Possible trigger warning: I'll be discussing gynecological issues and some sexuality shame that snuck up without warning and whacked me on the head like a ton of bricks... but so far no fat hate to warn y'all about (yay for small favors!).
Last week, in the midst of possibly the worst 'vacation' of my life (another story for another day!), I got a call from my primary care doctor, Dr. H. Super sweetie that she is, she had left a message earlier in the afternoon but didn't reach me, so she tried again around 5:30 or 6 in the evening to make sure she connected with me. She needed to tell me the mildly concerning news that my most recent PAP test had come back with some abnormal cells. She calmly and soothingly informed me that this does NOT mean I have cancer; that even if I do end up having pre-cancerous cells or cancer, it is super treatable and should NOT have any long-lasting effects, affect my ability to have children; etc. So far, so good.
Then she explains the plan from here:
- Go to an actual gynecologist (she's just a family medicine doc) for a biopsy to get a better sense of what we're dealing with. She explains this will feel like a "really long, more painful PAP". Joy. I'm starting to get anxious now.
- You tested positive for HPV, which we know causes changes in cervical cells, so at least that explains why this has happened. AKA, I have a sexually transmitted disease. *(see note)
- What happens now? Well, even if everything comes back normal after the biopsy, you'll have repeat PAPs every 3-6 months (with the gynecologist stranger, not my beloved Dr. H).
- If it comes back precancerous after all... some sort of procedure where they freeze off the offending cells, blah blah it all becomes a blur at this point. I'm trying to cry quietly so she doesn't hear me losing my cool.
So Dr. H asks me how I'm doing. Poorly concealing that I'm losing it, I wobble out a watery, "Ok." I tell her that it's not actually the diagnosis freaking me out; it's the series of invasive-feeling medical appointments and procedures... it's been 3 years since I last got a PAP for a reason! She knows me well enough to know this is a Big Yucky Deal. I concede that if she'll refer me to a gynecologist she feels good about, AND if she'll call said doc ahead of time, that I'll go get this done. I need her to call and explain to the gynecologist that he/she is to discuss gynecological issues only with me, that I have a history of depression and eating disorders and they are NOT to discuss weight or weight loss in any way, so as not to trigger these issues. Dr. H agrees, saying she'll call as soon as we hang up.
Jealous of my amazing doc yet? As a sidenote, you should know that my relationship with this doc has only gotten to this point after YEARS of work and continual self-advocacy and reminding her of the principles of HAES that I need her to go with. She's still not perfect, but man, she totally cares about my overall wellbeing, and that's worth SO, SO much.
Take-away WIN from round 1: I was able to do self-advocacy in the midst of a crisis, in a stressful context (medical stuffs) which has tripped me up in the past.
What self-advocacy WINs have you scored lately? What self-advocacy opportunities do you need to practice up for so you're ready next time?