Sunday, March 9, 2008


I am trying desperately to get back to sleep. I was laying in bed and dozed off and had that nap-like sleep that doesn't leave you fulfilled. I woke up when Dane got home from playing with his new birthday present with friends, a war board game called Tide of Iron that I got for him.

So, before I try to fall back to sleep, I was thinking that perhaps it's time I shared why I got involved with the Pink Artists.

My father died when I was 4. He had skin cancer, and though it was safely removed in surgery, a blood clot traveled from the surgery site to his heart and lungs and killed him. I have his very same skin type, pale and easily burned, and have already had one suspicious site removed when I was in high school. (Though, I have a really cool scar on my arm now that looks like I got in a knife fight, which is what Tanya tells me I should say to people when they ask.)

In addition to the fear of skin cancer that leads me to stay indoors and stay as deathly pale and translucent as I am, I have had an even more serious scare that prompted me to make my own square for the Pink Artists.

Around last September, a month or so before my wedding, I received a call that, while I was assured everything was just fine, still scared the living hell out of me. I'd had a Pap smear (the bane of every woman's existence, and a simple test that has resulted in me being physically ill on at least one occasion) after putting it off for a year and a half, and the results were back. ABNORMAL. Possible pre-cancerous cells on my cervix.

Though the nurse assured me everything was fine, and it was safe to wait until after the wedding for the procedure (since, you know, having your cervix cut into doesn't lend itself to a very nice honeymoon), I was still completely blown away. The very same thoughts of "It can't happen to me" and "This isn't real" played in my head as I'm sure they do for every woman who has an abnormal Pap or mammogram and is left in a limbo until things are investigated.

The first procedure, intended to be the only procedure, was going to take a sample of the cells, then freeze them off. This procedure had to be cut short because the PA could not see all of the cells, and didn't want to leave some hidden pocket of potential time bombs (to which I am extremely grateful for her caution and diligence). I was referred out to a gynecologist, since the PA was at my family doctor.

At the gyno, I had two procedures. The first there was the biopsy. I had lots of drugs in my system, I threw up, I felt like crap afterwards, I was leaking all kinds of unimaginable fluids, but it's still one of the best things I did in my life, and I was happy to hand over the ~$1000 check afterwards (having no personal medical insurance and being a self-pay patient, yet another reason to fear the worst).

Results came in that cells were indeed pre-cancerous, and time bomb-ous. If they had been left as they were, I would have most definitely developed cervical cancer at age 24. I was assured that everything would be fine, the next cryotherapy procedure would remove them, I'd have check-ups, etc etc. But even having dodged a bullet still makes you stare at the gun with fear in your eyes.

The cryotherapy went well. I opted for full conscious sedation this time since I was in a lot of pain during the biopsy due to stinging and uncomfortable tugging and vinegar draining and you don't want to know how much else contributing to my screams. About halfway through the cryo, I was reported to have asked "When are we starting?" I remember immense cold deep in my abdomen, but I spent the rest of the time in blissful unawareness, breathing in as deeply as possible from the nitrous.

I think the funniest thing throughout this ordeal was the final follow-up visit. I was taken into an exam room, asked to strip from the waist down, and wait in anticipation of the doctor. When he came in and briefed me that all was well and all pre-cancerous cells were eliminated, he then said "So, next time we'll do an examination to check how you're healing."

"Wait... so I'm sitting here on this table, naked under this sheet from the waist down... for no reason?"

"Did you want me to examine you today?"

"I'd prefer it, just so I feel like I didn't strip for nothing." He chuckled, checked my cervix, said my scarring was looking great, and sent me on my now-worry-free way.

So, I'm safe now, with instructions for a follow-up in six months, but this ordeal prompts me to give some very important advice that some women may need to open up their ears and listen to.

Get regular check-ups. There is no excuse to miss your yearly Pap or your necessary mammograms. If you don't have time, make it. Think of this as life insurance. You will be saving yourself so much possible heartache (and wallet-ache) if you keep getting checked. The one time you let your guard down could be the one time when it counts.

Love to all, and I'm so glad I could share this with you and all Pink Artists who helped in Monica's fantastic project.


Emily Eckel said...

Ah Cindi, that was a trip to hell with a happy ending. I'm glad you are OK. Thank goodness for our art. Emily Eckel

Judi W. said...

I went through the same thing with the Pap when I was a bit younger than you. Happy to say that things are still 'normal', all these many years later!

Sorry to hear about your Dad - that's a shame.

As Emily said, art is therapy - so keep on arting!

Shashi Nayagam said...

Oh that must have been so scary! I am glad it is all safe ok now. So sorry to hear about your dad though.
Keep creating as Judi says. It is such a wonderful therapy.

girl_gone_thread_wild said...

You are one brave soul to go through that and I'm willing to bet that is the best $1000 check you ever wrote. Thank you for sharing your experience, personal & heartfelt! I'm thrilled to have been able to 'meet' you and have you contribute to this doll. One thing I really learned here is this isn't my project but OURS, much in the same way this isn't my world but OUR world. Reading your post has prompted me to make my appt sooner than I thought I would. I promised myself & one gal to make my appt before this project ended, I meant when the doll has sold... you got through to ME. I'm making my appt this month!

You Rock! thank you for sharing your story. Hugs to you too! xo, Monica