Cervical Cancer

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    Jenny Coffey

    Reflecting on the Roe v. Wade Reversal on the 4th of July

    I had nothing to celebrate this July 4th. It used to be my favorite holiday. My favorite years were driving the ambulance in the parade and having fun with the firefighters and police department. This time of year we were on duty, but able to enjoy it, and to have some laughs with each other. For the first time in my life, this holiday, the pride I used to feel, is just gone. Sometimes my brain feels numb, and other times I start to feel anxiety. It’s that sensation that you get right before a full-blown anxiety attack. My chest is tight, my neck feels full, and it becomes harder to take breaths. For the first time ever, I worry about having access to an IUD birth control device. I’ll tell you a secret. I haven’t had a cycle since 2013. When they told me that I had cancer again, I stopped having a cycle. My body literally just physiologically acted and shut down my long-broken oven. I would have loved to have been able to use it more than once. Are you surprised? Do you expect me to be against babies? The one thing I never got to do in EMS that I wanted to was “catch” a baby. I can’t tell you the number of heartbreaking miscarriages that I attended in my career. Back to the point. With the IUD, I have released a very low dose of hormone into my uterine walls. The use of this device has caused thinning of the walls, and decreasing in the adenomyosis that had occurred. One of my surgeons told me that his handprint stayed when he examined my “boggy” uterus during surgery. The amount of pain and suffering that I would go through at times, and the fact that I had already had cervical cancer, which cost me half of my cervix, left my reproductive organs far too broken. I need this for very real reasons. These laws are all ready to be written and enacted, to be introduced into states, and remove coverage for birth control such as IUDs. When I was in my 20s, I had polycystic ovaries, along with newly diagnosed endometriosis. The endo actually barred me from military service. I was in the hospital almost every month with ruptured cysts and horrific pain. I would internally bleed from the endo and fill the cul de sac with fluid from the ruptured cysts. The ones that didn’t rupture would move as I did, and bang into the insides of my body. The doctor put me on back-to-back pill packs. Yes, birth control pills, with the idea of preventing menstruation. I remember feeling humiliated, and so very small and dirty, when the pharmacist refused to fill the prescription. He said, “It goes against my religious beliefs.” He motioned for me to leave, as he waved my script back in my face in a rushed motion that I should take it from him, as if it would burn him if he held it any longer. I remember hiding “the pill” from the sight of others, worried about judgment even as I was wheeled out of work by an EMS crew with a ruptured ovarian cyst. I felt ashamed, as if my reproductive organs could be seen by others. It caused me to crumple to the floor in a fetal position. It felt like shards of glass trying to get out of my torso. Not only my abdomen, but my entire body revolted from the pain and tried to shut down. At least I didn’t puke, at least not at first. Let’s face it. I’ve never had it easy. I have fought against being sickly since I was a kid. All I seem to acquire these days are new diagnoses. The trouble with being chronically ill, especially with rare diseases, is there is never the achievement of a cure. The finality of being able to walk away from it all. It was hard enough when I didn’t have to worry about accessing the care that I needed to live. Now I have fear. The care that I have already sold my life to buy into gets harder and harder to access. Am I now on borrowed time? Will my access be harmed? I’ve talked about this before, from a different angle, most recently in my article, The Reality of Chronic Pain Care, on The Mighty. This year, I am a second-class citizen. I’ve long felt that way as is. I can’t access the same medical care that I gave. You think you have lived right until they can’t cure you. I have lost the right to have total control over my own body. It feels awful; damn, it feels unreal. Those in power claim to want to stop abortions, while simultaneously not investing in, but removing, birth control access, comprehensive free prenatal care, parental support, WIC, food stamps, housing, education, and so on. The far-right is working for more children to be born into an unsupported life of poverty. Can I tell you from personal experience that those people are assholes? Guess I just did. This is not politics as usual. This is stepping back in time, and women and people with a uterus are no longer equal. Forced pregnancy is disgusting and dirty. I still feel shocked. It feels like I am watching the birth of Gilead. In my freshman year of college, I read “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a work of fiction that now seems to be becoming real. This is the new America, and the birth of the underground railroad for women. That is what they have succeeded in creating. They have signed the death certificates in advance for countless women who will die by suicide, ingest poisons, and have backroom abortions. Most of those occur in private homes, typically affecting people of little means. Consistent with out-of-control religious patriarchy, the objective is clear — removing the right to abortion, access to birth control, and forcing procreation on women. None of this is hyperbole. This is real. Women shaming is already happening. I’ve seen so many social media posts with comments like, “keep your legs closed” and “don’t have sex outside of the bonds of matrimony.” I’m reminded of another Mighty writer, Seanín Hughes, who wrote, “In learning to become a woman, I learned our bodies are subject to social commentary, opinion, and judgment based on how successfully we strike the balance between prescribed function and aesthetic — and we remain at the mercy of those who have the power to tell us we are failing.” When we dress wrong, live wrong, or do something to cause sex to occur. The ability to feel, to enjoy intercourse without the intent to have children. We still fight against stigmas inflicted upon us and edicts we never signed on to follow, and are shamed for what our male counterparts are rewarded for. We are in a world that was on a great track to creating equality, one I took great pride in being a part of. Now, shamed and sad, I have lost my freedom, my Independence.

    Community Voices

    Surgery and Anxiety

    I’m undergoing surgery next week to remove some pre-cancerous spots on my cervix and I’m so anxious. It’s not just the surgery that has me anxious, it’s the possibility of what if all the pre-cancerous tissue doesn’t get removed and it develops into cancer? Yeah, I know, that’s what yearly exams are for and it’s not that big a deal, but I’ve never dealt with anything like this before so to me it’s a big deal and I’m so anxious… #Anxiety #CervicalCancer

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    Community Voices

    How has cancer impacted you or your family’s health story?

    <p>How has <a href="https://themighty.com/topic/cancer/?label=cancer" class="tm-embed-link  tm-autolink health-map" data-id="5b23ce6a00553f33fe98f050" data-name="cancer" title="cancer" target="_blank">cancer</a> impacted you or your family’s health story?</p>
    Community Voices

    Sadness on an anniversary of an amazing HUMAN AUNTIE

    <p>Sadness on an anniversary of an amazing HUMAN AUNTIE</p>
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    Community Voices

    Drawing strength from those we love

    Today is my Auntie Debbies birthday up there in the sky. What I wouldn’t do to be able to call her up and sing our special version of happy birthday…. honestly I have absolutely no idea how that special, albeit strange rendition started and why, but it was ours that much I do know. My aunt passed away unexpectedly on October 17th, 2014. Her 61st birthday was two weeks prior on the 2nd. Through the years she fought and conquered breast cancer only years later be diagnosed with cervical cancer, but won that battle too. In the end we now know that cancer had returned a third time and I will always believe in my heart that she knew this was the battle she would not win.

    Auntie Debbie and my Uncle Frank had a very well established, expanding global business. A week prior to her passing, she and my uncle received acknowledgment  for achieving every one of their goals.  Hard work, effort and absolute dedication in the face of her inner struggle, they had become a “Diamond”.  What her business refers to it as one of its highest honors.  watching the video of her speech I realized, not for the first time, the  strength and fortitude she had, realizing her time with us was growing shorter.  The true smile on her face, knowingwhat she did was to accomplish exactly what she set her goal to be. I need to add that this was at an arena setting with the capacity of thousands.She was an impeccable speaker whether it was about the business or life experiences, advice on life’s curveballs as well as navigating them through her own experience. She was full of love, compassion, kindness with powerful intelligence and unwavering support for every one she knew.Whether An acquaintance ,friend, close friend or loved one, she always treated everyone the same way. I was and have been completely blessed to have two amazing, incredible, strong and fierce women by my side. One of them being my late Auntie Debbie and the other, my one in a million best friend, my mother. I wish someone would just come out with it and say something actually true instead of the same old “it gets easier with time”. Sorry but I call bullshit on that phrase. It’s been 7 years and I can without a shadow of a doubt say. in all honesty, it doesn’t become easier with time but I do know my love continues to grow and I am proud to have had her as a role model in my life.Because as I struggle with the challenges my own illiness I find strength in the lifemy Aunt lived.

    Community Voices

    Defeated

    Last week I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, this is on top of a spinal injury, chronic pain, depression and PTSD. My doctor thinks it really early stage cancer, my smear test flagged it, but I feel like giving up. Completely defeated I don't know how much more I can take. I have a MRI on Monday to check how far if it all the cancer has or has not spread. With a hysterectomy surgery soon to follow (thankfully I wasn't planning any more kids). I don't know what to think or do

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    Community Voices

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    5 people are talking about this
    Community Voices

    CURING HUMANITY

    <p>CURING HUMANITY</p>
    Brandi Fulton

    The Reality of a 'Typical' Day, Week and Year With Health Anxiety

    One day. 5 a.m. I’m frantically Googling the percentage of people diagnosed with lymphoma at stage four, the life expectancy of lymphoma under 40 and rare side effects of chemotherapy. 1 p.m. I’m giving myself a Romberg test I saw on YouTube to see if I have sensory ataxia. 7 p.m. I’m measuring my blood pressure in eight-minute intervals to see if I have orthostatic hypotension. I take it five minutes after lying down, 30 seconds after standing up and two minutes after I sit. I lie, I sit, I stand, lie, sit, stand, lie, sit, stand. My left arm is covered in red scratches from scraping the machine cuff on and off. Seven days. Monday: I’m bent over the toilet with my iPhone flashlight examining my poo to see if it’s black, pencil thin, smeared with blood, yellow, floating, fatty or covered in mucus. Tuesday: I’m taking many, many pictures of my poo. I do it with the lights on and off and then the flash on and off to get the most detailed pictures. I rush to the computer to compare it to the images of colon cancer found on MedicineNet, WebMD and the American Cancer Society’s website. Wednesday: I’m hiding in my closet and meticulously searching my breasts for lumps, swelling, thickening, dimpling, red nipples, nipple discharge and pulling near the nipples. Thursday: I’m taking pictures of my breasts from all angles and swiping back and forth between them to find the most detailed. I want to make sure I have the clearest one to compare to the breast cancer images found on Healthline, Mayo Clinic and the CDC’s site. Friday: In secret, I’m downloading a microscope app to examine my skin for moles that are asymmetrical, have irregular borders, are bleeding, waxy, scabbing, scaly or red. Saturday: I download an app that diagnoses moles, and it finds something suspicious. I anxiously wait until Monday to call my dermatologist in case I have squamous cell carcinoma, basil cell carcinoma or melanoma. Sunday: The day of rest. 12 months. January: I’m waiting an hour in my doctor’s waiting room for him to fill out a requisition form for a complete blood count, basic metabolic panel and lipid panel. He says, “40 is when things start to go wrong.” February: I’m playing phone games for two hours as I wait in line to have a diagnostic mammogram and breast ultrasound. My doctor is concerned and says, “Your sister died young from breast cancer. We just need to be careful.” March: I’m at my optometrist’s office for a full exam and she tells me to come back immediately if I start to see lots of floaters or flashing lights. “That means your retina is detaching,” she explains. April: A month off from diagnostic tests. May: I’m freezing on an exam table in a blue gown, naked from the waist up. My doctor hands me an ultrasound requisition form because, although he can’t feel a lump, “It’s hard to feel breast cancer in young women. Always come in as soon as you think you feel something!” June: I’m starving for 12 hours because my bowels have to be spotless for my flexible sigmoidoscopy. My internist has me in the fetal position, in agony, searching my rectum and lower colon for inflammation, ulcers, abnormal tissue, polyps and cancer. My mom warns me, “Brandi, colon cancer runs in our family.” July: I’m once again naked and freezing, waiting for the dermatologist to inspect my body for suspicious lesions because my mom said, “Me and all four of your siblings had skin cancer.” August: My doctor is on holiday. September: I’m pinched by an IV for three hours to prepare for a polypectomy and a dilation and curettage. My gynecologist is searching for uterine polyps because, “I see something suspicious on your ultrasound.” October: My neurologist is sending me for a CT scan because she says, “Your numbness, tremor and tingling are probably just anxiety but let’s rule out any sort of brain lesion.” November: I’m naked again, freezing again, waiting for my gynecologist to scrape my cervix because he says, “Cervical cancer is rare, but you never know.” December: Everyone’s on Christmas vacation. I don’t want to know all these terms and symptoms, and yet, here I am. I’ve never been diagnosed with any of these diseases, but sometimes I live like I’m preparing to die. Can you relate? Let Brandi know in the comments below.