You know, chances are that you are reading this and there’s a high probability that you’ve been with more than one person. Yeah, been with. In this day and age it is extremely rare (but does happen) that someone has only been with one person. Did you know that it only takes one person to cause cervical cancer? Yeah, that’s right, one. Do you know how many people have had or do have HPV? Damn near everyone. I had no idea that HPV was that common, did you? Did you also know that if you are a male, it can go undetected because it is not treatable in males? Yup.
What do you think of first when you hear HPV? Dirty? Loose? Well, it turns out that there are over 60 different strains of HPV and each and every one of us has carried at least one of them and didn’t know it. It just depends on your body and how it reacts.
When I was first told that I had an abnormal exam, I didn’t know what to think. I told my husband that it could possibly be because of pre-cancerous cells. Well, what causes those – HPV. My first initial thought was, no, it couldn’t be me that brought this into our marriage. We went back and forth on a drive to visit his brother about who it was, but wait a second – we are a team. It doesn’t matter who did what or where or when, we are married and this is just one of those marital bridges we cross…together, hand-in-hand.
It wasn’t until my second biopsy, scary by the way, that I found out that I had CIN 3 – severe cervical dysplasia, or stage 0 cancer.
“Well at least we caught it”, my hubby said.
We thought we did. In pain and a day away from two weeks since the procedure, I hurried to my doctor to see if there was something still going on. It turned out I didn’t have an infection, but what I did have was a tumor they “think” they got. I will never forget that moment. A doctor speaks to you, in a concerned and comforting voice, telling you that you have cancer. I kept the smile on my face and thanked her as I hopped down from the table. A million thoughts. A million. Your head spins. The doctor hugged me and stepped out of the room after telling me I needed to see an oncologist.
“Why am I so f*&$ing happy right now?” I thought.
My eyes grew wide and I looked to every wall in the room, as if searching for answers to questions that I didn’t even have yet. I picked up my phone and texted my husband.
“I need a drink. You will, too, after I tell you why. Call you in a few”, I wrote.
Imagine being on the receiving end of that text. Completely composed, I walked out of the office and to my car. I started my car (because it was as hot as Hades’ balls outside), and picked up my phone. One missed call. It was my hubby. I dialed.
“What’s going on”, he asked.
“She said I had cancer, but thought they got it all”, I said.
“I have cancer.”
His voice was as calm as he could be, but I could tell he was almost frantic. “What stage are you?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t ask. She said she was making an appointment with the oncologist for me and that it wasn’t urgent, so we can get our answers then.”
“Not urgent?!” He said.
He asked some other questions that I can’t remember, nor could I answer. I was in shock. And so began our first marriage milestone, albeit a horrifying one. No longer did it matter that I once had HPV that turned into cancer, I had cancer. That’s it. I no longer had control over my body, something else did. It was as if a body snatcher took me and I was trapped. I was at this thing’s mercy until I had answers. Thankfully, my husband is the biggest badass on the planet and took the reigns from me so that I could sit back, watch Netflix, and stew in my own thoughts.
Because of his persistence (and possible ability to send poor admins, secretaries, and nurses to therapy), we were on our way to MD Anderson Cancer Center within a matter of weeks (unheard of). How? He let the administrator know that he would call every half hour until my paperwork was released to MD Anderson.
Fast forward almost three weeks…I am scheduled to have surgery on July 29 with one of the best and top gynecologic oncology surgeons in the world – Dr. Pedro Ramirez. Not only is he extremely skilled in the highly specialized surgery that I am having, but he is one of the pioneers of doing the procedure robotically. Let me take a few moments to give that guy some kudos…First, anyone that leaves my hubby without any questions is doing his/her job and doing it well. We sat in a conference room with him where he explained my procedure – the radical trachelectomy. I just kinda looked like I was listening, cuz that’s what you do when you have ADD, but what I did hear is the 97% cure rate, along with the high probability of having children. (YAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSS! Mini Jim Harbaugh here we come!) All of this was said to us in words we understood, slowly and methodically, and with a confidence that didn’t exude cockiness (all EXTREMELY important when trying to win over a couple like us). We found our doctor. Better yet, my hubby found our doctor. Have you ever heard of a doctor calling his patient back to answer questions? How about calling your husband back to answer his questions? Do you have any idea how big MD Anderson is? No? It takes up multiple city blocks and only specializes in cancer. It’s gigantic, but they make you feel like you’re the only patient they are seeing.
Now that I got the boring stuff out of the way, let’s talk about the questions I’m going to ask. I already asked how many women hit on him in front of their husbands, so that one is out of the way (seriously, I’m not sure if he’s single, but if you are he would be a catch since my guy is taken already). I found an old presentation from a conference about robotic radical trachelectomies, so I might whip that one out and ask some of those as long as I can pronounce the words.
So, let’s digress a bit. My mom, being the online research fiend that she is, told me that birth control can cause cervical cancer. She’s not necessarily wrong, but that wasn’t my cause, and I’m sure it certainly didn’t help it, either.
I took a deep breath. “No mom, it’s from HPV,” I said.
(GASP) “YOU HAD WARTS?!” she proclaimed.
“No, mom,” I chuckled, “I did not and do not have warts,” I said, nervously.
“But that’s what it causes,” she proclaimed once more.
(Here is where your education and hers comes in) “Yes, it can, but that’s not the strain I had. There are several different strains and I happened to catch the one that gave me cancer,” I explained.
I was tired, but I gave her the whole lecture at it only taking one person to cause this. She obviously thought I got around, as I’m sure would be almost any parent’s first thought, but it wasn’t like I had. I gave her a couple scenarios until she seemed pacified.
“Who gave it to you,” she asked.
“I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. It’s just a speed bump that the hubby and I are getting over together,” I said, patting myself on the back with my bitchin answer.
At that, this is the problem with cervical cancer awareness. No one talks about it because it’s associated with STDs, sex, dirtiness, and getting around like a 2001 penny. It is the second cause of death for women in the United States and we STILL don’t talk about it! It is also the most preventable!!! So, get checked regularly, educate yourself, and ponder the Gardasil shot for your daughters when it comes time. Save yourself some heartache because not all doctors are familiar with radical trachelectomies and are certainly ready to give hysterectomies.
That being said, here is the recipe that will help you cope:
BAD-ASS CANCER COPER
1 Fifth of Tequila
The juice of 10 limes with one extra (unjuiced)
A jug of your fav margarita mix
orange juice (50 calorie for us big babies)
1 Lemon, juiced
Bloody Mary salt
Get a jug (because you’re not going to wanna measure this shit) and throw all of your lime juice and lemon juice in. Put about two shots worth of orange juice in there, too. Add a bunch of tequila (to your taste) and then throw in your margarita mix. Stir all of that business together like there’s no tomorrow. Next, cut a wedge of lime and run it around the rim of your glass (margarita glass, sippie cup, solo cup, I don’t care). Shove your glass in some of that bloody Mary salt and put a smile on your face. This is gonna be frickin delicious. Either shake some of that bitchin mix and pour it off into your cup, or throw some ice in there and fill ‘er up. However you take your cancer-coping margarita is completely up to you. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the company of those that you love and love you most because life is too short to do otherwise.