20 Day Challenge – Day 15

6 things you can’t live without

  1. My family
  2. Love
  3. Sex (sorry, I had to say it)
  4. My favorite Ine’s : Caffeine, Nicotine, Benzodiazepine, etc.
  5. The Internet
  6. My friends

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

The Friday Confessional : Promiscuously Yours

This would be installment number two in The Friday Confessional Series.  For those of you that are new to The Friday Confessional, thanks to LaLa, writer at Seasons Change and So Have I, I have taken on the idea of the Friday Confessional.  There’s something so cleansing about it.  I am not Catholic, nor have I ever been.  But, I can see why confessional is an important part of their Christian denomination.  I believe that it’s important to mental health and spiritual health to come forward with any deep dark secrets that may be bothering me, consciously and unconsciously.

This is where I start working toward my clean slate.

Dear Avi,

I have written several articles about our tortured relationship, some of which are entitled, “Love the Way You Lie”, and “Decent into Hell”.  Facts are facts.  You abused me in every imaginable way.  You degraded me and manipulated me into sexual acts I am still ashamed that I performed.  Those are my own burdens now.  Karma has come full circle and dealt with you in the best possible way, although I am still unsure as to whether losing your entire military career taught you the lesson, “What goes around comes around.”  Maybe being divorced after six months of marriage in your twenties was bad enough.  Somehow, I doubt those things.

Karma has dealt with me.

For what?  Am I referring to the mutual abuse I helped to perpetuate?  Not exactly.

Sadly, the real breaking point in our relationship didn’t occur until you had made the open admission that you cheated on me.  It’s not that you cheated on me, it’s more about the lie.  I caught you doing it a year and a half prior, and you convinced me that I was paranoid and delusional.  It was damaging to my mental health, and truthfully, I never truly believed it.  Especially after her boyfriend clearly called you and threatened you right in front of me.

I was willing to let it go, because I thought I loved you.

The truth is, I never did.

I had no right to be upset with you about cheating.  Because honestly, I cheated on you probably more times and in more hurtful ways than you ever cheated on me.

I started my indiscretions at the very beginning of our relationship.  Remember when I told you I was going to be in Ohio visiting relatives?  Did it ever click later on that the only relative I have in that state is in Columbus?  Instead of visiting family, I was visiting a truly gorgeous young man who had a serious attraction to me.  We had been fooling around even before you and I were together.  I won’t attempt a justification, because if I had determined it was appropriate, I would have made the admission up front.

And we had crazy kinky sex all weekend.  It never occurred to you that those bruises were no accident.  That same lame accident I blurted out when I brushed the subject off the very next weekend.

Honestly, I had no love for Jamie, either.  But, he was a complete manwhore, mostly sexually indiscriminate between man, woman, young, or old.  Jamie was an incredibly attractive boy with incredible sexual skill and anatomy.    However, if had Jamie lived closer or attended the same school as we did, it would have been more likely for me to have chosen Jamie over you.  I may have come to have feelings for him, however unlikely. It was just a huge self-esteem booster to be the object of such a man’s desire.

Then, there was Jeff.  Jeff was actually an ongoing infidelity from the relationship prior to ours.  All of those whispered late-night calls were made from his bathroom after a booty call.  Sure, that’s all I was to him.  I was his secret sex, because basically, I just was not attractive enough for him to parade me around his shallow friends.  But, I never wanted to be his girlfriend or even his arm candy.  Why?  I failed to fall in love with him as well.  Instead, I fell in love with the thrill of his pathetic, shallow, sex-driven psyche.  I adored his compliments, sweet talk, and the ambition – all completely directed toward screwing me.  It was fantastic.

All of the unfaithfulness occurred within the first two months of our relationship.  That is the reason why I never reciprocated any loving gestures or words.  I collected them, just as I collected all of the affections from other men, however superficial.  I eventually settled for you because being promiscuous was getting exhausting.  Besides, you seemed like a guy I could probably stay with.

I was wrong.  I thought I loved you.  I fell into a hole I couldn’t dig myself out of.  And you trapped me, leaving me pacing the cage.

I cheated again with Jeff.  It was once, six months into our relationship, when he failed to sleep with Adrianne at a party that you weren’t invited to.

I cheated with Beck.  I went as far as to give Beck a third shot at dating and mating, even after everything that happened, because I loathed you so much.

I found myself seeking repeated emotional affairs.  In college, Q and I were fantastic friends.  One day, when you refused to at least walk me to a doctor’s appointment down the street, I stormed off.  Q came after me, and finally walked beside me on the street.  He grabbed my hand, and we talked.  I choked back tears as I recounted the argument.  Finally, Q stopped me in the middle of the busy city sidewalk, and embraced me.  I did attempt to pull back, but not for your sake.  For my own.  And he said, “I’m not letting you go until you’re okay.”

That was only the beginning of Q and me.  We went on “adventures” around the city together.  He’d grab my hand, and we’d skip class.  We went everywhere.  He bought me some odd Asian ice cream in the Strip District.  He taught me how to play DDR in Station Square.  He took me with a group of friends to a sushi restaurant in Oakland.  We walked through Schenley Park in Squirrel Hill.

Then, I went and ruined it by coming out with it.  “Do you ever think we could be together?”

“Not like that.  Probably not ever.”

And Simon.  Simon, a great friend for three whole years.  Simon, who I spent most of the summer with, drinking and talking on his back porch.  I had been more emotionally intimate with Simon than anyone in a long time.  But, you knew that.  That’s why we had a threesome with Simon on the anniversary of Simon’s and my first kiss.  And, Simon became weird about it, and I lost a friend.  You did it to try to prove to me that no man could ever love me, except for you who barely tolerated me.

Finally, there is you.  In reality, you were an affair from the relationship prior to ours as well.

For the record, I did not cheat with Xan.  I had an accidental romance with him over five years.  Over Beck, over all of those men, over Simon, and over you.  And in the end, Xan and I ended up where we belonged, proving you wrong.  A man can love me.

Most sincerely,