Kristal

This site is about my experience with cervical dysplasia, as well as anything else I might feel like discussing!


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Calgary Expo 2014- Inspirational

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Whether it comes as a surprise or not, I’m a huge science fiction fan.  I was introduced to the genre in my teens and since then, the majority of my reading and tv viewing comes from sci-fi/fantasy.  So instead of my usual one day pass, I ended up spending the whole weekend at the Calgary Expo, because of a good friend’s generosity.  Probably the most amazing part of the Expo was listening to some women who really inspired me or made me feel more normal, and it got me thinking about how the strongest role models seem to come from sci-fi/fantasy or horror.  Now,  from the start, I will agree that both men and women are objectified and misunderstood, but for today I am going to focus more on strong female role models as it’s more relevant to my blog.

Felicia Day

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I don’t know her work very well, but I am aware of her work on The Guild, and as the face of women in geek/gaming culture.   Felicia Day was my first panel on Sunday, and she didn’t disappoint in any way.  She was warm, funny, kind, and  like me, she is a little neurotic (her own words).  You could see that she can become quite anxious and overwhelmed with ideas and requests, to the point of panic, and it’s something that many pass off as annoying, or something that should be easily changed.  She showed the audience that you can function at a high level and be highly successful in any field, even if you suffer from anxiety.  This isn’t the only reason why I consider her a strong role model  in general, but it was her response to the “outcry” about cutting her long hair to a short pixie cut.  I had heard about this while surfing various genre sites that I follow, as people were very upset she had “changed” her outward appearance so much, and that now she somehow didn’t fit into the stereotypical view of women in or interested in science fiction.  It’s obvious that appearance shouldn’t matter compared to ones work, but her response to the haters was both mature and to the point.  She told the crowd that it hurts when you feel you are only valued (or conversely devalued) for your looks, and not what you’ve contributed to the world, as it leaves you feeling superficial, marginalized, and very unappreciated.   Everyone can have their opinion of what you like and don’t like, but to say someone has lost all relevancy and credibility due to something as fleeting as hair?!?!  I got the impression from what she said that she doesn’t listen to these people, but when you are neurotic, thoughts like these bubble up when you are feeling most vulnerable, or when you aren’t trusting yourself.  It really can eat away at you. Neurotic or not, things like this just shouldn’t be uttered.

Sigourney

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The last panel of the weekend was Sigourney Weaver.  She has been a favorite actress of mine for some time, and someone I’ve admired for her convictions, talent, and charity work.  She was probably the most inspiring woman I have ever had the pleasure to hear speak.  Most of the panel dealt with the Alien series, and that’s not a bad thing, as Ripley is also a very interesting role model for women.  It was brought up a few times that they are both a contrast of strong, independent, and fierce women, who also contain a tender, loving, and protective side at the same time.  Women are often portrayed as either fierce and strong, or tender and loving, they are never a mix of emotions or behaviors, and they end up not really realistic.  Really, everyone on this planet is a mix of contrasting elements, but we are made to feel guilty if we exhibit any traits not tied to our gender.   As a woman, if you are strong, ambitious, and independent, you are more often considered a bitch, or you are viewed by others that you can’t be a kind caring person, one who will never find love.  Of course, we don’t have to accept this pigeonhole, but it’s hard to not have it affect you mentally and emotionally over time, and have it break you down slowly over time.

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Overall, this weekend was great.  I was expecting a fun time of looking at the cosplay and perusing all the vendors.  Not only did I get to do all that and spend time with good friends, but I got to be a bit inspired! The whole weekend reminded how much I love science fiction in books and movies, and  how much it has taught me about myself and how I relate to other people. Of course there are more examples of great women actors in the genre, like Kathy Bates, and overall, I find it one of the best areas for anyone to read as it serves to expand ones mind.

If you haven’t experienced The Guild, or any of Sigourney’s body of work, do so, you won’t be disappointed.

P.S- this is a bit of a departure in writing for me, so feedback would be gladly appreciated 🙂


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One week

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I know we say this all the time, but I have no idea where the time has gone.  My first follow up is next week on May 2nd, early in the morning.  I’m telling myself I will be ok, but my attitude lately says that I’m buying none of this bs.  I’ve been a bit up and down with my emotions, lacking sleep, and been falling into multiple depressive episodes…hell, I am probably just depressed.  I only seem to be happy when I am around certain friends, as they can distract me from myself, which is pretty consistent with depression. 

Looking back, these past six months have been somewhat comforting, which is odd, as I don’t like unknown situations, ambiguity, or being uninformed, but in this situation I am happy to not know a damn thing.  There is a comfort in being a bit ignorant, because next week, good or bad, I will have more information.  And even more when the test results come back at the end of May. Of course everyone I know hopes the results are good….but what if it’s not?  What if I have to start  this whole circus again?  What if I have to stay as a patient at this clinic for years?  What if things have progressed even further?  So you can see why not knowing is a comfort to me, it reduces my anxiety.  I know I am luckier than most people who deal with these kinds of situations, and I try to remind myself of that fact daily, but every detail of next week’s appointment still weighs on me heavily.

What’s even scarier, is that people would use this comfort zone to avoid their yearly paps, or their follow up colposcopies (if they are as unlucky as I am).  I read way too often of people who are not ashamed to admit they are avoiding going for a pap, as it is embarrassing, uncomfortable, or awkward.  I don’t even know if they realized how ridiculous that is, or how dangerous a game they are playing?!?  And that anyone thinks a world exists where people aren’t embarrassed on a regular basis? That seems ludicrous to me.  Avoiding paps has become a serious epidemic, and if my situation makes them rethink that idiocy, well then it makes suffering a little less horrible.  Even though I am terrified of next Friday, of course I’m going to go, avoiding the appointment would only make a bad situation much worse.  I’m also a huge fan of “everyday bravery”, and this is a prime example of that concept, which is in contrast to my weekend exceptional bravery of Grizzly Bear fights, cliff diving, and  drag racing 😉

Side note: you can’t fix things for someone who is depressed, you can only try to be there for them.  It’s the hardest job in the world to just listen to someone, and really just sit and say very little back. Be prepared that if you offer a bit of kindness, or lend an ear, it may open a bit of a flood gate, but no one should fear intense emotions.  To those who are depressed, remember, it is never shameful to ask for help, to take kindness when offered, or even ask someone to just come over and sit with you, above all, you need to do things that make you happy. 


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The Underwear Affair

I’ve mentioned previously that I would be participating in something called “The Underwear Affair” (June 7, 2014), which is an event to raise awareness and money for cancers that happen below the belt.  I’m not normally one to participate in a charity that is so huge, but I felt that there is a real lack of awareness for these cancers, and that lack of awareness needs to change.  I can’t tell you how many people I speak to who avoid seeing their doctor when they have bowel issues, or think pap smears are embarrassing and useless and won’t go.  I can’t imagine thinking this way as a pap smear saved my life.

My story

I went for a routine pap smear in January 2013.  It something I do regularly, and didn’t think about it at all.  That was until I got a phone call from my doctor’s office less than a week later, telling me there was abnormal results, and that I needed to see a clinic.  I again passed it off as nothing to concern myself about, abnormal results are fairly common, but when the clinic called a few hours after my doctor’s office…..I really began to panic.  I was told I needed to see them in about three weeks, as my results weren’t cancer, but they weren’t to be taken lightly either as they were abnormal glandular cells (AGUS).  Those weeks leading up to my first appointment were horrible.  I was so scared, and alone, cried all the time, but it was nothing compared to the weeks after the appointment. I won’t go into the deep depression I suffered for over a year, or the anxiety that was trying to drag me down, safe to say I was in a very dark and lonely place. At that first appointment, they found a cancerous lesion, and took three biopsies. Those were dark days waiting for my results, I can’t even really explain how messed up I was during that time.  I didn’t know if I would need chemo, and because of chemo put my life on hold, have all my reproductive organs taken out…basically I knew nothing and was scared about the future.  The results came back pre-cancerous stage one, and my colposcopist took a watch and wait approach.  This meant leaving the cells inside of me to see what they would do.  They got worse, very rapidly progressing to stage two,  and by my next set of biopsies in Septebmer 2013 the decision was made to remove part of my cervix.  That happened in November 2013, by way of a LEEP procedure.  I will go for my first follow up in May, to see what’s happened since the LEEP.  Since January, I have felt like things are really improving, both physically and mentally for me, so I am very hopeful of the results from my follow up.

Why I am participating

I am participating in the Underwear Affair because I want to change the perceptions that people have about cancer and pre-cancer’s that are below the belt, so anal, cervical, ovarian, prostate, just to name a few. There is a lot of stigma attached to these cancers, as they happen in “awkward” areas,  and there shouldn’t be any reason to be offended by them.  I would like to see people stop questioning a cervical cancer patient’s sexual history, and stop slandering these women, as you can get HPV from just one sexual encounter.  I want my friend who has just had surgery for anal cancer not to feel embarrassed when speaking about his condition, when he has no reason to be embarrassed.  This shame and stigma really affects our mental health and overall well-being.  Overall, I want people to stop judging and just listen, as that is the best thing anyone can do.  No one can fix our problems, except the medical team, and even their skills are limited.

Thank you for listening, and if you are so inclined, please see below for the link to my donation page.  Any donation is greatly appreciated.

Team: The Lady Bits

 


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Protection

Today something interesting happened.  I was seeing my massage therapist, the first time in over a year, and she immediately knew something was wrong with me.  She noticed that I was hunching my shoulders (mentioning I looked a bit like a linebacker, and that I was protecting my core.  When I mentioned the LEEP procedure I had, and the year of testing in my abdomen, it all made sense to her.  I was protecting myself.

I guess it should really come as no surprise to me, as I have done this kind of protection before.  I’m very aware of how I favor my right leg, ever since the knee fracture and surgery to repair the damage.  The key here is that I am aware though, and I always have been, right from the moment I was allowed to try walking again.  And I didn’t allow myself to put more strain on the opposite side of my body.

I wonder again if this is something that comes from the vulnerability you feel from gynaecological issues?  Maybe it’s feeling so small and scared of what’s happening in your body, that you begin to slowly close up inside?  The big C word?  Who knows.  All I know is that I was not aware that I felt I needed to protect such a specific part of myself from the world.  I’m highly self aware, and yet something so important about my body escaped me. I think it’s this line of research, a more mental component that really needs to be researched.  I can’t imagine that I am the only woman who acts this way after going through dysplasia, and I would bet it’s even worse in those who went through cancer treatments.


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I’m not sure what’s more important….

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…protecting myself from life, or actually living.  There are two really difficult parts of going through major trauma or illness.  One, is trusting that you can actually be a part of life, and the second is trying to control your depressive tendencies, and focus on more positive things.  Life doesn’t happen when you are ready for it, and especially not when you are prepared for it. For about a year I put my life on hold, even though the medical staff told me to live like I normally would.  But how can you not put your life on hold, or hide from the world when things get rough?  How can you just move on knowing that at any moment the doctors may come back with something far worse?  Well, you just have to, otherwise you are stagnating.  Since January, I’ve felt like maybe I can move on, and that is in large part to the ladies at the support group, who are an example to participating in life even when it seems like a waste of time.  I see them living with far worse situations (and realistically I know they are likely as broken inside as me), but they are bravely accepting their situation and trusting in good things.  It’s really all we can do, any of us, is live.  Is this easy?  No, of course it’s not, but as I said earlier, life doesn’t wait for you to be ready, and life isn’t inherently good or bad, it just is.

Ideas like this scare me, being normal scares me sometimes….. Trusting that I am making good decisions, and taking care of myself……doing what I need to do at any given moment, and just being normal.  That word comes up a lot in the support group, “normal”, like it’s something that is actually defined and real, like any of us know what that really is, normal.  I keep being told I am normal, that I react to life like anyone else would, but my lack of trust is strongest with myself, so I am not sure I believe the ladies when they tell me I’m okay.  I find it difficult to be vulnerable with others, though I am trying to accept that no one is really out to hurt me,  and that I need to put myself out there to the world, accept that I may get hurt from time to time.  I guess maybe that is normal…..

Farley

The above picture is of Farley, he was diagnosed with cancer in his hip and was given six months to live, he is now at two years.  He doesn’t know that he should be sad, angry, or curse the world for his misfortune.  He just knows he was once in pain, and now isn’t, and lives in the moment.  We can say it’s because he’s a dog and doesn’t know better, but it’s also maybe a lesson that we can all learn, to accept life and change our attitude in response to it.  Easier said than done, but being negative doesn’t really help any situation I’ve been involved in to be honest.  Sometimes you have to accept the bad situation you are in, and try and find the good around you to get through it, and trust that….well, just trust in general that life isn’t out to get you.