Cervivors Sharing Awkward Moments

Today is National Awkward Moments day, lets take a look at some awkward moments that have taken place in an OB-GYN office.

Talking to women one of the least favorite places they want to voluntarily go is to the OB-GYN.  The entire experience can be awkward.  The typical way that it goes is walk in, wait and look around at all the other women you know are going back to do the same thing:  have their vaginas inspected.  Your name is called, and you do the norm:  get your vitals taken, get weighed, and go through your normal medical history.   Up next it is time to get undressed from the bottom half down and put that “sheet,” a paper piece that resembles a sheet, over your bottom half to cover you.  Then, it is time to wait.  Wait and look around.  You might see a model of a uterus with all the anatomically correct pieces.  You might see posters about a variety of things; safe sex is a poster which is usually there and hopefully you will see an educational poster about HPV in the room you are sitting in.

As you sit there you think about all the things that you’d rather be doing, and the list is LONG because it is essentially any place other than your OB-GYN.  Ladies – it is important to know that sitting in that uncomfortable sheet waiting for your annual exam, Pap test, and/or HPV test can actually save your life.  The Pap test is developed as a screening tool for cervical cancer; the HPV test is developed to determine if you have the high-risk strands of HPV which are linked to cancer.  These tests can help save your life.  They can lead to early detection, treatment, and removal of pre-cancerous cells.  However, it doesn’t mean it will never be awkward.  Erica Frazier Stum interviewed some Cervivors to see what type of awkward experiences happened related to cervical cancer.

Cervivor Carolann shared with us her experiences prior to her cervical cancer diagnosis.  She had seen doctors on multiple occasions due to discharge. She was told time and time again that the discharge was okay as long as it was clear and scent free.  Eventually she was having to wear pads everyday just to cope with the discharge.  Years later she was diagnosed with cervical cancer adenocarcinoma, which is a cancer that grows from the top of the cervix (near the uterus) down into the vagina.  Her diagnosis wasn’t without an awkward moment either!  She went in to see her gynecologist thinking that she was having a routine appointment and the she heard “I have some unexpected news.”  Carolann immediately said “You better not tell me I’m pregnant!” What followed was an awkward moment of silence and the doctor said, “Um no, you have cancer.”  Imagine the swing of feelings in that room!

Cervivor Paula was diagnosed with carcinoma in situ (CIS); due to this diagnosis she had to have a procedure called a cold knife cone biopsy.  At her follow up appointment, she was cleared to go back to life as normal:  exercising, sexual intercourse, and trying to conceive a child.  It was her first time on the treadmill that an exceptionally awkward moment happened.  She was just starting to walk at the gym and warm up when she was increasing her speed on the treadmill she started getting cramps.  Those cramps went from nothing to unbearable in a matter of seconds.  She describes her awkward experience as being like she was in a slow-motion scene of a movie with everyone staring at her as she hunched her way out of the gym.  After visiting with another doctor, it turns out her original advice was not accurate.  She would now be waiting months to go back to her full exercise regimen, sex, and trying to conceive.

Reading through the comments of things that women heard or have said in the ob-gyn office or gynecologic oncologist office is like a strand of awkward moments; some of these quotes really stand out:

  • How’s your vagina today?
  • Watch out – don’t kick me now!
  • It is okay to have sex during radiation, you won’t be a glow worm.
  • So, here is your dilator. You can make it as fun as you’d like.
  • Everything is looking great under the sheet!
  • So, how has your sex life been since treatment?
Erica in 2012 when she was going through her initial exams which led to her cervical cancer diagnosis.

I also would be remiss if I didn’t tell an awkward story from my own time in the ob-gyn office pre-cancer diagnosis.  I headed in for a checkup and the light, you know the light, the light that has to point directly at your lady business wasn’t working.  The nurse practitioner was not phased, after a quick comment about them needing to replace that light someone pulled out a cell phone just to use that light and check me out.  As if that situation couldn’t get more awkward the light was stuck on strobe.  It was literally like my vagina was at a rave.  I still laugh about it now, that is how ridiculous it was.

However, we would all go through these awkward moments again and encourage you to go in and see your doctor for your annual exam!  Ask if it is time for a Pap and/or HPV test.  Also, remember that any change in your body means you should call your doctor.  If your doctor dismisses that change – find another doctor.

 

Erica Frazier Stum is a 5 year cervical cancer thriver who is living her life with cancer.  Erica is the Lead Cervivor Ambassador, an author, and she continues to advocate for awareness related to cervical cancer and clinical trials.  Read more about her story here:  www.cervivor.org/erica

 

 

“We’re In!”

I started treatment for cervical cancer in spring of 2016. One of the first things I did was start searching for those with my cancer. When I found Cervivor, I immediately knew it was special.  It was a sisterhood of survivors, but they were also advocates! Cervivor was dedicated to eradicating our cancer. It wasn’t just a group of women looking for support, but it was a group of women who had been through it and were DOING something! I like to say that joining Cervivor and being trained at Cervivor School has given me advocacy wings.  I have had many opportunities both in my community and on the national level to participate in events as a Cervivor Ambassador. Most recently I was asked to represent our organization at the National HPV Vaccination Roundtable, in Atlanta. I had interacted on the Roundtable’s Facebook page, and felt like I had working knowledge of the collaboration. They are about stopping HPV…sign me up!

The Roundtable meeting began with a lunch. I arrived alongside Tamika Felder, Cervivor’s founder. The first thing I noticed was that we could hardly get to a spot at a table because everyone was wanting to speak with Tamika. They would greet her, as lifelong friends. Many of them had questions about Cervivor and other projects Tamika has in the works. Attendees were quickly inquiring about me and my role. They were interested in me as a Cervivor Ambassador and very excited to meet an HPV cancer survivor. I began to realize what it meant to be at this meeting. These were the countries top doctors, healthcare professionals, and researchers who had worked in this space for years! These were representatives from other organizations, our (Cervivor’s) partners in eradicating HPV and HPV related cancers! Tamika and Cervivor had been part of this collaborative group since it’s inception! I was so proud to be a part of a cancer nonprofit that is so well respected in this space. It further affirmed my initial feeling that when I found Cervivor, I found something special.

“Empowering Parents and Allies” task group

The meeting was an exciting two days packed with a lot of information and a lot of work! Each organization that is part of the Roundtable sends at least one representative. Those representatives are broken into task groups of their choosing. The task groups are just that, groups with an assigned task to help advance vaccination rates in the U.S. and spread awareness, education, and facts about HPV and the vaccine. The public educator in me was drawn to the “Empowering Parents and Allies” task group, as reaching families with knowledge is at the heart of many things I do. Most of the first day was spent in our task groups, reviewing previous work and annual goals, as well as setting new goals and collaborating with other task teams that may be partner groups in reaching these milestones. Our first evening was full of dinner presentations with updates from each task group and a celebration of the hard work and victories achieved by the Roundtable throughout the year.

The second day of the meeting was just as full. Each moment was packed with presentations from medical teams who are on the front line of vaccinating in the family practice setting, to panel discussions from research scientists on how the social media statistics can work in favor of our messaging. We had a working “Jeffersonian Lunch,” ensuring that time was purposeful and well spent. Every second was full of collaboration, information, and getting to the center of how we can change the HPV vaccination narrative in our country and strive to significantly reduce HPV cancer rates.To be honest there was so much information, that I joked with one of the other attendees at our table about how absolutely full my brain was by the end of lunch on day two. It felt as though it could not hold one more piece of information, fact, or even tidbit. I had officially hit my limit and the “meeting glaze” took over. You know, the glaze you get when the presenter’s voice starts sounding like the Charlie Brown teacher?

It was an honor to work with such an amazing group of professionals. My eyes were opened and faces were given to the people who are diligently working to spread the truth about HPV and a vaccine that is cancer prevention. How exciting to see the position that Cervivor holds among the nations top scientists, doctors, and cancer organizations. We are part of that! We are on the front lines of eradicating HPV! Cervivor is right there, side by side, elbow to elbow! We are rolling up our sleeves and deep into the space of changing the narrative on this virus and educating the public on how acting now can impact generations to come! I was so proud to be a part of this National Roundtable, but I was even prouder to be representing Cervivor. We’re in!

 

Holly Lawson is a two year cervical cancer survivor. Cancer has left her with many challenges, including Chronic Kidney Disease, but she is fighting for her survivorship and currently training with the Ulman Cancer Fund in the Cancer to 5K Program. She is an active Cervivor Ambassdor, who is finding healing in advocacy and sharing her story.