Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Seven to ten business days

I sat on the examination table, swinging my naked legs, wondering just how much some one walking through the door could see through the gaping back of my hospital gown. Finally, a nurse peaked in. "All finished?" she asked, entirely too perky for my mental well-being. I nodded as she opened the door wide to let in the doctor.

"So, wha's dee pwobwem?" Dr. Lee squinted at me through thick glasses. I explained that I believed I had an infection, that my abdomen hurt, that I was tired all the time and had aches and pains everywhere. "I see. Lay back and le's take a wook."

There's nothing more uncomfortable than laying on a clinic table, legs spread, with nothing between you and the world but a see-through cotton sheet and a paper gown that doesn't close in the back.

"Oh yes, definitely infection. Wen did you have you last annual pap?" It had been two years, with my trip overseas. "I give you medicine for dis infection, you come back in one month for pap. He snapped off his gloves and walked out. I was still sprawled on the table when he pulled the door closed.

One month later, I was back on the table, spread-eagled and exposed. "You wiw get notice in two weeks of wesults." I asked him about the abdominal pain. I'd already been to see an internist about the other symptoms. "You just adjusting to birth control." He was gone before I had a chance to question him further.

Two weeks went by. Two weeks of checking the mail, two weeks of waiting for the postcard with a smiling woman saying, "Your OB/Gyn cares about your health!" Two weeks, and nothing, and then it was three. At the end of the third week, I called the office.

"Let me grab your file!" chirped nurse Perky. When she came back on the line, she wasn't nearly as excited. "There was a problem," she said. The news wasn't good. There were some abnormal cells in my pap - possibly pre-cancerous. "We'll need to get a closer look and possibly take a biopsy." I set the appointment for a week later, and sort of dazed through until it was time.

Dr. Lee showed me a five-step scale for the levels of cervical cancer. "I think you awound level two," he said. That gave me a 70% chance of recovery within twelve months, without treatment, and a 30% chance of developing cancer over the next five years. The plan was to do a visual inspection with a magnifying device, then take a biopsy if it was needed. They wound up doing a scraping of my side wall, a tissue sampling from behind the cervix, and two cervical biopsies. When he was finished, the doctor told me to prepare myself for the results. I was closer to a level three or four than a two, which gave me somewhere between 60 and 75% of developing cervical cancer in two years, if I didn't already have it.

"How long?" I asked, shaken, but still in control.

"Seven to ten business days," he said over his shoulder as he walked out the door again. I made a mental note to change doctors, and marked my calendar for the results.

No comments: