I am back in Michigan. If you’re counting, that’s three trips to my home state in three months. Never have I lived abroad and been back this much. And I gotta say, Algeria is not so close to the United States; it’s a long trip. But this time, there’s good news…
I left Algiers on Monday. The drill is familiar now: A COVID test at the embassy, and then off to the airport. I had a layover in Paris, and normally that would mean I get to go and stay with my friend Sarah in her glamorous Parisian apartment and drink wine and eat cheese. But France’s lockdown is serious right now, and so only French citizens were allowed to leave the CDG airport. And I had a 22 hour layover! I made the most of it by checking into a teensy room at the airport’s transit hotel, tracking down a cheese and wine takeaway dinner in a faraway gate, getting an okay night of sleep, and in the morning, going for a run and doing an Aaptiv legs workout in an eerily-deserted airport. I felt a little weird doing a workout in an airport, but airports are so different during these pandemic times, who even knows what the rules are anymore? Also: I was heading back to have another surgery that would put me out of workout commission for a little while. In the seven weeks since my last surgery, I’ve gotten in to a really good workout groove and I wanted to get in as much sweating and muscle-building as I could knowing I’d have to take a haitus from a daily workout. Plus, as I was about to be sitting for 9 hours on a transatlantic flight, a workout – even if I looked like a fitness-obsessed weirdo – seemed like a good move. Also fun: A French friend from Algiers was passing through at the same time, so we had a quick champagne toast on an Air France check-in counter before she caught her flight.
I arrived in Detroit on Tuesday evening, and had another cold knife cone biopsy of my cervix on Wednesday. This second surgery – which was the same procedure I already had back in late January – was meant to cut off more of my cervix as the last surgery found pre-cancerous cells. The surgery went totally fine. General anesthesia is so weird. Just one minute you’re there, and the next minute you’re back there, only things have happened in what seems like no time at all. I went back home, was in a bit of pain on that first night, but since then have felt fine. My doctor called on late Friday afternoon to tell me that there was “no disease of any kind” found in my biopsy. It’s the best possible news. So, either that first pathology report of adenocarcinoma, aka cancer, from my December pap test was an “over-read” or there were indeed cancerous cells but the last procedure, both the slicing and the subsequent cauterizing, eliminated those. I suppose I won’t dwell on whether all this was necessary – the stress, the two additional trips back to Michigan, the two invasive surgeries – and just focus on one thing: I don’t have cancer. I don’t need a hysterectomy. I will have a pap smear in a year to monitor the sitch. Now I feel like I can just move on with life, not worrying about whether there are invasive cells multiplying inside of me. It’s a big relief.
Since the time that I’ve shared my story here on my blog, I have gotten so many messages from women of all ages telling me they went through something very similar. HPV, abnormal pap results, suspected cancer, subsequent procedures or surgeries to remove bad cells, stressful waiting for biopsy results. These things are so common. I think they’re not discussed more openly because HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, albeit a VERY common one (as in most people who have sex will get HPV in their lifetime). I am struck by how much stress and many uncomfortable/painful procedures and sometimes cervical cancer diagnoses, stems from a stupidly common virus. One last push: Get regular gynecological exams, pap smears, and HPV tests. Get the HPV vaccine if you qualify.
I have a follow-up appointment in two weeks, so I’ll stay Michigan until then. Spring and its associated metaphors are starting to reveal themselves. There are the faintest little buds are beginning to sprout on the trees and a few flower heads are poking up from the dirt. And now that my mind is at ease, it’ll be a relaxed time of hanging with family, hopefully seeing some friends, celebrating holidays like my dad’s birthday and Easter, eating all the foods I can’t get in Algeria (cheddar cheese, Mexican food, Brussels sprouts, crunchy kosher dill pickles, and so much more) and collecting said foods to pack and bring back to Algeria. Adam’s not with me on this trip, so I’ll miss him and our kitties (Gus and Boj and the outdoor stray who has claimed our house as his), and our Algiers home and garden. I’m also going to spend this time working in earnest on a new interior design venture that I’m excited about. More on that very soon.
Thanks for reading everyone, and for sharing in my big sigh of relief,