There have been a lot of "coincidences" in my life lately, not the least of which being the fact I received my cancer diagnosis just before last year's Relay for Life. So this weekend, a year later, after quite a bit of arm-twisting by some well-meaning friends, I walked the Survivor's Lap, my son by my side. My name had already been put out there in the form of a luminary among the hundreds, which lined the track around the football field, and it seemed very important to my son that we take the lap. A friend pointed out that it probably allowed him to feel as though he was doing something to help.
I still think it's a load of shit.
Survivor? Ha! I'm sorry, but don't you have to beat the shit to be considered a survivor?
I've kept fairly silent about my condition so although I have a fairly high profile position in my community, very few people were aware of what's been going on. "Oh my, I didn't know you were a survivor," many of them commented.
"Working on it," I responded vaguely.
A few of them ventured to ask about the specific form of cancer I was trying to "survive". I couldn't help but laugh inwardly at their embarrassment when I answered "vulvar".
"Yea, who knew that was possible," I'd exclaim with a laugh.
I think that bothers me as much as anything, the simple fact that this is one of those rare, silent conditions that no one knows about and even fewer people talk about. It's not as though vulvar cancer is appropriate dinner conversation and I've yet to see a public service announcement urging women to perform self-examinations of their crotch on a regular basis. Even now, with all the media hype surrounding the new HPV vaccine, "vulvar cancer" still isn't a phrase used very often.
Hell, even the doctors avoid it. There are a couple of those I'd like to smack too. You'd think that in ten years, SOMEONE would have thought to have mentioned the possibility to me or even (*gasp*) taken a biopsy of the area to be on the safe side.
Hell, even after the initial diagnosis, I've had to insist on "standard testing procedures" to ensure that the doctors were covering all the bases. What the hell? I should really start getting a discount for having to do part of their job, an important part might I add. Hell, the first oncologist, who doubled as the first surgeon, didn't even bother to fully explain the procedure to me. Good thing I'd gone to the ACS website, otherwise I'd have been completely unprepared for what I found when I awoke from surgery.
"Well tell me this, will I walk out of here normal," I remember asking after growing frustrated with her vague answers using phrases such as wide-local excision and laser ablation.
Hmph! Apparently her idea of normal is quite different than mine. Time for a new doctor, one that doesn't consider chopping off someone's labia minor without warning them "normal"!
And now I've been labeled as a "survivor". I just hope we're sitting at the dinner table when they ask what sort of treatment I'm undergoing! No need for me to be the only one embarrassed.
(Interesting note: according to spell check, “vulvar” isn’t even a word, it wants to change it to “vulgar”! Haha, how utterly appropriate!)