They say that everything happens for a reason.
Standing in these stylish blue slippers behind a patterned curtain, I’m searching for meaning behind this experience. It’s just a little check up, since being diagnosed with HPV, I have been asked to come in for some follow up testing. I’m looking down at my feet, clutching my gown closed and going over what my doctor has said about this procedure. A colposcopy means that they’re going to view my cervix with a microscope to identify any problematic areas. The worst case scenario is that I’ll have a biopsy done; a small piece of cervix will be removed and tested further. It will be unpleasant if it happens, but I’ve had a baby. This certainly isn’t the most intrusive of procedures my vulva has seen.
“Lindsay…” The nurse calls, and I peer out from behind the curtain. She’s standing with a clipboard in a pair of blue scrubs and waiting patiently for me. In this journey I feel small, and alone; not in an empowering or independent way, but rather in a “what if…” kind of way. Nevertheless,my little blue booties begin to move and I’m stepping down the hallway after her.
“You have opted out of watching our educational video on colposcopy today. Do you understand the procedure you’re about to experience?”
“I do. My cervix will be sprayed with an acidic substance and checked for abnormal cell growth under a microscope.”
“That’s right. Any abnormal cells may require that a biopsy be taken.”
We enter a small room with two television screens and a computer. Another nurse introduces herself and begins to double check my details. I’m instructed to lay down on a half bed, half seat sort of thing. It’s awkward, but becomes more so as my gown is lifted and I’m asked to move down. Down. Down again. Feet in stirrups, I feel myself blushing knowing that my most intimate parts are hanging out in the wind for these strangers to see. Once I’ve moved my long body down far enough, and we’ve made the typical jokes about how tall I am, the doctor comes in and introduces himself. He shakes my hand and briefly explains the procedure that he’ll be doing. Without delay, he is seated between my legs as he asks me to relax them and warns that he’s about to begin.
This procedure, as all cold and impersonal dealings with vaginas, is unpleasant and uncomfortable. The colposcopy doesn’t hurt, though it becomes a matter of reminding myself mentally not to physically clench as the discomfort builds. The nurses talk to me as a distraction, and I take note of a series of postcards taped to the ceiling.
“There is an area here that I don’t know what to make of.” The doctor says, “I will need to biopsy for further information.”
A biopsy. Well, shit. This wasn’t really part of the plan. This was a routine check up on a diagnosis. There aren’t supposed to be abnormalities.
I take a deep breath, knowing that things are about to become less pleasant than they already have been.
Tools are passed around. Jargon about locations of samples and jars and filing. I’m lying on my back, staring at a faded 5×6 of Mickey Mouse that reads, “Greetings from California”. It’s not an official Disneyland postcard, rather one that was sold at a hotel gift shop and I know this because I’m a veteran Disney traveler. I know this because Disneyland is my happy place. I know this because I will be there in less than a weeks time. Letting my thoughts drift to the Happiest Place On Earth helps me escape feeling as though I am just a ghost inhabiting a body containing a part that is being probed.
The first biopsy isn’t painful, rather a quick click and slightly uncomfortable. It is at “6 o’clock”, as the doctor explains it, and says he will be taking two more at “1 o’clock”. I ascertain from his quick speech that his intention is to package the first biopsy alone and the next two together. Biopsy number two is more of the same; quick and awkward but nothing horrifying. Biopsy three shocks me. Pain shoots through my body from my cervix and I jump away from him against the bed. He hastily apologizes to me and assures me that we’re done. He tells me that whatever is going on will not need treatment. He is kind. I’m asked if I will want a tampon or a pad, as there will be bleeding for the next few days. As I answer, I am stuttering. I’m struggling to hide my tears but this injury has added to the insult of my experience and I look away from the nurses and towards the wall.
One of them grabs my hand, “Your tattoos on your fingers, did they hurt?”
I shake my head as the doctor slinks out of the room through the door. “The left hand hurts more than the right hand. Isn’t that weird?”
They tag team me in order to distract me from the pain and shock of the third biopsy and I am gaining my composure. Soon enough we are talking about Disneyland hotels and travel tactics. They help me up and out, and I am left alone, once again.
Shaking, I remove the blue booties from my feet and the gown from my body, and redress myself in a striped skirt with Fluevog boots. Before this procedure, I felt stylish and confident. Now I feel defeated and afraid.
It is all that I can do to make it outside before the tears fall.