Marginally Clear

Thanksgiving will hopefully be a day of thanks. It marks two weeks since the LEEP procedure. Since it falls on a holiday, my doctor’s office was kind enough to squeeze me in on Wednesday, Nov. 23. I’m sure the scheduling nurse I spoke with was aware that I’d have a Sword of Damocles hanging over my holiday table. It was kind of her to be so considerate. (Note to self: Be thankful for considerate, compassionate people).

The Healing Process

I was briefed after the surgery about care and restrictions. No worries – this is not going to get graphic. I’ll admit, it was not quite as I expected it. They likened it to a colposcopy with a biopsy. I know there is a huge difference between the two. One is a little snip and the other is more akin to taking a sizable section. Like trimming the hedges versus pruning a tree.

They under-exaggerate when they describe the more unpleasant parts of post-op care. I was in nearly constant, serious pain for the first four days. I would wake up in the morning in severe pain, because a full bladder likely pressed against the area. The more I moved, the more the pain increased.

Mothers will especially stand this next part. It is more akin to the physical sensations to about a week after labor and delivery. My bottom half was sore. It was pain like a T, across my hips through me, and into my back.

They don’t tell you the real story on a lot of it, although they are still defined within the parameters of “typical healing”. To sat the least, it was a lot more intense than I predicted.

The healing time takes longer than I predicted too. The doctors assured me that I’d be back on my feet, doing my daily activities in a few days. But, those activities are not to include any aerobic / strenuous activity. I haven’t been able to do any housework. No stairs, so I have to limit my use of them at home. It’s frustrating to leave something on a different floor.

I’m still not quite back to normal. I always feel like the doctors overreact when they give you restrictions. Possibly, it is because they know patients will not follow them to the letter. But, they weren’t kidding here. I’m moving better, but I am still in pain. I need extended time sitting. I’m tired.

The biggest thing they don’t tell you is the emotional rollercoaster that follows. I don’t know if it’s hormonal, but I have been completely out of whack. I described some of it in With This Pill. Manic Monday touched upon the subject in 2.5.

This is a conversation C.S. and I had on Friday.

I swear. A lot.

I thought I was on the cusp of a depressive episode. Mobility is difficult. It is irritating and frustrating to be at the mercy of others. I am a control freak. I like things done my way, and I like to be an active participant at all times. But right now, I feel like a useless invalid watching life pass as I’m bound immobile, as much as possible.

I feel useless. I can’t take charge of classes because I have to meet them in their classrooms. I must have children assist me in classes by passing out lyric sheets and retrieving items for me from across the room. I hate asking people for help. Then, I start to feel like an inconvenience, a burden, if you will.

Tomorrow’s Follow-up
I was under the impression that they were going to poke in there and assess my healing.  Then, they were going to report how much had to be excised, and what my chances of having more children is going to look like.  What they failed to mention is that tomorrow is also the delivery of the results from the sample they took.  What I thought was going to be a completely benign appointment turned malignant fast.

What the doctor is looking for is are Clear Margins.  Essentially, if the tissue they collected has both the cancerous cells and a margin surrounding it of healthy tissue, then we can be assured that all of the cancerous cells were excised.  However, if the margins are not clear, then cancerous cells still remain and pose a possible threat.

The course of action after that is typically to wait until the results from the follow up Pap smear come back.  If they are positive, then we visit colposcopy land to see how bad it is.  And, there is a possibility of yet another procedure.

You guessed it.  This poses a greater threat to my future pregnancies.  The more cervix that is removed, the higher the risk of miscarriage and pre-term labor.  I have a plan, but I need to get C.S. on board.  If the issue is forced, I want to make the Hail Mary pass in order to conceive another child before I would have another surgery.  We have two months to make a decision, because after that, it’s do or die.

I really do want another child, even if it’s not at a great time.  If I have to do it and take some risks, I’m willing to do that.  However, C.S. has not expressed a great deal of enthusiasm about another child.  I don’t want to come to blows over this.  But, if there is a serious disagreement, I know it’s going to turn into a serious problem.

One bridge at a time, Lulu.  One bridge at a time.

Me and Magee

I can’t remember the last time I knew of 5 o’clock in the morning’s existence. I was so exhausted, my memory is fragmented down to the moment I set foot into Magee Women’s Hospital. First, I stood in my living room hugging my mother and saying goodbye. Then, I sat in the gas station parking lot when the voice started screaming, “Get out of here! Go! Run away!” Next, we were at the light to the on-ramp to the highway. And finally, we were entering Oakland.

I arrived to check-in at 5:30am. I was ushered through registration so quick that I didn’t even have a chance to fill out the papers before I was in pre-op.

Pre-op is just like when they call you from the waiting room to the examination room. Then, you’re required to sit and wait for an eternity. Various nurses came through. One to instruct me to strip down and don the teal and white pinstripe hospital gown. Yes, the one that leaves little to the imagination when it comes to my backside. Another to make notes of my current medications. There’s certainly no staff shortage there!

And finally, I met my OR nurse. She was a pretty lady, probably at the end of middle-age. She had fluffy, curled blonde hair, tiny sapphire eyes, and a warm smile. I related my extreme loathing of IV’s. The first time I had an IV, it was in my hand continuously for 48 hours. The last time, they gave me a pain medication that sent me through the roof. I paced the room screaming about how I wanted the IV out now or I was going to rip it out myself. I can always feel it in my veins and it hurts my whole arm.

She smiled and said, “You’re in luck! I’m going to put a local into your hand. You won’t feel a thing.” I didn’t! I stared at the IV in my left hand in amazement. She put a blue gauze hair net over my head, pulled my blanket closer around me, and fixed the one in my lap. Everything felt so warm and maternal. She looked at me confidently. “You’re all ready!”

I took a milligram of Xanax at 5am. I must have timed it perfectly. It grabbed me hard just before I was about to go. I joked with C.S. about silly things. The pangs of panic existed, but they hardly echoed from their distance.

Dr. T. came in and I knew it was showtime. I was eager to introduce her to my husband. I felt like it was a long time in the making. Really, it has been. April 2011 was the beginning of round two. It was at that point that the nurse and anesthesiologist joined her. They plugged the sedative into my IV while I kissed C.S. goodbye.

He had the talisman. I was in caring, capable hands. I was wheeled into the OR completely soothed.

The sedative was interesting. It messed with my vision first. The fluorescent lights seemed to have a runner, a beam of light than ran along them. The staff helped me off of the gurney and onto a soft, heated OR table. They asked how I felt and I told them that it was all wonderful. I had two snuggly blankets around me and I felt like I was lying on blankets fresh from the dryer. “It feels like a cocoon.”

The staff was helping me to put my thighs into some elevated pads instead of cold stirrups. And that’s the last thing I remember.

I started telling the nurse that was talking to that I needed more medicine. I think my mind thought that I was still in surgery. She told me that I didn’t. I woke up and started sobbing. I looked around and didn’t know where I was or what happened. I asked if I could have a few tissues.

I inquired between sobs, “Is this normal? I have bipolar disorder.” I was terrified that all of this triggered a vicious episode.

She put the box of tissues in my lap and assured me, “A lot of our younger patients experience this. It’s completely normal.”

I remembered something from my childhood. I would fall asleep not remember doing so. Then, when I woke up somewhere else, I’d bawl my eyes out, because I was so confused. I felt like it was akin to that.

“Are you in any pain?”

“Surprisingly, no.”

“Can you walk?”

“I think so.”

A young, brown-haired nurse helped me off the gurney and over to a quiet, private area. I sat in a nice leather recliner and she asked if I’d like something to drink. “A soda, Pepsi. It’s all I’ve wanted this morning.” She assured me that I’d have a cold soda and C.S. in a short moment.

I was delighted to see him and smiled. He smiled back in relief, at beside me, and I started crying again. I laughed and sobbed at the time time, “I woke up crying in the post-op!” He laughed and hugged me.

The local started to wear off, and I was in some severe pain. C.S. was on the phone promptly to get me relief. Considering a had a part of me electrocuted off today, I’m great! I’m a little cranky, emotional, foggy, and tired. But nothing unusual.

Crossing my fingers and toes that the LEEP took care of all of the bad cells for good.

C.S. bought me a few “get well” presents!

War Paint and The Zodiac Pendants

“Mrs. M., your war paint doesn’t fool me.”

It was conveyed to me by a warm, tight hug from a near stranger. I met Ms. F. about a month ago. We don’t interact frequently. And yet, she was the most comforting on this turbulent day. It settled my buzzing mind and filled my lungs with fresh air.

It is moments like those where the best qualities of humanity shine through.

Rewind. 10:13AM EST. My Blackberry rang out a techno beat and nearly buzzed off of the small, black end table. 412-xxx-xxxx. “Local. Answer it.” The woman on the other end sounded official. “I’m from Magee Women’s Hospital.”

Oh.

Rewind again. 8:14AM EST. There I was, looking at my personal email. “Might as well get this over with. I opened the email containing the video to explain my procedure. As if I needed to be reminded so early. I’ve been scouring to put scraps of information together. I watched the procedure done in cartoonesque form. At the end, there was a warning. “IV sedation may cause a life-threatening reaction that could result in death.

Comforting.

Fast-forward back to the phone conversation. She wanted to know absolutely every last detail of my medical history. She asked, “Any psychiatric problems – depression, anxiety. “Anxiety and Bipolar Disorder.” How is this relevant?

She asked about previous surgeries. “Cryosurgery,” I answered. “On your cervix?”. “Yes.

“Oh.”

Those responses weren’t comforting. Thank goodness for my sister who has made it a point to spend her free time with me this week. My phone conversation ended and I was quiet for a moment. “You know ‘The Voice’?” She nodded. “It’s screaming in the back of my head.

It screamed for most of the day. Garbled monologues of hundreds of voices at once. I could only manage to grab a few at a time. “I’m scared out of my mind.” “What if…” “I don’t like losing control.”

I am okay. I am going to be okay. Maybe not right away. But soon enough. I am in good care. I can give my trust. I can let go.

Mantras.

Am I that translucent?

I can’t wear any jewelry. Quirk number 8, I am superstitious about my capricorn and taurus charms. I have not been without them in awhile. I wore it on my wedding day in my bra. It was around my neck the day T.D. was born. I wasn’t without it during my last surgery. This time, I have no choice. C.S. has agreed to wear them for me.

5:30AM EST, I will be prepping at Magee Women’s hospital. 7:30AM is the procedure. If I have to have C.S. post for me tomorrow, I will.

I consider you my friends, my equals, my inspiration, and the source for strength and wisdom. Like Ms. F., we are relatively strangers. But you’ve given me so much.

Thank you in advance for your encouragement, thoughts, and prayers. I am forever in debt for your compassion and the courage you have bestowed upon me. My gratitude is beyond any words in any language.

Books Speak Louder than Words

Yesterday was not a complete loss.

After the episode detailed in I’m Not Okay, C.S. suggested we go to Half Priced Books. We dressed and headed out in an unusual October snowstorm. The ride was enjoyable, although I was too anxious to sit still. It’s always a wet day outside when we go to the bookstore. That’s the last weather a person would want when transporting books.

Between the three of us, we must have purchased 25 books, two flash card packs, and three journals. I’ve been keeping handwritten journals in flimsy composition books. It’s nice to finally have a sturdy home for my ramblings, so they may live on for years to come.  And we put quite a dent in our bank account.

As I was sitting with C.S. this afternoon, peeling off price tags after our retail therapy, it hit me. We were in a fortress of books, and I looked him.

C.S. have a thing between us we call, “The Golden Thread”. It’s a subatomic line, coiled around each of our hearts, that runs upward through our brains, and connects to the other. It is the line that allows the one to know, at least on a subconscious level, what is happening within the other. It’s not a perfect connection, just as any other. It is susceptible to interference, outages, etc. But, it is the one thing that has always bonded us.

The only thing The Golden Thread can’t provide me with is any intelligible positive emotions toward me.

He never said the words, but I heard them ringing out, clear as a bell, “I’m sorry. For everything. I want you to be okay. I love you.”

Today, a very dear friend and I had a conversation about the LEEP procedure. She’s was more affected by the precancer than I am. She had the procedure done many years ago, when it was new, without complications.

And on this date, she is healthy and cancer free. She helped ease my fears. I’m extraordinarily thankful for her and all of her support. Without her words, I don’t know what shape I’d be in.

Thank you all for your encouraging words and support. This is one of the hardest times I’ve ever faced in my life. I’m grateful for everyone – for Ruby, Monday, James, ManicMuses, Always (yes, I saw your post on Canvas), and anyone and everyone else I may have not named. You’ve all given me a special kind of support that no one else in my life could. Again, thank you.

It’s Not Okay

No. No big girl pants. No brave face. No confident words or bright sides. This is Lulu – crumpled in a ball.

Maybe the prospective consequence of this surgery I wrote about yesterday in Taking the Bullet didn’t have time to sink. Or maybe there was some kind of mental safety barrier I built around the subject. In any case, everything collapsed into a pile of rubble with a giant plume of dust and a flood behind it.

C.S. and I were going to make breakfast – a common occurrence on Saturday morning. But, in order to cook, some cleaning was required first. I offered to do it. I am painfully aware that I have been a little neglectful of domestics. But, C.S. insisted, and didn’t hesitate to be incredibly nasty while pointing it out.

“I’ve had a bad week.”
“You’ve had one bad day!”

I felt it building, like a swirling, chaotic ball inside my solar plexus. All of the emotions I’ve dampened and thrust inward boiled, as if a roaring fire was now ablaze under their container. Flashbacks flooded my mind. I was trapped in my head, still and gazing with an empty stare across a crowded classroom. I was lying on stomach, underneath three blankets, with a pillow wrapped around my head. I was intently watching the noon news report and cringing each time I heard a door open.

These are absolute truths from the very back, of the very bottom shelves, where the most volatile substances are stored.

“I am in no shape. Back off.”
“You know there’s nothing that irritates me worse than…”

I stopped listening. There is nothing more combustible to a situation than his deaf ear, narrow mind, and dug in heels. A major irritation paled in comparison to the tumultuous storm of explosive materials about to emerge. His complaints were a slow, low string of murmurs only punctuated by breaths to gain more steam. I stood at the counter, shaking so badly that I could no longer handle a knife.

And it rang as clear as a bell, “This is a routine procedure. They do thousands of them a day. It’s no big deal.”

“It IS a BIG DEAL!”, I screamed, tears streaming down my face. “If I hemorrhage, I could die! If my blood pressure tanks again and they can’t get it under control, I could die! And even if I don’t die, what happens if one of my adjacent organs gets a slice? I end up with a colostomy bag?!”

“It’s okay if you get a poop bag,” he joked.

“No! It’s not okay if I have to have a poop bag! It’s not okay if I lose a kidney or liver function! And it’s especially not okay if I lose my ability to have a baby! Nothing about this is okay!!! It’s NOT okay!!!”

My hands were flat against the counter with my arms outstretched. I heaved and violently sobbed. I squeezed my eyes shut and trembled. The tears poured down my cheeks and onto my chest.

Two strong, warm arms closed around me. He brought me against his chest in a firm embrace. I turned to throw my arms around his neck and bury my face into his shoulder. In that moment, I was secure. I was safe, at least from myself.

“Whatever happens, we’ll take care of it.”

I’m not okay. And, I can’t even attempt to pretend anymore. The integrity of the whole farce has disintegrated past salvageable. There is no footing along that path anymore. All I can to is come to terms with this.

November 10th or 11th, S-Day. Only 11 or 12 more days.

Taking the Bullet

I went to the dreaded LEEP surgery consultation, as first mentioned in Leep-Into-Cin – Part III, and more recently in  A Peach and A Catalyst.

Dodging Bullets
Honestly, I’ve been dodging this since I received word in May that my Pap came back bad again.  I put off the colposcopy until July, as I mentioned in All the Pretty Things.  The results of the colposcopy were among many things that triggered my breakdown in August, most noted in Meet Me in the Magnolia Tree.  I was informed at that point that I would need the surgery.  And I failed to go to both my August consultation and my September consultation.  I couldn’t face what I knew she was going to say to me.  I couldn’t hear that I may never be able to have more children.  And after the debacle from my last surgery, mentioned in Leep-Into-Cin – Part II, I couldn’t fathom the idea of having to go through another one.

The Reader’s Digest Version
It’s a lot of history to take in all at once.  I understand.  So, for those of you that really don’t have the time, or simply don’t want to sift through all of it, I will provide the abbreviated version.  I was diagnosed with HPV in August 2007 and had cervical dysplasia as a result.  At the time, I was in my early 20’s and the doctors all insisted that it would clear up on it’s own.  I got pregnant at the beginning of 2008 with T.D. and it only got worse.  In fact, so bad that I had to have the worst colposcopy of my life when I was 34 weeks pregnant.

Due to some insurance problems, I wasn’t able to get another colposcopy until May 2009, when it was discovered I had CIN-II and III in some places.  Essentially, I had the worst precancer before it became real cancer.  I had a very traumatic cryosurgery done in June 2009, and that was that.  For then.

Here we are, two years later.

My Worst Fears Realized / Speculated and More
From the moment I got the call, I’ve done my research.  I knew the words that were going to come out of her mouth.  And, I had face it alone.  C.S. and I decided that it would be better to save that 1/2 day off, in case I need it after the surgery.  Not that emotionally agree with the decision.  I see the logic.  But, I knew I’d need him there.  In a way, I am hurt that he doesn’t consider my health more important than his work.  I know he is only trying to make things stretch.  But, I feel like if he cared enough, he would have been there.

Like I already knew, I risk cervical stenosis, scarring of the cervix and cervical canal, that may make natural conception impossible.  I am at a higher risk for cervical incompetance, which may make carrying a child to term impossible.  I risk infection, hemmorage, etc.  But here’s what I didn’t know.  I risk damaging other organs in the vicinity, such as the vaginal walls, colon, bowel, etc.  And that made the whole ordeal so much worse.

All my doctor could say was, “The risks and complications are a possibilty.  I can tell you that these risks are small, but I can’t make any guarentees about what’s going to happen.”

On the subject of future children, “Cervical stenosis isn’t as much of a concern as cervical incompetance.  It depends on how much we have to remove.  We can only determine that when you’ve healed.  I’ll check at the 2 week follow-up and we’ll have a better idea then.”

My Aching Heart
I cannot get my mind away from the possibility that I will be incapable of having anymore children.  I wanted one, maybe two more if I feel my biological clock start to tick later on.  I cannot fathom the idea.  It breaks my heart to think about.  I may never have another child, ever again.  I could end up barren with the thoughts of the child that I could never have.  The child that would have been a sibling to T.D. and a child to C.S. and I.

Worse, is the possibilty of having multiple miscarriages.  I had one, and I know it was my fault.  I didn’t know I was pregnant until I miscarried at about 10-12 weeks.  I was drinking heavily at the time.  And that likely did it.  If that child had lived, he / she would be 9 in January.  It took me a long time to accept the truth about it.  But, I knew it wasn’t meant to be.  The day after I conceived, my boyfriend broke up with me.  I told him a year later about what happened.  His response was, “It was better this way.  I wouldn’t have left her (his girlfriend) anyway.  Now, we can all get on with our lives.”

It was cold-hearted, but he was right.  I was in no position to be a mother.  I was too young, with no college education, no income, and hardly a stable place to live.  The child would have had a deadbeat dad, and I would’ve been outcasted by my family.  This is not to mention that I was not yet diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  That baby has a better home in the life beyond.

Will I have to go through the unimaginable pain of losing a child?  Losing multiple children because my body just can’t do it?  I’m terrified at the idea.  I cry when I hear about it.  How could I even begin to handle that?

My doctor tried to be reassuring and said, “Most of my patients who have undergone one LEEP have gone on to have successful, complication free pregnancies.” Most.  Not all.  This is my second surgery.  I don’t know exactly what I will have left when all of this is said and done with.

The Worst Case Scenario of Them All
What if this LEEP doesn’t do it? What happens if the dysplasia grows back. I only have so much cervix. Do I have to face another LEEP? And if I do, that will destroy all hopes of another child. Beyond that, we’re looking at a hysterectomy. I’m too young to have my uterus removed. So what then? Hormone replacement therapy for the next 10 – 15 years? Or will I just have to bear early menopause?

That is honestly the worst of it all. Not being able to have children and having to go through menopause.

The Only Good News
The actual surgery isn’t nearly as bad as cryosurgery. I will have a cervical block, as well as IV sedation. Instead of being in the office, I will be at the hospital. The procedure is supposed to be painless, and afterward, I should sufffer no symptoms worse than a light menstration.

The after care is much like having a colposcopy, and heaven knows I’ve had enough of those.  Literally, I’ve had four or five.  With the last one, I wasn’t doing great the same day.  But, within a few days, I was back to my regular self.  I should be healed enough to resume normal activity within two weeks (like aerobic activity), with the exception that I’ll have a lifting restriction for a month.

The Plan
The date of the surgery – November 10th or 11th.  I have off on the 11th, so I tried to schedule it for then.  But, I can take the 10th off, if needed.  My doctor specializes in treatment for woman cancer.  I trust her and really like her.  She reminds me of the wonderful OB that delivered T.D., except she’s a little more forthcoming.  She’s the only doctor that has sent my specimens to an oncologist for review.  She is the only doctor that has been extremely proactive about this.  And she is the only doctor that hasn’t treated me like I’m a case, or I’m insane, or anything else.  She’s regarded me as a person every time.

I just want to get this all behind me.  I want to be able to deal with the aftermath as soon as I can.  And, I need to make the attempt to get pregnant as soon as I can afterward.  Because, if I have to face another LEEP or hysterectomy, I’ll be damned if I don’t at least try to have another baby before we come to that.

Fear and Loathing in Pittsburgh

Tomorrow at 11:45AM EST, I will be meeting with my OB/Gyn for my surgical consultation that I’ve put off for three months. And I’m more scared of this than I was of my induction of labor.

Tomorrow, I face my biggest fears.

I face a serious surgery, no matter how benign it may sound. I don’t like doctors. I am terrified of hospitals as a result of my most previous experience. And, I’ve never been put under before.

The surgical procedure alone presents enough potential threats. I have had a life-threatening reaction to an epidural. What will I do once I’m hooked into an IV? Will my blood pressure tank again? Will the anesthetic wear off? I’m not sure I can endure that pain.

Then, there’s the aftercare. The complications are numerous. Do I face a serious hemorrhage? Anemia over the Pittsburgh winter is unbearable. I may not be able to get back on my feet as soon as I’m expected to. How can I possibly take care of my son? Who can I call on to help? I do not have a great support network.

And then, there are future complications. I may have deep scaring. The surgery may cause me permanent future pain. And what about getting pregnant again? Studies indicate a small percentage of women have one of two fertility issues after having the surgery. In one scenario, I may suffer scarring that causes me to be incapable of natural fertilization. In another scenario, I may suffer miscarriages and / or premature births. If I can get pregnant, then I may never be able to carry to term.

And what will happen if this surgery fails like the last one did? How much many more times will I have to go through this? And what’s the next step after that? Hysterectomy, if it gets any worse. Can I stand the idea of losing any hope of having more children? I’m too young to lose my reproductive organs. I can’t be menopausal in my late 20’s. Do I face hormone replacement therapy for the next 15 – 20 years? How would that serious chemical shift affect my BP?

Worst of all, I have to face all of these unknowns alone. C.S. and I decided it would be more wise to save his PTO days for after the surgery. I didn’t agree as much as I had to accept. I am so scared of being alone for this.

I am terrified of being alone. If the news is bad, I’m going to be alone in that office. I am embarrassed to cry in public. But there I’ll be, in the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh, on the streets holding back. I’d be holding back from the office, to the stop, all the way back home, where I’ll have to face my parents. And when I get home, I’ll have to hold back some more. For my son’s sake.

But inside, I’ll be falling apart.

And that’s all before I even go through with the surgery.

At the very least, I have the whole day off to soak it all up, and likely cry it all back out.

A Peach and A Catalyst

This one was inspired by Colonial Punk’s Post.

Stress.

A one syllable word that is so commonplace in everyone’s life. When am I not stressed? I can’t answer that. It really is always something.

It’s more about how stressors are processed that produces the effects and thus, the consequences. I’m probably not a prime example of how stress is interpreted. I have been known to buckle under the weight. I am guilty of allowing my situations to become critical.

How stress manifests for me is a complicated thing. It depends on the particular stressor and the source that it is coming from. In addition, it depends on my particular mood, the emotion, and the intensity of emotion that the stressor produces at the time.
I’ve been running a little high lately. I’m out of the hypomanic episode, thanks to a virus or something. But, if I had to describe the state I’m in right now, I’d call it a 6 or 7 on the mood scale with panic attacks. (In all fairness, this started before the abnormally high stress). Honestly, I’m used to running at about a 4.

I mentioned in Just Got Served, But It Wasn’t Dinner that C.S. is being sued. That was Thursday. That comes with a whole host of problems for both him and me. We finally have the name of an attorney. Any further than that and I’m really not at liberty to publicly detail the rest. Legal problems are at least in the top 5 of my “Worst Things That Could Happen List”. (Medical is number 1. We’re getting there.)

My typically benevolent boss is coming down on me. I understand her concern. My boss has a difficult time delegating and the Winter Concert is in my hands. Her anxiety has to be off the charts. It would be absolutely embarrassing if this project flops.

The electric company has recently determined that we are financially ineligible for services. Now, we’re stuck with a budget amount of $430 a month. That’s up $200 from what we were paying on a “just making ends meet” budget.

T.D.’s Early Intervention services ended October 16th, when he turned three. This is complicated, so try to stay with me. He was supposed to have transitioned into school-aged services at this point, but it didn’t happen.

Adding fuel to the fire, C.S. isn’t sure if he wants to take this promotion on the cusp of some serious financial detriment and before the holidays.

I mentioned problems with T.D.’s pediatrician giving me some serious trouble in The Farris Wheel. I won’t go into the complete story, but I have a ton of things I have to face now with his health and development.

And I have this surgery looming.  My consult is finally scheduled in stone for October 28.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Blah.

The reactions varied. When I saw the papers for the suit, I sprang into action. It was an insult. I was angry.

When my boss came at me, I flew. It shook the very foundation of my work experience. I’ve always considered work to be a safe zone. I became so anxious that I responded with annoyance, fear, and paranoia.

All of T.D.’s things are overwhelming. I’m treading into unknown territory and I’m not sure how to proceed. It froze me in fear to know that my child has something wrong. And I felt like the worst mother in the world.

I’ve never had a major surgery. There are a lot of unknowns. I’ve been dodging it because I don’t want to walk around blindly. Too many what if’s. How am I going to handle news that something bad has happened?

And as for the bills, what am I going to do? We can handle it, but we’re going to be on a tight budget. We might have to make some heavy sacrifices. I am upset. I can’t stand the idea of living in extreme poverty again. I am almost to the point of tantrums. I still need a couple new staple clothing items (white t-shirts), new contacts, and new glasses. When will these needs be satisfied, if at all? Rawr!

So, as you can see, stress produces a wide variety of responses. But, the end result varies. Either, I crumble into a depressive episode because of the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. Or, I go manic and power through with serious ferocity. Or, I am frozen with anxiety, and if I approach the situation, I’m overcome and retreat.

Spin the wheel. It’s hard to tell what stress will trigger with bipolar disorder.

Take two, three or four pills and call back in the morning.

Leep-Into-Cin II – Part II

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, underneath a huge tree of which the limbs spread high into the sky and over the alley, C.S. grabbed me by the shoulders.  He put his hands to my face and breathed, “I have always loved you.”  With those words, he kissed me deeply and jump started a heart and soul that were long dormant.  I caught my breath and my words, then asked, “Is this true?”  He answered without hesitation, “Yes.  I knew since the night that we painted.  You made me a mural of the stars that I stared at each night for years.”

That had been almost four years prior.

C.S. knows all of my darkest secrets.  At that point, we had been friends for five years.  C.S also knew all of the darkest secrets of Avi and Beck.  C.S. was kind, but he did not hold back when revealing  the ugly truth that were the skeletons in those men’s closets.  I had never been so betrayed and disgusted with others.  C.S. had no hand in it.  He was an innocent bystander, only collecting secrets like a Pandora’s box.  Now the box had opened, and I was dealing with the tremendous reality of it.

The First Blow – ASCUS

After all had been revealed, I decided it in our best interest to see a gynecologist.  I had seen a gynecologist a year before, and six months before that.  It was always unremarkable and a necessary discomfort in order to get birth control.  That was the primary concern.  I was not about to start a relationship by getting pregnant.  It had never happened before, and I wasn’t about to begin then.

A month had passed since my Pap smear, and it was already late August.  C.S. and I were at home, enjoying a day off together.  In fact, we had taken our first hooky day off together so we could continue to enjoy each others company for a long weekend.  I had received a call from the clinic and was perplexed.  They had never called me before.  I took the call and had to move to the balcony for a better signal on my cell phone.  In these days, network in my area was limited.

The words came at me faster than my brain could handle.  My Pap smear result showed “atypical cells of undetermined significance” or ASCUS for short.  My heart raced.  What the hell did that mean?  In short, it meant that I likely had cervical dysplasia, but that could only be determined by a colposcopyAnd what the hell did THAT mean?  Cervical dysplasia refers to cellular changes in the cervix causing precancerous lesions and a colposcopy is a procedure where the doctor determines the grade of these lesiosn.  What causes that?  Human papillomavirus (HPV).

That Son-of-a-Bitch

I couldn’t understand and I couldn’t get any definitive answers.  Who gave this to me?  All of my exams had been clean.  Only a year had passed between, and one of us was supposedly monogamous.  I knew my mistake, but I was very careful to use protection!  It had come down between Avi, who had claimed to have been faithful with the exception of that one indiscretion two years prior, and Beck, that dog of a man, with whom I had only had sexual contact for a few seconds with a condom.  There was never a way to determine which one was at fault.  Neither would confess, especially under the circumstances.  The two men in my life that had used, abused, and thrown me away contended to give their last blow to me.

The First of Many

In September 2007, I had my first colposcopy.  I was scared out of my mind.  Never in my life had I experienced any significant medical problems outside of pesky asthma and painful tendonitis of the knee (later diagnosed as a result of Genu valgum, or knock-knee syndrome).  Sure, I had taken a few blows to the head that resulted in concussions, but they were very mild and never required anything more than a shining light in my eyes and a couple of stitches to my head.  C.S. went with me that day, but he wasn’t allowed in the room because we were not yet married, only engaged.

The procedure is absolutely underestimated in the eyes of practitioners.  It is considered to be routine, and is in nature.  But they failed to notify me that a biopsy was involved.  This is significant information.  They failed to tell me that they were cutting a piece of my flesh from my body!  I laid there, my feet in stirrups, in a silent room as metal scuffed about on the trays and tables.  And then there was an unbelievable pain without any warning.  I clenched my teeth and dug my brand new garnet engagement ring into my palm with all of my might.  It was the only thing I could do not to scream.
I’m a Whore

I got what I deserved.  The one time in my life that I had cheated and this was my punishment.  Painful gynecological procedure for flapping my wares about.  I’m a whore.  How could C.S. go on loving a whore, knowingly?  I’m dirty, I’m diseased.  And I know I gave it to him.  I passed this vile thing onto the one person I’ve ever cared about this deeply.  I’ve done harm to someone who has given me nothing but love and kindness.  I am tainted.

It plagued me.  But C.S. stood in his position – I didn’t know.  I couldn’t have known any better.  He didn’t care what had happened before.  He only wanted me to be healthy and live a long life with him.  I was so happy to hear this.  So we continued to plan for our wedding to start our long, happy, healthy lives together in the eyes of the law.  We had started living together as roomates before we were ever romantically involved.

A Doctor’s Assurance, a Beautiful Lie

Another month passed before I had my result.  You know, Planned Parenthood works pretty slowly.  It was October at this time, and we had just booked our reception hall for April 26, 2008.  Our wedding had a date now.  The nurse reported that I had CIN I, indicating mild cervical dysplasia.  She also reported that on account of my age and the statistics that “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 90 percent of HPV infections are “cleared” by the body within two years.”, the doctor advised that we repeat the Pap in six months to monitor changes.

Four months later, I had become pregnant with T.D.  By the time I had my first Obstetrician appointment, it was time to repeat my Pap.  I reported to the OB that I had CIN I and he scoffed at me.  “Oh the dreaded dysplasia!  Don’t worry, in most cases it resolves itself within a year.  It won’t affect your pregnancy at all.”  What a lie!  My pap came back bad again.  But there was nothing else we could do.  Colposcopies are not recommended for pregnant women.  It had become a waiting game.

Warning Flags

During my pregnancy, my medical insurance change and I thankfully changed OB’s.  I had reported everything to the new OB and was shocked when he became worried about my situation.  He demanded that he receive all of my gynecological records since I began seeing one.  Planned Parenthood works slowly and it took him six months to get the complete documents, after several threats.  But once he had those records in his hands, he was gravely concerned.  We scheduled a colposcopy for my 36th week of pregnancy to avoid preterm labor.

Up until my impending labor, this had been the most painful experience of my life.  The pain of the biopsy is a thousand times more pronounced in pregnancy.  Essentially, they are cutting into a cervix that has thinned in preparation for labor, and is inflamed by the hormones of pregnancy.  The cramps were not just uterine cramps, they were contractions.  I cried, and held C.S.’s hand tight.  At the very least, he stood by my side this time.

The result was CIN II, and I thankfully went full term.  Although we had this result, it was still more of the waiting game.  The situation was becoming more dire.  In a years time, the dysplasia had progressed a full stage.  However, we would have to wait until T.D. was born, and I was completely healed afterward.

I lost my insurance after T.D. was born, and sat in the dark about the dysplasia for eight months.  By the next pap, and the following colposcopy, I had progressed to CIN III.  At this point, I had a new gynecologist because my OB had left the practice a month after T.D. was born.  We were unfamiliar with each other, but she urged that I have cryosurgery as soon as possible.  I saw the urgency because the next step was carcinoma-in-situ, sitting cancer on my cervix.  It had only been less than two years since my original diagnosis and I was already at this point.

Cryosurgery – Alone

I scheduled my cryosurgery for the next available appointment, which was a month later in July 2009.  C.S. promised to go with me.  I looked to him to do so.  I couldn’t go through this alone.  I had suffered so much in the last year.  I had the colposcopy, a month long prelabor, and gone through childbirth through induction.  After another painful colposopy, I just couldn’t go through it by myself.  The thought alone was too much for me.

But, as was becoming the norm, C.S. had something come up at work at the last minute.  My mother cared for T.D. when I was at appointments.  I had to be strong, and I had to go alone.  I was a mother now.  If I can handle labor, I can handle surgery.

I could.  The surgery itself wasn’t bad and the doctor talked me through it.  There was very uncomfortable cramping nearly to the point of pain, but not quite.  It came in short bursts as they touched the cold probe to my cervix.  I was optimistic about it.  If I can get through this, it will be over forever.  That was until the doctor instructed me to lie on the table, alone in the room.  After five minutes, I could get up, dress, and leave.  It sounded simple enough.

But when I tried to lift myself to sitting, it was a painful struggle.  I gushed a clear liquid tinged with blood.  I panicked.  No one told me that this would happen.  I was weak from the procedure and nearly fell off of the table while getting down.  Standing was painful, and moving was worse.  Everything from my waist to my mid-thigh viciously ached.  Dressing was complicated and I was distressed.  All I wanted to do was go home.  Really, I thought, “I wish C.S. was with me.” and I became furious with him.  How could he?!  I could hardly move and was expected to take care of a 9 month old when I got home.  How could he leave me stuck like this?!  That was the very first time I felt he had failed me.  I resented him for it.  And maybe I still do.

In the Clear?

My next pap came back bad.  They said that could happen while I was still healing.  The cervix, after any kind of trauma, isn’t completely healed for upwards of six months after.  They assured me that the next one would be fine.  I believed them.

I really did.

Leep-Into-Cin II – Part I

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 friends at all.

That is not to say that my relationship with this boy (because that’s what he was at the time), didn’t continue.  It did.  And it thrived.  We were a blissful couple, filled with promise and hope for our future.  We planned to attend college together and marry young.  We’d start our lives together the minute we were adults in the eyes of the law.  It was he and I against the world, against our parents, against everything.  And the only thing that mattered was that we loved each other and love was enough to keep us together forever.

If you call three months shy of four years together forever, then sure, we were together forever.  But, we didn’t love each other and love was not enough.  Not to him, especially.  He was cunning with a tongue of silver and a touch of gold.  And when I took off those rose colored glasses many, many years later, I saw everything for what it was.  Us, huddled together for warmth the February afternoon – him laying me down on a dirty mattress, in an abandoned house to fuck me for thirty awkward and unsatisfactory seconds.  Two lovers kept at a great distance across the city – a conveniently placed “long distance” relationship so he could screw around with any girl who looked at him sideways.  Tender words to a broken soul – patronizing speeches for manipulation of the body attached to the desperate ear.  Long, painful separations due to family obligations and travel – paid time off from the relationship.

Everything looks better at a distance.
His final, parting words to me after we made love only twelve hours earlier were, “I will always be you friend.”  It wasn’t until I discovered the Manslator (every woman has one, some women call it their bullshit radar), many years later, that I realized this heartfelt and endearing sentence had a word missing.  I will always be your fuck friend.  And he meant it.

Plus Another Bad Apple. . .

Off an on for a year after that, “Beck” had me on a string.  I was young and naive.  I can actually thank him for emotionally abusing the nativity out of me.  And that he did.  He would build me up to be the one he almost let get away, and then condemn me for being his greatest mistake.  It was a painful game of cat and mouse, only with emotions.  This all went with the waxing and waning of women and genitals that came in and out of his bedroom – and life.  Of course, I didn’t know this.  I still had the antiquated idea that relationships were exclusive and monogamous!  I was his only girl . . . that night.

Eventually, I wised up a little and walked away from that madness.  I was an adult now, and I didn’t have to take shit from anyone.  After that relationship, I wasn’t about to.  I dated around, and discovered what I considered to be a diamond in the rough while I was in college.

“Avi” was not a sensitive soul with a delicate touch and soothing words.  Avi was a man.  A real man, by any standard I’d ever seen.  He was tough, muscular and stoic.  It seemed as if he were all but impenetrable.  With the exception that he had a soft spot for me.  He reeled with laughter and curiosity about me.  “I’ve never met a girl like you, ever before.  You’re so different.’  I was different.  I was a tomboy by male standards.  I spat, drank, swore, and cut-up with the rest of the men-folk.  I was tough and gave it right back to them.  I didn’t let anyone step on me and I didn’t let anyone stand in my way.  I had to be.  No one nurtured me into adulthood.   I used my nails to dig into the earth and crawl on my belly out into the world.  And I got a lot of hard-knocks on my way in and through.

Avi and I were on our own plane of existence for about six months.  We never fought, and always found each other fascinating.  I had never encountered a man like him, nor had he encountered a woman like me.  In the quiet, behind closed doors, in the dead of night, he would whisper beautiful things to me in my sleep.  He stroked my back and hair when no one was looking.  He was a gentleman who held doors, offered coats, and paid for everything, despite my pitiful attempts at declining.  I was a wild woman to him.  I could care less what anyone thought of my physical being.  I had thoughts and opinions that would not be silenced.  I feared nothing.  Both farces disintegrated quickly.  A year into our relationship, despite the fact that things were clearly falling apart, Avi and I were ready to start a life together and signed a lease on an apartment.

You never really know someone until you have lived with them.

Avi was charming to my friends.  He held a good job and kept up on his classwork.  We held the most outrageous, hilarious, and fun parties.  But behind those closed doors now, he was a madman, and I was a child.  Any mistakes were venomously criticized.  I was berated for the smallest things.  Our disagreements would blow up into full on screaming matches.  He would leave without saying a word, especially when he knew he was losing.  And I, being the child that I was, would chase him down.  And apologize.  And beg.  Then he would alienate me, keeping me at an arms length and blaming me for being over dramatic and harmful to our peaceful existence, and forcing me to comply.  He’d intentionally stay late at work.  He would pick up extra hours and be gone more than he was around.  He would stop answering the phone or texts.

Our friends stopped coming around.  One by one, he picked them off, made them the source of our domestic problems, and alienated them.  He couldn’t hold a job for longer than three weeks.  We were drinking, a lot.  And the more we drank, the less I remembered.  He would encourage it too!  Then there was a push, that led to a shove, that led to a slap, that led to punch, that led to him forcing himself on me . . .

I went to the only person left.  The only person who knew me better than anyone else.  I went to Beck.  I called for help, and he came.  He came with the only help he knew how to give – a stiff drink and a limp dick.  It seemed that several years of alcoholism didn’t do Beck very well.  I chugged a bottle of Jack and had three seconds of sex.  The other twenty-six seconds were Beck viciously fucking the carpet on the stairwell to my apartment.  And he was down by a second in his old age, too.  Not only could I be mortified that I had cheated, but I could be dually ashamed that it wasn’t remotely satisfying.  I stood at the top of the stairwell looking down on Beck as he departed.  And I asked him, “Would you at least call?  So I don’t feel like a whore.”  He agreed.  And the only word I received was a Myspace blog post declaring his love for another girl, three days later.

Another year had passed.  I was about to leave Avi.  I really was.  I had thought about it on my long walks through the ice and snow to work.  There was a lot of silence in my head and in that house to fill.  I had planned that we would go to our respective family places for Christmas that year.  And while he was gone, I was going to change the locks, change my phone number, change my address, and leave all of his stuff on the front porch with my father standing by with a shotgun.  I had decided this at Thanksgiving when he was gone.

He always knew.  Every time I had packed a bag in the past, he knew when I was serious.  That’s why most of the time he just sat idly by, calling me a stupid bitch, or a dirty whore while I threw everything I could into some kind of luggage.  But it was by the things that I wasn’t doing that he knew.  When I wasn’t coming home until I thought he would be asleep.  When I wasn’t talking about our relationship and instead about a new friend, especially male ones.  When I wasn’t talking at all.  He knew.

He came home from his family a new man.  There were smiles, hugs, communication, and quality time.  We watched movies together again.  We were sober.  We went on dates and made new friends.  It was like a new lease on our relationship!

Until, he came clean.  All of the time that I thought he held a good job was time he was using to cheat on me.  He held a relationship with another girl we both went to school with.  They had clandestine meetings in places that school that I held sacred to us.  That was the only in discretion that he ever admitted, although I could pin several more on him.  Three of my best friends and my sister all came to me when our relationship was finished to tell their tales.  And the rest ,a server at the restaurant, his boss’ girlfriend, another co-worker, a few more girls from his home town, and a half-a-dozen women from the internet, were all speculation.

It was through C.S.’s love that he gave me the courage of conviction to rid myself of Avi and Beck forever.  He gave me the courage to see the doctor again and get my life straightened out.

Ruins the Whole Bunch.  And Barrel.

It was only when I got those first test results back in July 2007 that I had only begun to know the damage that Beck and Avi had brought to my life.

Pap result – ASCUS.  Probable cause – HPV.

To be continued . . .