Guest Post: Me? Pre-Cancerous?

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Cliff edge as metaphor for pre-cancerous diagnosisThis a guest post by reader Ruth.

Two months ago, four months after giving birth to my second child, I went to the “lady doctor” to get a prescription—to delay producing baby number three if you get my drift! Lovely as they are, we need a gap! It was my first time with this doctor so she told me she may as well do a Pap smear test then and there. According to government recommendations, I’m still not due one, but she said it couldn’t hurt. So I thought, “Why not?” One can never be too cautious and after having gone through childbirth, a Pap smear test is really no big deal. (For those who have not done one yet I am stood here wagging my finger at you and second, they do not hurt, just a tiny bit of discomfort). So I did.

And guess what? It came back abnormal. So off I went to let them take a further sample for more specific testing. While waiting for the biopsy to come back from the lab I did plenty of research and was reassured that even if the abnormality came back at Level 3, the highest level, it had been caught in time so could be treated. So the worst case wasn’t that bad.

So I have just returned from the consultation with the doctor who got the biopsy results. And he told me I have pre-cancerous cells at Level 2 and will have a minor outpatient operation to remove them! Me? Pre-cancerous? You said what?! Me who is pretty fit and thank G-d have not had any illnesses, nor broken any bones, nor have I ever had any operation save for removal of my wisdom teeth! In fact the first time I have ever had cause to be in hospital overnight was at the age of 32 giving birth to my first child! To get an idea of what Level 2 is, I asked him what would happen if I did not go for this operation. He looked at me sternly and said within a year or two it could very well develop into cancer. (Oh my goodness, I just used the C word!)

You can imagine the “what-ifs” going through my mind now. What if I lived 200 years ago, would I have made it to 40? (Er no!) What if that lovely orthodox Jewish female doctor did not casually suggest doing a smear there and then? Would I have taken the initiative with my oh-so-busy schedule to make an appointment for a smear? I’m not so sure actually.

Please hold the sympathy! It is appreciated but not necessary. It has been caught in plenty of time and “pre” is the operative word here. It will be treated and I will be fine B”H (G-d willing). For those of you who know me and know the other stuff my husband and I have been dealing with over the last few years will know that this is nothing! G-d likes to escort me to the edge of the cliff, make me look down and conquer my fear in mustering the courage to jump, and at that point he dispatches the angels who come flying out of nowhere and whisk me off into safety. It”s fortunate that I am not afraid of flying.

To those of you who have lost a loved one to cancer or are watching someone suffer through this then I am so sorry and I hope this hasn’t upset you. My intention is to scare those of you who need scaring into booking yourself in for a Pap smear. You have no excuse not to and furthermore my entry into heaven may depend on you! No pressure then eh? Who knows, you may even bag yourself a place there yourself so everyones a winner. Please spread around to aunts, mums, daughters, grandmas, friends, acquaintances, strangers, sisters etc.and encourage them to get themselves checked! You just never know and you can NEVER be too cautious.

I wish you all and your loved ones excellent health, and a long and prosperous life and the utmost protection of the Almighty.

image: Panegyric of Grivelter

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Comments

  1. Shoshanna says:

    Thanks for this informative and interesting guest post.
    I think as Orthodox women we may tend to get complacent. I’ve been told that women in monogamous relationships are at lower risk, and that the laws of Taharat Hamishpachah put us in tune with our bodies and make us more likely to catch any abnormality. However this piece is a good reminder not to skip ANY recommended exams.

    The medical guidelines have changed somewhat (at least here in the US) and I’m now told that it’s not recommended for every year. Here is a link to the latest guidelines:

    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pap-smear/my00090/dsection=why-its-done

    I’m wondering how strong the research behind it is, and if I should be insisting on it anyway. In general I trust my doc, but just wondering if anyone has looked into this. If I remember correctly, I’ve been getting them annually since my 20s. I’m glad they caught this one and that you will be fine, IY”H.

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  2. Good for you for publishing this! Busy women with children always need encouragement to look after our health, especially pre-cautiounary measures. Ladies, it’s about SAVING YOUR LIFE!
    Naomi recently posted..Is Your Website Clean for Pesach?My Profile

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  3. Surely if you have had a baby you can say the word gynecologist and birth control/pill, not lady doctor and a “prescription..if you get my drift”. Part of having bodily autonomy is being able to talk about the human body in grown up terminology. Every woman should be having a pap smear every 1-2 years from when they are sexually active, or 21 if not yet sexually active.

    http://www.livestrong.com/article/29176-acog-pap-smear-guidelines/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

    • Hey there point taken and I agree. Just to explain that this actually started as an email I sent to friends. The original format of which much remains was pretty informal. Please also consider that I am an extremely private person who took the decision that my innate need for privacy is not a reason not to share this and maybe just maybe save one more life. I cannot pretend to be totally comfortable that I sent this to every woman on my facebook list and on my email list but then again, I believe that in life in order to grow as people, we really need to step outside of our comfort zone and extend ourselves. I’m sure you agree with that right?! Therefore some things were a little understated and kept light. I hope that gives a little context but you are indeed right, terminology is important and treating this matter seriously is too. Be well.

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    • huv–thanks for posting those guidelines.

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  4. I had my uterus removed and the doctor found cancer cells. After 1 week+ of radiation
    treatments I backed out and changed to a strict alternative diet. I haven’t felt this good
    in a long time. Check ups will be through an MRI in order to avoid any type of radiation.
    Has anyone been through something similar? Yes, early checkups should be #1 on your
    list. Yes…there are so many reasons why we don’t go to a doctor, but it’s your LIFE that
    is on the line. Get going and make your appointments and make them on a permanent
    basis. May everyone have a long and healthy life.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  5. Thanks for sharing. With all the possible things that can go wrong , one can get quite neurotic. But as you say – check ups in the early stages is the way to go
    Allan Katz recently posted..Mindfulness for children 2My Profile

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  6. Ms. Krieger says:

    Ruth,

    I am glad you posted this — it is very important for everyone to get regular Pap smears. I’m a little confused by your terminology, though. Do you mean by ‘level 2′ is CIN-2 (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia level 2)?

    If so, readers should know
    1. That it is not cancer (yet).
    2. Only 50pc of CIN-2 cases will become cancerous. The rest will clear up on their own. (However, of course you don’t want to wait and see!)

    (My information on this is from the well-referenced Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cervical_intraepithelial_neoplasia )

    So if this had happened 200 years ago, you would have had a 50-50 chance of living to age 40 (or dying of something else.) Not to trivialize it. Just don’t want to scare people unnecessarily. And I have read other places that, after a woman has 3 normal Pap smears in a row, she can safely get them just once every three years. This has been standard policy in the UK for awhile and the US is considering adopting it.

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  7. wickismom says:

    I learned that PAP smears are best done NOT right after childbirth…. better to wait about half a year. But do get it done. (And of course mammeography as well….)

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