This past summer, I had a bit of a situation…
Doctor: “Your blood work and culture all came back negative. Your pap came back positive. We need you to come back in for further testing.”
Me: “Ummmm, ok. What exactly does that mean? Positive for ….”
Doctor: “Abnormal cells.”
I’ve never experienced a moment of terror and calm at the same time. WEIRDEST shit ever. I hung up the phone. Stared at the carpet floor in my office. Noticed I bit two nails clear off while I was talking to the doctor. I grabbed my cell phone and sent a text to my best friend.
Me: I just got a call from my doctor. My pap came back positive for abnormal cells.
BFF: (freak out and mom mode prose)
Me: On the bright side… I don’t have any stds.
BFF: Oh BFF, You just made me spit my water out…Until you know the next step, pretend you didn’t get the call. Life can change in an instant.
Me: It is what it is, right?
BFF: I’m totally not sure, us women never really talk about shit like this.
I cried a total of 5 times that day. Not ugly, sobbing, Marley and Me cry. The kind of cry that creeps up on you when you remember reading the story about the little boy who had cancer and inspired an entire town and then died. It was terrible. It was terrible because I didn’t fucking know what to do, how to feel, or what was going on. I could be perfectly fine, or something could be wrong. The logical, sensible and un-emotional part of me was saying, “God Mercedes, stop being so dramatic. Be in the moment. As far as you know, you’re fine.” You know, the un-compassionate, rub-some-dirt-on-it, self-talk that I’ve perfected. The emotional side of me wanted to start hyperventilating, Googling the shit out of “abnormal vagina cells” and go home and hide in bed until my next doctor’s appointment. And then my inner dialogue took over…
Me: “Well, I might as well get a dog. I read somewhere that dogs can prevent cancer.”
Me: “This is going to completely fuck up my life…”
Me: “If only Brandi started hawking GMO free and organic living on FB sooner.”
Me: “My stomach hurts. I think I might throw up. What if they got the samples mixed up? That happened to my friend and for like 4 days she thought she was pregnant.”
Me: “Maybe I should call and make sure. Stop it. Stop all of this. Just breathe.”
So I did. Aside from my boyfriend, I didn’t tell anyone else about the call. I went on with my day as if there was no chance in hell alien cells could be growing inside my girl parts. I went home, put on comfy clothes, laid in bed and watched 5 episodes of True Blood. And then I tried to sleep. Ha.
I felt alone. I felt scared. I felt tired. I felt like reaching my arms out and grasping something, anything. I sat there in my fear and I tried to pretend it wasn’t there. That didn’t work out so well. I threw up. My body felt like it was one huge charlie horse. And then I just let go. Maybe it was the lavender essential oil I rubbed all over my body or maybe my emotions had enough and just gave in, but I took a deep breath, hugged my pillow tight and sat with the fear.
When I woke up in the morning, I recalled what my BFF had said in her text:”…us women never really talk about shit like this”.
It got me thinking, what are we all so afraid of? Why do we beat ourselves up over experiencing fear, why do we shut ourselves out from comfort? Why can’t we just talk about the hard stuff? Why do I automatically always want to pretend things are ok when they aren’t and if by chance I do get “vulnerable” with someone I shrug it off with the “it is what it is” bullshit. Shouldn’t I just cry in front of friend and say, “fuck, I’m scared I have cancer and might die.”
I always had in my mind that if it was in the stars for me to have cancer grow in my body, I’d handle it with grace. I wasn’t really afraid of dying, maybe because I never really put that much thought into it. I figured I’d be at peace and know that whatever was happening was for a reason and that there would be no use in getting upset. That was until I sat on my aunts porch after her first chemo treatment and she said she was almost positive she couldn’t do another round and that she told God she was sorry but she didn’t have the strength, it was way too hard. Then I watched as my two cousins bodies writhed with anger, sadness and fear as they heard their mother confess that she just wanted to die. Talk about a life altering and sobering moment. I don’t think I breathed for two minutes. For some reason, as we all sat there in silence, I thought about when she came to visit me in the hospital after I tried committing suicide. That’s when I found out about her cancer. That woman looked at me with a big smile, hugged me and just sat next to me for two hours. There was no judgment, no asking me why…just love.
In this moment I couldn’t smile. The only thing I could do was hug her and my cousins and watch the tears well up in everyone’s eyes. I drove away that day feeling their pain, their fear and asking whatever celestial presence was out there to give her the strength to see this out.
Well, because of love, my aunt is still here. She gets to hold her two granddaughters, kiss her three daughters and fall asleep next to the man she loves every night.
Thanks to my vagina actin’ all weird on me and my aunts recent bout with cancer, I have a new appreciation for vulnerability even when it’s wildly uncomfortable and allowing myself to be real, raw and scared out of my fucking mind and not be afraid to let someone know. Because life isn’t about pretending to hold everything together when you’re falling apart. It’s having the strength to fall apart and then rising as a better version of yourself when all is said and done.
PS I don’t have cancer, but a lot of other people do…support cancer research and smile at strangers. You never know if they or someone they love just got terrible news.