It’s taken me all day to write this post. I could have written it earlier this week, I suppose, but some things you want to do right on the day. It’s also a difficult matter to talk about sometimes, so it takes a bit to get in the right headspace. Somewhere in there the day also ran away with me. I wound up going to lie down for a few minutes and got out of bed three hours later. Anyway, to my point.
It’s been a year since I had a hysterectomy to remove stage 0 cervical cancer. I’m cured. I am finally better (the need for a nap notwithstanding). You can read all I went through here and here. No pics of my 8 inch scar though, and there’s still a small spot on my belly with no feeling.
So today, to celebrate or mark the anniversary, I had planned to maybe do a series of posts and a whole lot of Twittering to raise awareness. The nap really interfered though, and after I got up I had just enough time to eat, get dressed and walk down to the clubhouse for another meeting.
The important thing you need to remember is that women need to have a pap test every year. Every SINGLE year unless the doctor says you can go longer. Normally, this is after you’ve had three years of perfect scores in a row. I would like to note though, I had no problems until after I hit thirty, then it all went downhill from there.
The average age for diagnosis for women is around 50, but don’t think it can’t happen to you if you are younger than that. Incidence rates for younger age brackets aren’t much lower. Please get checked out. If you’re a guy, make sure to take care of the women in your life.
And don’t just think of younger women – what about your mom? Women should have pap tests up until age SEVENTY. Which was a lot older than I thought. Would you rather be embarrassed or watch a love one suffer or even die? There are still women in a certain age bracket that have never had a pap test done, and it is the single most important screening for such a thing. This is the kind of cancer that if left untreated, you do not have any symptoms until it has progressed quite a bit. Lucky for me, repeated pap tests caught it in time. I had gone three years without a checkup, so that’s how fast it can progress.
Cervical cancer is considered “rare” because of a low incidence rate, but it is mainly due to pap test screening. Since pap tests have become a routine standard the rates have gone down over fifty percent in North America. This is 92% CUREABLE yet 7,000 US, 400 Canadian, & 1,100 UK women will DIE this year. Worldwide, the rates in developing and third world countries are, as you can imagine, not very good.
Every two minutes, a woman dies from cervical cancer. And it is completely unnecessary.
Even here in Canada, and in New Brunswick where women are almost hounded for yearly paps – doctors refuse birth control pill prescriptions unless you have a pap for instance – even here, women die.
Last week, my grandmother’s best friend died. She had cervical cancer. By the time she had issues to see a doctor about, it was too late – it had spread. She’d never had a pap. She was not much older than my own mother.
Also last week, someone forwarded to me a prayer request for a 32 year old woman not far from here who was diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer. Her husband is stationed in Afghanistan. The email stated that the reason they found out was because she had a miscarriage. This kind of makes me angry, because for cervical cancer to progress that far, it’s visible to the naked eye. Did this woman have regular pap tests? If not, I feel it’s horrible negligence on someone’s part. She’s too young to be dying, too young to leave her five year old motherless.
So no, you don’t hear of women dying from cervical cancer all the time and far less women are dying from it than used to. But this is one of the few cancers than can be beaten. Anything less is unconscionable.
One thing my gyno’s receptionist said stuck with me: too many women put off a checkup until it’s too late. We’re too busy taking care of others to take care of ourselves. Well guess what? It’s hard to run your household and tend to other’s needs when you are lying in a hospital bed or on the couch and can’t move, let alone stay awake. Even harder when you’re dead.
If it has been more than a year since your last checkup, do me a favor. Tomorrow morning, instead of checking in my blog or surfing a few sites or even buying a bunch of daffodils to raise money to cure cancer, pick up the phone. Call your doctor and make an appointment. Yeah, it’s a hassle, I know. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your family. Do it for me.
If I can save just one woman – just ONE – then it will have been worth it.
And although I think the ribbon campaigns are overdone, the colors for cervical cancer awareness are teal and white. There’s a bunch of products here. Although if you have to pick between buying a product or paying for a test to see the doctor, see the doctor please.