posted by meowser
So. The day after I posted last, I had an appointment to see my doctor to do a Pap smear so I could get my Mircette. Only a funny thing happened on my way to the drugstore: He didn’t like the looks of my cervix.
Now, my doctor is not the kind of person to freak out about nothing. This is a guy, after all, who when I mentioned proactively that I’d gained some weight on Remeron, just shrugged and said, “Yeah, that causes the most weight gain of all the antidepressants.” So if he didn’t like the looks of my cervix, I couldn’t imagine what could possibly be wrong with it. I used to be the kind of person who owned her own speculum and looked at her cervix every month, but I’ve moved so many times in adulthood that I couldn’t possibly tell you when the last time was I saw that damn speculum. Somewhere between L.A. and Bakersfield, I lost it. Therefore, I had no idea what my cervix was “supposed” to look like now, not having actually seen it in over a decade.
He said my cervix was “friable”; that is, it bled easily to touch. He would send the Pap out, but he also wanted me to go for a colposcopy (an exam where they stain the cervix and look at it microscopically) at my gyno’s office. I’m just at the age when deaths from natural causes start to become statistically significant, although not nearly as much so as after age 65. Plus I’ve typed and edited thousands of medical reports in my life, in every health care discipline there is; I know perfectly well you can be “healthy” one minute and terminally ill (or at least having a life-threatening health issue) the next, and not have any symptoms to tip you off that you’ve gone over the line. (Which is one reason the epi-panickers blowing a gasket about people being “unhealthy” just makes me kind of snortlaugh to the point of sinus pain; in the vast majority of people, you SO can’t tell by looking.)
So of course, my first thought was yikes, cervical cancer. Which actually has a very high rate of survival, because it grows very slowly, and usually doesn’t even require chemo and radiation unless you have a very advanced case or you are one of the very few women with adenocarcinoma of the cervix rather than the far more common squamous cell type. (And it’s thought to be caused by a virus spread by sexual contact — human papillomavirus, or HPV — so, completely unrelated to fat.) At worst, then, I was looking at some unpleasant surgery, that’s about it. And also I had a urinary tract infection, my first, oh joyous Noel. So I got antibiotics plus some Diflucan to ward off yeast infection. But I was hardly even thinking about that. The doctor said if there were any cancer cells they’d probably show up on the Pap, and thus began what felt like the longest week of my life: waiting for the Pap results to come back. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die.
I ask you, does this sound like the mental contents of a self-destructive person? A fatty who just wants to eat herself to death? Why would I take the fucking Remeron in the first place if I just wanted to slip away into nothingness? It would have been so easy to do. Instead, here I am taking the fucking Remeron, getting fatter, and hoping desperately that I don’t have the big C.
So I scheduled the colposcopy, which he wanted me to have even if the Pap was negative. Oh, and while I was at it, I scheduled that mammogram too, for the day after the colpo. Might as well get all my health scares over with at once, I figured.
And then I missed my period. For the first time ever. I’d had late periods before I was on birth control pills, but never, ever did I miss one. But that Saturday, when I’d normally get it, I had one or two tiny little red streaks, and that was it. I’m going to die, and I’m pregnant at age forty-fucking-five. And we haven’t even gotten to how diseased my boobs are yet.
The net result of this is, I set my digestive tract on fire. I gagged on and then vomited up my Bactrim. (Why do they have to make such giant uncoated horsepills out of the stuff, anyway?) I couldn’t eat anything but soup. C. mentioned ordering a pizza, and my colon screamed, “NO! DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.” When the very thought of cheese makes me gag, I know I’m ill. Raw vegetables were out. Citrus fruit was out. I hiccuped like a cartoon stork and farted hard enough to blast me clean out of my chair and on to the floor. Gastritis. I haz it.
Anyway, the bottom line was, everything turned out to be negative. The Pap was totally negative, which my doctor said “surprised” him, given the frightening appearance of my cervix. They gave me a pregnancy test too. Negative. The labs were all negative. Even my cholesterol was better. The only thing wrong was my vitamin D level, which, as with almost everyone who lives in this part of the country, was too low. The colposcopy turned up nothing but some inflammatory changes which my gyno said were probably from a series of yeast infections. Nothing cancerous. Nothing pre-cancerous. She didn’t even want a biopsy. Whew. She said, “You kind of have to take what he says with a grain of salt when he does a Pap smear. He might do one every couple of months; I do several every day. He doesn’t know cervixes the way I do.” The missed period, she said, probably signaled the start of perimenopause, although it’s possible I could get periods on and off for the next decade, and you’re not technically considered to be in menopause until you’ve had no periods at all for a year. I think I’m going to her for my next Pap.
The mammo wasn’t that bad either. As it turns out, my boobs flatten out pretty easily, so they didn’t need to take multiple pictures. The side views were kind of pinchy, but only for a few seconds. And today I got the results of that. Negative.
Yay, negative. Everything negative. Blood oranges, here I come.
The only problem I still have left is this damn UTI. Two rounds of antibiotics and I can’t get rid of it. I’m on the home remedies now — cranberry juice, and cream of tartar dissolved in water, the latter of which tastes kind of like flat Alka-Seltzer. If that doesn’t work, I’ll have to go get a urine culture and more targeted meds.
But really, with all the freaking out about fat in the media, one thing you don’t see all that much people freaking out about that they should be freaking out about is antibiotic abuse. For decades, in Western society, we’ve taken antibiotics, or given them to our kids, for every little thing. People get a cold and they want antibiotics for it; this story, by Dr. Dean Edell via KGO-TV, quotes an ER physician as saying “doctors write for antibiotics over 40 percent of the time when someone comes to them with a cold.” That is just ridiculous. This piece (and another of Dr. Edell’s about antibiotic abuse) puts the focus on the danger to the individual patient of taking unnecessary antibiotics (i.e. if you take them when you don’t really need them, they won’t work so hot when you do really need them).
But Dr. Edell, in his book Eat, Drink, & Be Merry: America’s Doctor Tells You Why the Health Experts are Wrong, goes even further in describing why this is dangerous: People swilling antibiotics at random creates strains of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, which then go on to infect other people. Given that sepsis (infection that spreads to the blood) is an extremely common and very debilitating problem for people over 65, especially, if Obama et al really want to reduce Medicare costs, that seems to be what they should be concentrating their efforts on, not hounding people to lose weight. Some bouts of sepsis can cost people serious poundage; when you get that sick that you can’t keep anything down for months, you’ll be glad to have the padding to spare.
So I beg of you, don’t beg your doctor for antibiotics. Ever. If s/he thinks you really need them, s/he will say so. Unless, of course, you have a complete assbag of a practitioner on your hands who thinks your abscess will go away if you diet.