On March 4th I went in for my second colposcopy.
Since finding out in the beginning of December that I was again having abnormal cell growth on my cervix I went back and forth several times on my plan of action. I knew from my previous research and experience that cell changes on the cervix are generally slow moving. Last time I dealt with this issue it was over two years between my first abnormal pap and my colposcopy and LEEP procedure. However the memory of severe damage (CIN III or the last stage before cancer, not that it always turns to cancer from this point but it is the stage least likely to reverse itself) was still enough to kick my ass into googling like a mad woman and weighing my options.
As I saw it I had four choices; do nothing, get a colposcopy right away, go with a natural treatment plan, or go with a natural treatment plan for a set length of time then get a colposcopy.
I went with option four. After much research I settled on a nutritional supplementation plan that consists of medicinal doses of beta carotene, folic acid, vitamin c, green tea extract, wheat grass, selenium (by way of one brazil nut a day), olive leaf extract, and grapefruit seed extract. It is a small handful of pills that I dutifully swallow each day as I say a little wish that they will help me heal and be healthy.
My intention had been to wait until May to get the colpo but by mid-February I was feeling consumed by concern and fear and decided I needed to get it over with and move on to the next step, whatever that was.
When I called the clinic to make an appointment the first person I talked with changed her tone from all-business to sympathetic when I told her I was booking a colpo. She said I’d have to speak with a nurse for that. The nurse also changed her tone from cheery to sympathetic when I told her why I was calling. When I hung up the phone I burst into tears.
I know many women reading this are facing getting a colpo themselves so I’ll give you the details from my experience. The recommendation is no sex for 24-48 hours before your appointment. I read a few places that you may want to take an ibuprofen a few hours before your appointment, I didn’t. Once I was taken into the treatment room I was weighed, my blood pressure was checked, and I had to take a pregnancy test, the standard stuff. The colpo is performed very much like a pap/annual exam, same table, same nakedness, same cold speculum. The difference is that instead of taking a swab like a pap, the practitioner uses a vinegar solution to dye your cells and then looks at them under a microscope.
The vinegar felt very mildly uncomfortable but not bad, pretty much just the normal discomfort of a speculum and someone looking at your vagina under a microscope. After my practitioner looked for a minute or so she said “I’m not really seeing much of anything here that concerns me”.
“But I’m going to go ahead and take a biopsy just to be on the safe side.” This means to her eye it didn’t seem like much but she wanted to send samples to the lab to have a closer look. I’m not sure if she would have made the same call if I didn’t have a history of CINIII, my instincts are that she was being cautious.
I’m not going to mince words, the biopsy part-the part where she snipped off little chunks of my cervix-that fucking sucked. My whole pelvis region felt incredibly pissed off, bad cramping through the front, sides, and back. She said it would last about ten seconds and that was about how long the worst of it lasted but I was hurting for the rest of the day. After she snipped two chunks, one from the opening of the cervix and one from the inside, she dabbed something on those spots to help them heal, removed the speculum, and sent me on my way, saying she’d call within a week with the results.
I had very mixed emotions as I hobbled away (my pelvis was still crampy and painful) from the clinic. Relief that is was over was the most prevalent but also mixed in were feelings of regret. Regret. Silly, eh? I was absolutely relieved when my practitioner said she was concerned but it also made me realize that I let myself get scared and stressed and that I didn’t give my body very much time to heal itself, which it has a great ability to do, especially from mild cases of dysplasia and with nutritional/lifestyle support.
I spent the rest of the day in bed with a heating pad feeling both emotionally drained and uncomfortable. If you have to get a colposcopy I highly recommend taking the rest of the day off if possible. Different women have very different experiences but I was very glad I had gotten a sub for my afternoon exercise classes (some doctors advise you not to vigorously exercise for the rest of the day to minimize infection risks) and was able to rest and honestly wallow a little. By the next morning I felt totally fine and ready to get back to my day-to-day.
You can expect a bit of weird discharge for up to a week (mine only lasted 2 days or so and wasn’t much) as the vinegar solution comes out. I’d read (and remembered from last time) that many docs recommend no sex (really nothing up in there) for at least a week while the biopsy sites heal.
Two days after the procedure my practitioner called me. I stopped everything I was doing (including breathing) when the number popped up. She said “good news Faith, there was only the most mild case of cell damage so we’re not concerned. Come back in a year for a follow up pap.”
Huge sigh of relief.
Since my second abnormal pap in Spring 2011 I have been going in for paps, colposcopy’s, and the LEEP every 3-6 months which means it’s been pretty hard to get it out of my mind for an extended period of time. Hearing that I didn’t need to follow up again for a full year was the best news. I will continue with my nutritional supplementation but am determined to let go of a lot of the stress around this situation.
Please continue to share your stories, concerns, and questions if you’ve gone through anything similar. It’s a very common issue but one that can be difficult to talk about and can cause a LOT of stress. My heart goes out to any woman in my type of scenario, sending you lots of love.
I’m so happy for your news, Faith!
I don’t know if I’ve ever shared my own experiences with you, but reading about yours brings me so much relief. For so long, I thought I was completely alone in this battle. And I was so ashamed. Sometimes I still am. To have something “wrong” with your womb really scarred my progress mentally and emotionally as I became a woman. Your boldness to share your experience brings me so much peace and confidence in my own journey. And your honesty makes me laugh, because really, you only understand it if you’ve gone through it!
I was 20 when I got the news that I had cervical dysplasia, and needed to have the colposcopy and biopsy done. After that, just a few weeks after turning 21 during my 4th year at UVa, I got the news that I needed to have a LEEP done. I was terrified. Mostly because it meant telling my conservative parents (since I was on their insurance). And because I was terrified of what it meant for the rest of my adult life. After a successful LEEP – if you can call the horrible cramps and bleeding a “success” – I continued with every 6 months check-in. It wasn’t until last spring – four years later, that I was cleared to return to a normal pap schedule. I was overjoyed! But I still worry about 5, 10 years down the road and where I’ll be then. I would love to talk to you more about what you are doing with nutritional supplements… that is something I haven’t looked into yet.
Thanks for writing Linnea and yes, let’s talk about nutrition. If nothing else it’s been empowering to me to feel like I am being proactive in dealing with it, rather than passively waiting for the docs to tell me what to do.
That is great news Faith! Thanks for sharing your experiences. I really appreciate you posting about this issue because having dysplasia is a scary and isolating experience for many women, myself included. No having to face any follow up for an entire year must be a huge relief for you.
Really happy for your good news! ♡
I am happy to hear things are lookin’ good!! Thank you for blogging about this tough stuff- I am having some health concerns lately as well, and although it’s not cervical dysplasia, I can definitely relate to your worries and stress. You also gave me a much-needed reminder to take care of myself and focus on healing my own body. Thank you, Faith.