to carry a child to term.  I am not finished having children.  What if this never goes away?  What if I have to have organs removed?

This cancer has been the Sword of Damocles over my head, a constant threat, for five years now.  I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.

For more on my personal battle with HPV and cancer:

LEEP into Cin – Part 1 – The Story of how contracting HPV is possible.

LEEP into Cin Part 2 – The Story of the progression of the HPV

Leep into Cin Part 3 – The Story leading up to the most recent colposcopy and surgery

Fear and Loathing in Pittsburgh – Fear of the surgery consultation

Taking the Bullet – All of the what if’s about the surgery

Me and Magee – The LEEP procedure