Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Public Service Announcement from my OB/GYN


Bloggers will blog about the most personal things going on in their lives and just to prove it I’m going to tell you all about an appointment I had this week for “down there”---my first since I turned 65 when I was told I no longer needed them because I didn’t have any of the risk factors for developing the HIV or HPV viruses. The HIV and HPV cells are what the PAP smear looks for because they can turn cancerous. What was the Litmus Test I passed for stopping the PAP smears besides having a birthday? I’d had three clear Pap tests in the previous ten years, did not have multiple sex partners and I wasn’t exposed to the drug, diethylstilbestrol (DES) back in my past to prevent pregnancy complications. None of that stuff has changed since I turned 65, still it’s been weighing on my mind since my friend started chemo treatments for cervical cancer that I’ve been ignoring something “down there” for a year and a half. Not a common sign of cancer but still in the realm of a possibilities and darn embarrassing to discuss with doctors. Okay, this is going to get graphic soon so consider this to be a PSA to all the ladies out there who ignore things you shouldn't and/or you build them up in your mind to be a worst case scenario.

Women gynecologists are sure different than men gynecologists, aren’t they. This was the first female I’ve ever seen for “down there.” Instead of having me wait with my feet in the stirrups, barely covered with a paper gown, ready for a doctor to come in and stick his nose “down there” this female doctor’s nurse had me wait sitting on the end of the exam table in a clothe gown big enough for two of me. When the doctor came in she asked about my sexual history since my last PAP smear, careful to point out that many viral infections such as human papillomavirus (HPV) which are known to cause cervical cancer can be transferred by lips and trading sex toys as well as through coitus. When I heard the word 'coitus' I thought of Sheldon on the Big Band Theory but I never thought I'd hear it used in real life. "Nope, no worries there," I told her. She explained that the results of my PAP smear and a biopsy on something I was guessing were genital warts would be back in two days and she outlined the next steps if they came back positive, negative or one of each. Genital warts can be cancerous, but I was more concerned that getting them removed would be #1 on my list of ‘The Most Embarrassing Things I Did This Summer.’

Oh, she also said if you get those viruses after 65 that they take so long to turn into cancerous cells that a woman would be died of other causes first. In other words---and the following words are mine, not hers---the medical community is willing to let older women die of cervical cancer in her 80s because we have to die from something and those PAP smear tests aren't cost effective for our insurance carriers if we acquire those viruses after 65.

Back to the stirrups... Within seconds of her having me lay back and bare myself “down there” she says, “You don’t have cancer. You don’t have genital warts. You have Cervical Milia. Benign, perfectly harmless stuff that only matters if you’re making your living as a porn star.” I couldn’t see “down there” but over the past year that didn’t stop me from consulting Dr. Google for images. At one point I thought about putting a new meaning to the term 'taking a selfie' so I could see what I could feel. I quickly nixed that idea for fear I’d accidentally send it out in mass to everyone in my address book. When I told the doctor that she said she’s had patients request she take a photo with their phones and she’ll do it with the stipulation that she can personally deleted it after the patient looks at it. I didn’t take the phone photo option so she pulled up some photos on her computer of Eyelid Milia. Apparently you can get them all over your body. They are cyst-like brown or white bumps---often found in clusters---caused when keratin or skin flakes becomes trapped under the skin. They won’t go away and if you go through the trouble, expense and pain of having them removed, they will probably come back.

The doctor didn’t even do the PAP smear because she said it wasn’t necessary, said she’s seen thousands of Cervical Milias and hundreds of Vulva Melanomas---say, what?!---and genital warts and I don't have the latter two. I couldn’t believe it. After fearing that appointment for nearly two months---a year, really---I was walking out without the damn PAP smear? She said if I had the Milia on my face I could start a regiment of micro-exfoliating scrubs to prevent more of them, but where they are located “down there” the only preventative thing I can do is to make sure my underwear isn’t too tight. (Could that be why some ladies like granny panties?) Wearing a pad 24/7 can also contribute to their formation. She could send me to a dermatologist, she said, who specializes in crud “down there” but I passed on that idea because I'm not a porn star who needs to look good "down there" and other than an undertaker and maybe a few people in the medical community before I go in the back door of a funeral parlor, no one is going to be looking “down there” again. 

But now I have another problem: what to title this post so that it doesn’t attract perverts and online escort services. That happens when you put certain words in the title line and first paragraph. I learned that lesson in reverse a long time ago when I took a mini course on how to get your internet content indexed higher in the search engines.

Did you learn anything new from my PSA or did I embarrass myself for nothing?   ©

41 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness. This is quite a post.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for talking about what women don't talk about!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When my friend was diagnosed with cervical cancer she didn't talk about that for a couple of months, even after having an operation it took her several weeks to say the words.

      Delete
  3. I haven't been to a gyn for several years (I am 61). I read a study from England that stated that Pap smears can cause more problems for older women. You know what? I have a sexually stable marriage for 35 years, my smears have never been a problem, I was lucky that my husband chose for me not to take birth control- so my hormones were never an issue, and I have NO background. I do have milia- a number of placed in my body. I do have fibroid tumors.Otherwise, I am happily living my life!
    Great!!!! article.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't know that a PAP smear can actually cause problems for older women but logically, I can understand it. Our skin thins out and is easier punctured. Happens with colonoscopies in older people more often than they care for us to know.

      I'm a member of the fibroid tumors club, too. I lost count of how many I've had.

      Delete
  4. Ah, it was a very interesting blog Jean. Was I embarrassed? No I wasn't. It was knowledgeable and the best thing was that you don't have cancer. I laughed when you said granny panties. Is there a name for grandpa's underwear? I give you a lot of credit for doing this blog. Maybe I'll do one about my colonoscopy. See ya my friend.


    Cruisin Paul

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a challenging blog to write---first to decide whether or not to do it in the first place. That was the hardest part. I will look for your colonoscopy post. This stuff is part of our lives, isn't it so why not write about them.

      Ya, there is a name for grandpa underwear...I think they are called boxers. LOL

      Delete
  5. Almost fell out of my chair over the "selfie". That was too funny. Sheldon and coitus gave me the giggles also. Reinforced my feeling that they don't do paps on us any more after 65 as other things will kill us first. Well done PSA.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. This young doctor is from the Big Bag Theory age and she had such a great bedside manner. I wish I could clone her and send you all a copy. She knew just what information you'd want to hear and without the patient needed to ask and she didn't talk down to me like some doctors do with older women.

      Delete
  6. Never too much information. Now I’m more comfort bringing up any changes down there ... most things are better cured when caught early so that’s a good reason right there.

    No more PAPs for me either. Still a physical exam to be sure things aren’t drooping too much.

    Bodies can be so embarrassing!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Besides eye lids and boobs is there something else that could droop that I should be on the lookout for? LOL

      My my annual physical with my internist is so he'll keep prescribing my medications. No visits no renewals.

      Delete
    2. Bladders can droop. Uteruses can droop. Bowels can droop. Right out your vulva! Some just get in the way of other organs. I had physical therapy for building pelvic muscles .... worked! My Mom had to wear a pessary! Some ladies have surgery for a lift!

      Delete
    3. I did not know that! Learn something new every day.

      Delete
  7. Great PSA blog, it reminds me to schedule my gynec visit. Cervical cancer is most treatable cancer if caught early. having great bedside manners is so important, feel like I should make our son read this blog, but it has too much feminine information that I feel shy to talk with out adult son, who is going to doctor in few years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I couldn't even talk to my mom about sex or feminine issues, I can't image talking to a son. One time my husband gave my mom a book titled, "Everything you wanted to know about sex but was afraid to read." She read it cover to cover and probably knew more than we did after that. I don't know how that came about and I never asked. LOL

      Delete
  8. This is fascinating. And I'm really glad it's all OK. And now I'm googling this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never knew about Milia but I've seen it on people---not down there of course---but on faces.

      Delete
  9. I thought it was a really interesting post with good information. I didn’t know a lot of what you mentioned!
    Thanks
    Leze

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This doctor was so good at explaining stuff and putting my mind at ease. I wish all doctors could do that.

      Delete
  10. No, that was good information. I have quit have pap smears also. The doctors keep asking me to do pap smear, colonoscopy and mammogram. I did do the last two and I'm not sure I'll do them again. Had a scare with the mammogram that was nothing but took 6 months to be certain. Colonoscopy nearly killed me because of my diabetes. There are so many things that diabetes does to destroy your innards that I feel like a walking time bomb. On the other hand, we should be proactive because even though we won't live forever, we do want to be as healthy as we can while we're here. I think you did the right thing going to the doctor and it surely a load off your mind.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I found out I don't have the gene for breast cancer so I don't think I'm going to do mammograms again. As it was I was only doing them every other year, dragging my feet when the doctor wanted me to set on up. I'm not doing colonoscopies again either because I'm doing the one where you send in a sample. Doctor is okay with that as long I do them every year. If that test ever turns something up, then I'll revisit the idea of a colonoscopy.

      I know a couple of people who had a hard time with their colonoscopies, too. Long, long hospital stays.

      Delete
  11. Great PSA! Honestly, you can make me laugh over the oddest thing, like taking a picture 'down there ' and sending it out to the masses! I've only used female GYNs since I was in my thirties and found out how different (better) it was...after all, you wouldn't take your car to a mechanic who has never owned or driven a car. I need to have a PAP smear just because it's been over 10 years. I also have fibroids. No fun! (But your post was!!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What surprised me is that I am not the only one who thought about the selfie-deluxe. Apparently there are women who had the doctor take the photos. I can see why she takes charge of the deleting, too.

      When I first started going to an OB/GYN they didn't have females. What a difference!

      Delete
  12. What a great post and most informative. I haven't had a pap smear in YEARS and I don't intend to.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Haven't needed a pap since I went from a "family sedan" to a "sports car" with a hysterectomy in my mid-forties. Told the surgeon might as well take the cervix too, but to please leave my ovaries if still healthy. Which perplexed my family doc who seems to want me to take out every "unnecessary" organ which could develop cancer, given my family's history of cancer of the everything. But I didn't want to go into instant menopause, and ovarian cancer is just about the only cancer NOT running in my family. So, so far so good.
    I think this post is a good one for us older ladies, who may wonder about down there and if they should still be getting themselves checked out. Thanks Jean, for braving sharing your experience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you made the right decision because instant menopause is about more than just mood swings.

      My only regret is not getting checked out a year ago. Could have saved myself a lot of unnecessary worry.

      Delete
  14. I've never had a colonoscopy, I do the poop sample and mail it in. I told the doctor if it ever comes back with abnormal results I'll consider a colonoscopy, but since I'm a stroke survivor in a wheelchair, it's WAY too much trouble when a sample is easy. They get kind of pissy that I refuse to have a mammogram, but I tell them when they make it convenient for wheelchair users (which it is definitely not now) I will consider it. Until then, I'll take my chances.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My husband had to have a colonoscopy after his stroke and confinement to a wheelchair so I completely what you are saying. I can't imagine doing a mammogram in your situation.
      Let the doctors get pissy!

      Delete
  15. I think it's a great post -- thank you! I'm glad you have such a good doctor. That makes a huge difference.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I learned something new and you can be sure, I will be checking my very own" down there".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One more benefit of having a partner who can aid in examination before having to see a Dr. There can be a lot going on “down there” — much harder for self-examination with aging, decreased agility, weakening vision, even with a mirror. What makes that part of the body immune from discussion any more than an ingrown toenail! One more annoyance, rare, but can occur on labia — “Sebaceous cysts may be caused by blocked glands or swollen hair follicles in the skin. Trauma to skin has been reported, as well. Cysts sometimes are inherited.”

      Delete
    2. One time my dad get about 10 of Sebaceous cysts all over his back. Nasty looking things that he finally had removed. I'm glad I don't seem to have inherited them. Milia can look like cysts but aren't because they don't have a head and can't be drained is my understanding.

      This IS a lot that can go on 'down there' but I don't think I've ever seen an article discussing all this stuff and some of it is fairly common.

      Delete
  17. The fact that you are 65 or more and you said "down there" so many times made me giggle this morning. I needed that. I had 1 male gyno in my teens and early 20's. Then it has been only women ever since. Since they have the same plumbing I feel they understand more. And I have never had to sit in stirrups while waiting. Always sitting upright. That is weird that they made you do that. I am very happy you are well!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you mention the repeated "down there" because that was a purposeful attempt to put some humor in the essay.

      The GYN I used to go to was always in a hurry and never looked me directly in the face. I thought they were all like that and I was too young and dumb to ask for another referral.

      Delete
    2. P.S. If you google 'down therre' apparently it's a popular phrase with young people right now.

      Delete
  18. LOVE this post! Thanks for the PSA because so many women are too embarrassed to discuss issues involving the genital area and it would be so helpful to just lay it out there (so to speak) so we can all benefit from the experience and information about this as much as about heart disease or toenail fungus! We are just bodies and every part of us deserves concern and attention. You rock! Also glad it was nothing serious. That thing about not getting paps after 65 sort of bugs me too. You are right...they say even if you get cancer something else will likely kill you first. I'LL make that decision, thank you very much! MY DIL's grandmother had to have a heart surgery at age 90 to correct some problem (not sure of the details). Docs advised against it, citing her age and chances of living much longer anyway. She and her family opted to do it anyway. She sailed through the surgery and will turn 100 this year. So there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It also bugs me that most doctors don't really explain why they don't recommend PAP smears after 65 and it's important to know that if your sex life changes then the need to get PAPS smears should changes too. The fasting growing HIV outbreaks is in senior communities.

      Love your DIL's grandmother's story. Recommending no treatment after a certain age is common, and might be right for some but not everyone. No cookie cutters please!

      Delete