My Cone Biopsy and Dancing Into The Night
After almost four years in Los Angeles, I had done what any sensible girl had done: I had obtained a bachelor’s degree, done some waitressing and bartending, gotten a nose job, been a fully clothed background extra in a porno (which never got released, so don’t even open that tab on your browser), became a stripper, and done some private fetish work on Craig’s List.
No big deal.
After LA had finished feeding off my soul and I had no more left to give, I moved away. Far away. Unfortunately, I did not have the sense to move to a place where no one knew my face and name. I moved back to where I grew up, and I tried to believe things might be better.
As typically happened when I would go back home, I found a boyfriend almost immediately. I don’t say that to be cocky, but to show the stark difference between Los Angeles and basically every other place in the populated world.
Anyone who has lived in LA knows that it is its own little microcosm of narcissism and insanity. You do insane things (which you legitimately think are a great idea at the time) for your own benefit, and no one else’s. Everything you’re doing is typically centered on survival or trying to get ahead.
I was single during the entire period I lived in LA, and would date people here and there. Even if I was dating someone for a lengthy period of time, I was still only “dating” them. Then, I would stop talking to them. Nowadays, there’s a term for it: ghosting. But it was mutual. We would “ghost” each other.
Later, once I gained some objectivity, I realized that it was about space. People in LA are there for one purpose: cultivating themselves. They typically have no space in their minds/apartments/yoga schedules for anyone other than themselves, and dating someone takes up space. Unless they were forced to see that person every day, they could not make space for them.
Then, came the sex work.
Admittedly, I didn’t have intercourse with most of the men I serviced. While stripping, I repeatedly discovered that lots of customers wanted to pay for services that strippers couldn’t offer, even though it had nothing to do with lady parts touching man parts. For example: foot stuff, clothespin stuff, bondage stuff, roll-play him-in-diapers stuff — all while I stay fully clothed. I began to offer these services privately.
Remember: in LA you really think that what you’re doing at any given time is a great idea.
However, none of this changed the fact that over the course of four years in the city of Los Angeles I had dated and slept with more people than I ever had in my adult life, plus I had entered into the arena of sexual acts for the exchange of money. And although I couldn’t change any of that, I was proud I had come out (physically) unscathed, or so I had thought.
My first pap at a Planned Parenthood in my home state came back abnormal.
They performed my first colposcopy. One nurse carefully harvested the cells from my cervix while the other talked to me as a distraction. They were, as PP staff tend to be, the kindest people I could have asked for.
Shortly after that appointment, I got “real” insurance. I transferred to a local OBGYN practice. I surprised myself when I cried as I told her about my sex work, but described my sparse sexual contact with clients.
I had colposcopies done every six months, for at least two years. My new doctor had a very crafty way of doing her colposcopies, where she put the instrument close to my cervix, then asked me to give a strong cough. I gave her the cells, rather than her taking them from me. Then we were done. They said if test results reached a certain level, they would perform a small surgical procedure.
Eventually, the levels got high enough where they wanted to perform a cone biopsy, where a cone-shaped wedge is removed from my cervix to get rid of the offending tissue which is growing the stuff they don’t like. I was told that this could affect my ability to carry a pregnancy to term (because sometimes the structural integrity of your cervix is compromised), but the solution is often to sew up the end of the cervix during the latter months of the pregnancy, and then they un-stitch it when you’re ready to deliver. No one was that stressed out about it.
It was divulged to me that these abnormal cells were likely HPV. We were removing them because there was a risk of them becoming cervical cancer. Testing for whether or not they were HPV was a waste of everyone’s time because, as they said, it really doesn’t matter. HPV is so prevalent in the US population, and it’s not testable in men, that they don’t really give a crap where it comes from or who has it at this point. What they’re focusing on is vaccinations and getting rid of the risk at the source. I was too old for the vaccine, but your daughters and sons are not.
The biggest question I had was if my boyfriend (remember him from earlier?) had the strain of HPV which could have been causing my abnormal cell growth, could he simply pass it back to me once it had been removed? Or was I already immune?
They appreciated the question, and said that even if he had what I had, I couldn’t re-acquire when they were removing.
That boyfriend. Let’s talk about him for a minute.
While I was preparing for my cone biopsy appointment — a rather simple outpatient procedure which required anesthesia, a couple days of downtime and pain medication — he said to me that it was obvious that if he had the same strain of HPV that was likely causing the cell growth on my cervix, that I had clearly given it to him, and not the other way around. Also, that it was ridiculous that he may have contracted it from one of his previous 6 partners.
Considering that the CDC says that “HPV is so common that most sexually-active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives,” it was not such a far-fetched idea that he may independently have a form of the virus on his own, and me on my own, or maybe he passed it to me.
However, considering my past, he immediately put himself above me and assumed I was the one and only carrier in our relationship. There was no other option.
He also did not want to come in with me or stay with me when he dropped me off at my appointment. He only stayed because the nurse staff began to speak to him as if they expected him to stay… since that’s what most partners do.
We’re not together anymore.
After my procedure, the nurse who presented my discharge paperwork told me no less than 8 times that I should not put anything in my vagina. Not tampons, not my fingers, not my boyfriend, not toys, not anything. Like, nothing. I said, “Do you, by any chance, have problems with patients not following that instruction?” She looked at me.
Two days after my procedure, I attended a city event in my local area. I met my friends out late at night. My boyfriend stayed home. I was feeling okay, but not fabulous. I went and got a drink.
A friend of a friend started aggressively hitting on me. I did not know this guy, but it was clear he was looking for someone (or something) to sleep with that night, and he was willing to take the shortest avenue to get there as humanly possible. He was informed by multiple parties that I was unavailable. He ignored them and didn’t give up.
I danced. He danced with me. He danced closer to me. I kept dancing.
I didn’t feel so good. I danced slower. I told him I’d had a medical procedure a few days before. He said, “Oh, that’s interesting,” and kept dancing.
I made eyes at a friend of mine and headed towards the bar. He asked if I wanted him to keep the desperate guy away from me. I said I thought I’d be okay. If anything was going to keep me from dancing, it was going to be own post-op body and mild pain. Not the obnoxious guy grinding into my thigh.
And so it was. I danced, he danced near me. Then nearer. Then I gently pushed him away. When he asked for my information later, I told him I had no reason to give him my number. I don’t cheat on my boyfriend. He asked if he could find me on Facebook. I said, “Sure!” and promptly rejected his friend request.
I also told him I wasn’t allowed to put anything in my vagina. Like, nothing. That seemed to catch his attention, and he (mostly) moved on.
- My paps have come back fine for the past several years since the biopsy. I am now back to annual visits. My doctor, as per usual, is a rock star.
- I owe the team at Planned Parenthood an awful lot for delivering not-so-great news to me, a newly retired sex worker, and then treating me with care and compassion as they did the preventative work of scrapping some evil cells from my cervix. Then, they happily passed me off to what many people might call a “real” doctor’s office. The folks at PP are real doctors, and we should treat them as such.
- I am currently with a far more understanding and compassionate partner, who doesn’t see me as a liability.
- I learned I can have a tiny stitch put in my cervix while pregnant. Creepy.
- According to my dad, my mom had a cone biopsy when she was younger, and before she got pregnant. So… hooray for traditions?
I was inspired to write this piece after reading A Somewhat Meandering Story About My Leep Procedure by Devon Henry, who shared that September was Gynocologic Cancer Awareness Month. Recognition and thanks should also be given to Abby Norman , who created and maintains Ask Me About My Uterus, a space to talk about, share and ask questions pertaining to women’s health and health topics.