They say ‘better safe than sorry” or like my mother tells me “Mujer prevenida vale por dos”. That phrase got stuck to my head since the first time I heard it and ever since I try to be very cautious, especially when it comes to my health.
When I became sexually active, I put that phrase into action. I remember when I didn’t feel comfortable with my mother coming to the doctor with me, I had to sneak out with my best friend and visit the gynecologist without our parents knowing. Obviously I didn’t want my mother to come, one because it was awkward and two because she didn’t know her daughter wasn’t a “virgin” anymore.
Even when I was keeping my biggest secret from my mother, I tried to be responsible and do what’s right for myself. I was honestly traumatized by all these stories I heard from friends in school, from unwanted prenancies to people getting sexual transmitted diseases.I made regular visits to the doctor and yearly tests (which I still do) to know that I was on the safe path.
Eventually my mother had to find out and I told her I was going to start taking birth control pills. I can only imagine all the things that went through her head “she is probably going to have sex out of control, that’s why she is going to take pills” but in reality that wasn’t the reason. In one of regular check-ups the doctor found cysts in my left ovary and in order to prevent it from growing I had to take birth control pills.
When I moved to NY, I knew I had to keep visiting the doctor like I regularly did. I’m glad I found a great doctor through a plan I enrolled at Columbia University’s Women’s Clinic.Since I found this place located in Washington Heights, I visit the doctor twice a year for regular check-ups and yearly tests. I have never had any type of issues until one day after a pap smear test I got a called from my doctor. She told me that irregular cells have been found and I needed to go under another procedure to see if these cells were cancerous cells. Of course, I was in shock and I freaked out. I called my mom and started crying, I was so afraid and I had only bad things going through my mind. From cancer to not being able to have kids, it was awful!
When I was calmer I called my doctor again, I asked her if the chances of me having cancer were high. To my good fortune, she said that they were irregular changes found in my cervix but in a minor level so they were going to do a colposcopy to find out what was going on. A couple of weeks later, I had my appointment for my colposcopy. I was seriously stressed and nervous but everyone was very nice and that gave me confidence that everything was going to be alright. Besides, I had my boyfriend waiting for me outside, giving me moral support.
The procedure was just exactly as I read it, and just like one of my friends explained me how it was going to be. No pain just discomfort but with a tad of anxiousness from my part. Doctors were speaking in their own language, which I didn’t understand that much but certainly I was exposed to a human papillomavirus that created an abnormality on my cells. No final result was given then, I had to wait at least one month for the result.
A month seemed like a long period to me so I started doing an extensive research on this topic .HPV is actually a common virus that most people get at some point in their lives, usually this virus doesn’t cause any symptoms so you can’t tell that you have it. There’s more than 40 types of HPV, some of them just go away with no need of treatment but in other cases, there are some that infect the genital areas or even worse, can lead to cervical cancer over time.
A month after, I went to my doctor’s appointment and I was very happy to hear that the HPV I was exposed to was one of those that doesn’t need treatment because my private areas weren’t infected, neither cancerous cells were found. I felt such a big relief after hearing these news and I was so happy to learn that everything was fine with me. The fact I regularly do check-ups helped a lot, if anything bad was found it was going to be caught just in time to start any treatment.
Knowing that I didn’t have cervical cancer was definitely a big eye opener. Although, just having the idea that there was a possibility that I could have been exposed to it, give me chills. I’m sharing this very personal experience with you because I believe everyone should be seriously concerned about their health. Women out there, please, be responsible enough with your body and go on regular check-ups to your doctor. Practice safe sex and get your pap smear test done yearly, as well as your AIDS/HIV tests. If you are younger, I recommend you to get the Gardasil vaccine, it’s to prevent getting HPV, specifically HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18 which are the worse. Men who are reading this, spread the word and take care of your significant other by advising her to visit the doctor on regular basis.
It’s CERVICAL CANCER AWARENESS MONTH and ever since this happened to me, I feel that I have the responsibility to spread the word and make other women conscious about this illness. Be smart, love yourself and be preventive, get yourself check now!
Ps: I participated last year in a Cervical Cancer Awareness Walk organized by Tamika & Friends, a non-profit organization founded by a survivor of cervical cancer. They support this great cause so if you want to learn more about it visit their website.