Someone clipped at my cervix.
I had an abnormal pap smear. It’s not my first one. The doctor said that I needed to come in for my second colposcopy. A colposcopy is a pretty standard procedure. A doctor will slide a speculum into your vagina to open the walls. Then they will rub a vinegar solution on your cervix with what looks like a Q-Tip for giants. Then they will look at your cervix for the abnormal cells that came back on the pap smear. From that point, they’ll take a sample of the cells. My doctor took them from 10, 1, and 5, which sounded a lot like a tactical mission. Yeah, uh, we’re gonna go in to 10 and loop around to 1 and 5 for a clear shot of the central cervical area. [errr] yeah that’s right, we’re going to need three samples today, over and out.
The last thing you want to hear from your doctor:
Her: So I’ll be counting to three, 1, 2 3, and on 3 you’ll cough, a real big cough.
Me: Why is that?
Her: So it hurts less.
Me: OH THANKS. THANKS. COULD HAVE LEFT IT A SECRET SANTA CLAUSE. LEAVE ONE UNDER THE TREE TO UNWRAP ON CHRISTMAS. MAYBE LET IT BE A LITTLE ELF SECRET.
So I’m laying there and I think I’m an expert at this because I’ve done it before. But what no one told me is that turning 28 means that you enter a special dimension where EVERYTHING HURTS MORE. Getting up, getting dressed, exercising, breathing, your menstrual cycle, pap smears, and getting pieces of your cervix mutilated by a stranger. I say stranger because she entered the room – and even though we’d met – she introduced herself all over again and had the same conversation with me that we’d had at our consultation.
I digress. I think I’m going to be an expert. It’s going to be over in a second like ripping a band aid off and I’ll reward myself with some ice cream anyways, something a little self-congratulatory. But something goes terribly awry.
Her: 1, 2, 3
Me: [passive aggressive cough]
Her: [repeats twice]
Me [cough, cough]
Her: Okay, now we’re going to need to apply pressure to the wounds to stop the bleeding.
Here’s where I think I can put my pants back on and go home. I’ll get my ice cream, sit down, enjoy a good four hour break and then fiddle around.
But the bleeding isn’t stopping. My stress hormone injectors suddenly go on red alert and dump all this epinephrine into my veins. I’m breathing erratically and my heart starts racing which I’m guessing is poor timing for the whole bleeding issue. She says it’s a stubborn bleed so for the next WHAT FEELS LIKE TWENTY MINUTES BUT I HAVE NO IDEA BECAUSE IM IN THE STRESS DOME she is holding this giant Q-tip to my cervix while my ENTIRE UTERUS contracts to try and fend off the intruder. YOU ARE NOT A BABY. ENTRY DENIED. CRAMPING INDUCED. (This cramping continued the rest of the day, by the way, and continued onwards into day two.)
At this point I decide I’m never having kids. She’s gently stimulating my wounded cervix with a soft Q-Tip and some woman down the hall is probably shoving an eight pound human through her vaginal canal. I can’t deal with this. I’m about ready to reach down and rip the speculum out. I’m getting claustrophobic. The nurse who has pronounced my name wrong EVERY TIME WE’VE MET is just looking at her nails. Oh god.
Little jars – the same kind you leave pee samples in – are sitting on the rolling table filled with bloody solution and little pieces of my DNA.
It will be over in a second, the doctor says. Don’t you wish you were at that beach?
They’ve taped a photo of an ocean on the ceiling. I couldn’t think of anything more patronizing.
She finally pulls the speculum out of me. Where these dirty speculums go, I’ll never know. Somewhere, off in a room, down a chute, a pile of speculums.
They leave me alone with the jars of floating blood goop. I feel dizzy, disassociated, nauseous.
Regular pap smears are critical to determine whether or not you have HPV. About 79 million Americans currently have HPV, and it’s so common that most sexually active people will get it at least once. If you have HPV and if the cells look abnormal, you may need to have a really unpleasant procedure to make sure everything is okay. If the pap smear looks at the very outer layer of your cervix, the colposcopy looks just a little deeper to get a better idea of why that pap came back abnormal. In all likelihood, everything is fine. If you do have HPV, it will likely go away on it’s own. Men who get HPV will never develop symptoms. There are no HPV tests for men. Learn more about HPV and the HPV vaccine at cdc.gov.