And Then You Wait

One day your doctor calls. You think to yourself, “Huh. Last clinic, it would have been a nurse. Whatever.” And the news is good: Blood work, even the special stuff they did because you’ve not been feeling well and you have a family history, is perfectly, beautifully normal.

Oh, except the Pap smear came back abnormal and here’s the number for a gynecological clinic and tell them “CIN 2-3” when you call to make the appointment for a colposcopy.

So you look that up, and you see “moderate to severe” and “carcinoma in situ.” You take a little bit to let that sink in and try to remember there were other words there as well, like “regression,” and as you’re doing that, the phone rings again. This time, you find out that you need to make a change in your health insurance data so your clinic can make the referral so whatever happens next is paid for.

You do that and discover that the change won’t go into effect for just over a week. And then you wait, distracting yourself but not really forgetting. Sometimes, you look everything up again so you don’t forget that “slow” and “regression” really are in there. Somewhere in there, you have a birthday. Oh, yes, and you remember to tell the other person who needs to know, but you don’t really want to worry anyone else unnecessarily.

Once the referral is made (“I set it up for three appointments between now and the end of the year. If you need more, just let me know and I’ll change it to whatever you need.”) and you grab the first available appointment, you go back to waiting. You tell another person, almost as practice.

Your concentration is shot all to hell, but you don’t think you’re doing too badly. Then it’s the day before the appointment and you wonder how much the tension has contributed to the migraines of the past two days. You wonder how much it’s added to the difficulty in writing anything of substance for the last several days. You tell another friend who isn’t asleep yet either.

Then you’re at the doctor’s office and clumsy and not very good at following directions, and you don’t know whether it’s because of lack of sleep or stress or stress making for poor sleep. And you try not to laugh at the doctor, whom you’ve just told you’ve been married for twelve years and that your husband has a vasectomy, when he asks you whether you plan to have children, because really, it’s better that he ask. You’re not laughing at all when he, who’s seen your lab results, mentions that it’s much easier to think about treatment options when he’s not dealing with a 21-year-old who still wants kids.

Then you’re on the table, with a paper lap robe because you don’t watch the needles go in for your shots either, and you hear the word, “extensive.” You admire the way the door opens without exposing you to the hallway when the doctor calls for some help with doing multiple biopsies. Then you try to go away for a little while. You remember laughing when your reading said that something called a “punch biopsy” shouldn’t hurt, since even a Pap hurts, but it isn’t very funny just then.

You can feel the blood as the doctor moves from the one biopsy at “three” to the two at “six” and the one at “nine,” and you understand what “extensive” really means. When he calls for more cotton balls in that “hurry” voice, you wonder whether it’s just that the trouble with getting the biopsy tool to release one of the samples means you’re bleeding longer than he expected you to. You know, after all, about cancer growing extra blood vessels.

There’s some fuss with a coagulant. Then it’s done, and the doctor hands you the largest sanitary pad you’ve ever seen. He says to make an appointment for next Tuesday or Wednesday to discuss the biopsy results and the next steps. “Actually, make it Tuesday afternoon.”

And you get down and look back at the blood and note that it will require a bit more cleanup than just changing the paper and pad on the table. You haven’t been able to move without getting some of it on you, so you wipe it off with a tissue and throw that in the biohazard bin with everything else the doctor threw in there, noting that everything else is very red but not really caring.

Dressed, you walk back down the hall, dazed a little with the impersonal, helpful violence that’s just been done to you. You remember now that someone online suggested taking ibuprofen before the appointment and wish you’d remembered earlier. Nothing seems to have changed for any of the nurses you walk past.

You make the new appointment and leave the clinic. You’re right next to the elevator, but there are chairs just beyond that. You sit in one of those.

Nothing about this appointment has been good news. Much of it has been scary and painful. Wishing that an HPV vaccine had been available when you were young, you compress some small fraction of your situation into a Tweet and ask your friends to please get their kids vaccinated.

You spare a moment to displace a bit of your unhappiness into hate for a surgeon who’s “not yet entirely sold on the HPV vaccine” because “most women undergo yearly Pap smears, which can achieve more or less the same end of decreasing death from cervical cancer.” You think, uncharitably, about how compliant patients under anesthesia are. And you wonder whether you somehow deserve this because you went a few years between doctors after a couple of years of frequent visits to get a few health issues sorted out. Should reveling in feeling good be punished by this sort of anxiety? Do you have to be “most women” before it’s worthwhile to decrease your chances of death too?

Then you go to work, hoping to distract yourself. It doesn’t take long to figure out it won’t work. The pain, even after ibuprofen, is a constant reminder. You find yourself wishing you’d opted for the propranolol again for the migraines instead of trying the Prozac this time around. Being insensitive to all the adrenaline you can’t do anything with would be lovely right about now.

You give in and bug a friend who can take some time off during the day, even if he shouldn’t, to come take you to lunch and distract you. He obliges and does an excellent job of it, and by the time you get home, you’re feeling much more calm. Then you do more research, wanting to know what it is you’ll only hear half of if the doctor should say, “cancer,” in a week’s time. It gives you information but no perspective. Survival rates don’t really mean anything when you don’t really know anything.

You throw information out into the ether again, this time with some funny in it to make it easier for everyone to cope. You bless Facebook for being the kind of place where, even when people don’t know what to say, they say something. You bless the people who reach out in other, sometimes less convenient ways. You bless your friends who’ve been through similar things for saying so and making you feel less alone. You bless the doctor friend who does know what to say in response to you saying you don’t know anything but have reasons to be worried.

Then you’ve done what you can do, but you don’t know what to do next. You don’t make any plans, because no matter what will happen, it will involve more of that helpful violence and you don’t know what you’ll be able to do. So you concentrate on healing, not that you’ll make any difference.

You try not to mind that the reminders are always there: the pain, the shedding clots, the sharply metallic coppery smell of blood that is different than the smell of normal monthly “bleeding.” You try not to let yourself get too self-centered, both because it isn’t fair to others and because you’re not very entertaining just now. You try not to veer too sharply toward either despair or complacency. You don’t do any of these well, but they’re all you can really do. So you keep trying.

And then you wait.


106 Responses to “And Then You Wait”

  1. October 10th, 2009 at 4:27 am

    Mike Haubrich says:

    And then I understand a bit more. Yes, this must have been very difficult to write. I’ll be waiting with you, with great hope, Stephanie.

  2. October 10th, 2009 at 8:04 am

    mumfie says:

    Dear Stephanie,

    I’ve read your posts here, and over there, and enjoyed them but never felt moved to post before.

    You’ve written a beautifully coherent account of a horrendous state of mind, so thank you for sharing that so well. I hope it helps other people going through similar difficulties.

    Look forward to hearing what happens next, with lots of best wishes from a stranger.

  3. October 10th, 2009 at 9:40 am

    Monica says:

    Dear Stephanie,

    Thank you for being so brave and sharing what you’re going through. I will echo Mike, and I say I wait with you, with great hope. If you need anything…comic relief, a ride, a tirade, please let me know.



  4. October 10th, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Rick says:

    Hey Steph,

    Sorry to hear about your current issues.
    You may remember I went so something similar but not analogous a few years back. If you need to talk about anything you think I might be able to relate to you have my number.

    I would definitely recommend staying away from the internet for information for now. You are smart enough to know that no matter what the statistics say it doesn’t apply directly to you, only your cohort. I recommend that you talk to people instead. Cancer is a scary fucking word, it can make you feel alone and a bit defenseless. Talking to people will remind you that you need be neither.

    Best of luck.

  5. October 10th, 2009 at 10:23 am

    ERV says:

    I cant do anything to help, but echo your sentiments about the HPV vaccine.

    The HPV shots are almost 100% effective at stopping the variants associated with cancer.

    The price of the shots, less than Ive spent on iPods, is worth it to never hear the word ‘abnormal’ come back from the OB/GYN, however ‘treatable’ lesions might be at yearly exams. Im fairly certain that Im never going to have to deal with this kind of ‘waiting’. The vaccine is worth it.

    Isnt there anything a doc can give you to help you with anxiety right now? This is, understandably, interfering with your ability to function– There are tons of meds for treating acute anxiety…

  6. October 10th, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    I’m sorry to hear about all of this. I only had to have one biopsy, and that hurt enough, so it really sucks that you had to have multiple ones.

    My results came back clear, but my friend’s sister was not so lucky. Hers was past the in situ stage, but a hysterectomy 7 years ago appears to have been curative. The stats really are in your favour – although I remember obsessively looking them up while waiting for my results, too, and I second the advice to stay away from the internet if you can.

    Hugs and best wishes

  7. October 10th, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Greg Laden says:

    friend who can take some time off during the day, even if he shouldn’t,

    Shouldn’t? Because my Christopher’s gift card had only $1.98 on it? (Which was shocking.)

    This is totally fixable and verything will be fine. This is totally fixable. Everything will be fine.

    As meaningless as those statements are to you right now, they are true and you have to keep going back to them.

  8. October 10th, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Kate says:

    I’ve been there for the last 5 years, so I’m talking from a place of some experience.

    I won’t tell you not to worry, because I know you will until you get your results back. I will tell you that regardless of the results, you’ll probably have your emotional ups and downs over it. As people have said, the odds are in your favor at this time, and while “cancer” is a scary word, it isn’t nearly as scary as it was in your mother and grandmother’s time. You’ll be ok.

    Hang in there.

  9. October 10th, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Jared says:

    Having been lucky enough to never have the experience of someone close to me with cancer, I honestly have no idea what it must be like for your friends and family. I only know, in a very abstract sense, that treatment and prognosis for this have improved substantially. I can only echo Abbie and Greg in stating that everything will be fine and the HPV vaccine should be given to all women.

    I wait and hope for the best,

    P.S. thank you for sharing your very moving story, I can only imagine how difficult that is for you.

  10. October 10th, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Sailor says:

    Stephanie, Good luck! I think all of us have different ways of dealing with such events. Me personally, I scout the internet for all the information I can get to try and be somewhat informed and know what decision to make when the next decision point comes up. Only in the morning though. By nightfall I want to be thinking of something else entirely, in the hopes of sleep. But hey Greg says it is totally fixable and he is a doctor of some sort, that at least in encouraging. Waiting is not easy however.

  11. October 10th, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Tony P says:

    I had an experience with an inner ear problem. At least the ENT was honest about possible causes including brain tumor. But when it took a couple weeks to get the MRI appointment and over a month to get the result I was walking on pins an needles.

    Luckily it’s just scar tissue causing the problems and no brain tumor.

  12. October 10th, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    DuWayne says:

    I am entirely comfortable speaking for Juniper, as well as myself, when I tell you that we both care a great deal for you and have been thinking about you. No matter the prognosis, no matter the bottom line results, what you are dealing with is fucking scary as hell. I really wish there were some way to take that away from you and make it all better – easier. Unfortunately all I can do is to tell you I love you, Juniper loves you and we are worried about you – with you.

    You are absolutely not alone – even if most of us are relegated to just expressing out affection and support…

  13. October 10th, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    becca says:

    I wish I could do something more concrete than wish for good health and ‘express affection and support’. The only thing I’d advise is to be as gentle with yourself as you can as you go through this. I’m amazed you can write with such poignant clarity while dealing with such a stressful situation.

    These are probably not the most useful comments, but I had some thoughts…
    *In one of the courses I took, we looked at histology for pap smears. There is a huge range of stages, and the CINs were moderately difficult to tell from the normal if you have no pathology training. They may not have caught it as early as they’d like, but from a cell/tissue biology perspective, it is quite early.
    *I have a friend who went through treatment, for a neoplasia at roughly the same stage yours is. Given that she was 21 at the time, it was bizarre as well as scary to have cancer fears… but it seems the treatment worked well (no abnormal paps since then)
    *Anyone who thinks that messing with the cervix is painfree should be shot. SHOT. Or skinned alive.

    As always, your writing is startlingly clear. The emotional side of this ‘helpful violence’ is something we don’t talk about enough. Even though I’ve never been through this, some of the details were familiar (nobody wants to hear a doctor say “quick, more absorbent materials here!” *shudder*). So thank you for telling your story- I can never express things so well, and I feel like if more people did, we could hope for doctors that are a bit better at counseling patients through these things.

    (aside to ERV- just keep getting pap smears… 70% != 100%…

  14. October 10th, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    ambivalent academic says:


    Wishing you a good outcome and peace in the meantime.

  15. October 10th, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    elle says:

    you are loved. deeply.

  16. October 10th, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Jadehawk says:

    shit shit shit! Good luck and hugs, and thank you so much for being brave enough to write this.

    note to self: make OB/Gyn appointment NOW.

  17. October 10th, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    Stephanie Zvan says:

    Thanks, everybody.

    I will say there was nothing particularly brave about writing this down and sharing it. I’m slightly obsessive under stress, and some part of my brain had decided this was important, dammit, and wouldn’t let the details go while I might forget about them. Writing everything out solved that little problem. Sharing it was really more about advocacy–for making people understand why they get a Pap smear, for use of the vaccine (and not just for girls), and against the idea that exams that catch the problems early and allow for years of anxiety (or shorter periods of much more intense anxiety) are equivalent to the vaccine and a lifetime of normal Pap results. It just ain’t so.

    I promise that I am taking care of myself, including doing whatever it takes to not completely freak out, and I promise that I’ll ask for the help I need.

  18. October 10th, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Stephanie Zvan says:

    Oh, and Greg, shouldn’t only because writers are notorious for having trouble carving out time for writing the way they would for other kinds of work.

  19. October 10th, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Alex says:

    Moving post Stephanie, best wishes from Mexico.

  20. October 10th, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Doug Alder says:

    Stephanie – I’m so sorry to hear this. My sweetheart went through a similar experience, except in her case it was, in situ breast cancer. But also in her case a year earlier she basically had to have her entire reproductive system removed due to pre-cancerous growths that led to unending periods (she almost bled to death). Yet here she is 4 years later doing well with regards to both of those events. Whatever it is it can be beaten and we both wish you the very, very best.

  21. October 11th, 2009 at 5:46 am

    cb says:

    I had my colposcopy appointment & biopsies on Tuesday. I know exactly how you are feeling – but you had the power to put it into words in a beautiful way that I could never hope to.
    Fingers crossed that the results come back good for both of us.

  22. October 11th, 2009 at 7:37 am

    Jodi says:

    Jason and I are thinking of you Stephanie. I can only echo everything that everyone has already said, hang in there, you are not alone.
    While I have never had to deal with cancer, earlier this year I had two surgeries for a bartholins gland cyst so I can really sympathize with this whole paragraph of yours

    And you get down and look back at the blood and note that it will require a bit more cleanup than just changing the paper and pad on the table. You haven’t been able to move without getting some of it on you, so you wipe it off with a tissue and throw that in the biohazard bin with everything else the doctor threw in there, noting that everything else is very red but not really caring.

    Dressed, you walk back down the hall, dazed a little with the impersonal, helpful violence that’s just been done to you.

    I remember thinking exactly the same thing as I walked to the bathroom and trailed blood along behind me, and saw how the bed was soaked. You know what just happened was helpful, but it’s still fucking scary.
    We’ll be waiting with you for the news, and to send virtual hugs.

  23. October 11th, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Kathryn Roberts says:

    “You remember laughing when your reading said that something called a “punch biopsy” shouldn’t hurt, since even a Pap hurts, but it isn’t very funny just then.”

    As a fellow colposcopy survivor and an L&D nurse, i constantly have to disabuse physicians of the notion that since the cervix has no nerve endings, it’s manipulation doesn’t hurt. And, as a women’s health nurse practitioner, I can tell you that the cervix is very good at fixing itself when steered in the right direction. Waiting to find out what road you need to take, however, is a bitch. Thankfully, you have friends who love you. Best wishes.

  24. October 11th, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Allison says:


    My best wishes for a good outcome are with you. I know a bit of the fear you speak of. With a history of cancer in my family, I think I’ve always expected to face it one day myself. But I wasn’t prepared, at age 29, to hear the words “pre-cancerous changes” in regard to a pap smear. The fear heightened as I proceeded from one procedure to the next, finally having cryotherapy to freeze and kill the bad cells. Thankfully, every pap in the 15 years since has been normal.

    I hope the doctor has good news for you soon! I wish you good health!


  25. October 11th, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    april z says:

    Stephanie, I’m glad you are surrounded by so many loving friends. Please include me in that group. You are more than Ben’s wife to me. I totally understand the need to write about your experience. I have many journals written during a very dark period in my life that helped sort through the thoughts. Thanks for sharing. Let me know the results or have Ben call me. I really care a lot about you.

  26. October 11th, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    D. C. Sessions says:

    Stephanie, thank you.

    Well wishes from me are redundant to all of those above, but sincere none the less.

    On the other hand: I’m forwarding this to my daughter, who has been a bit slow on getting her HPV shots. Thus, thank you.

  27. October 11th, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    ScientistMother says:

    A very moving post. Best wishes for you, my fingers are crossed

  28. October 11th, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    MargB says:

    I can’t imagine how terrifying this is to you but your article is very moving and very relevant as I have a good friend who is going through something scarily similar. All the best in your journey.

  29. October 12th, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Rystefn says:

    I know it likely means very little, coming from the likes of me, but I hope very strongly that everything comes out well for you. Even though the favor is rarely returned, I think (and for good reason), I do think well of you.

  30. October 12th, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    CyberLizard says:

    I wasn’t expecting this when I was catching up on my google reader. As I read it I kept waiting, hoping for you to say you were talking about someone else. You may deny it but it was incredibly brave to use your writing talents to relate this story. Please add me to your very large list of well-wishers. My next step is to go find out when I can get my daughter vaccinated.

  31. October 12th, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    Heather R. says:

    Dear Steph,
    I wish I could hold you and tell you it will all be OK, wipe your tears and send you on your way to play again. But this isn’t a skinned knee or a monster hiding in the dark, and I haven’t dealt with this myself, at least to this extent. Unlike skinned knees and monsters, I don’t have real answers for this one. HPV and several years of colposcopies that resolved in the body curing itself are as close as it gets for me. You are breaking ground for both of us, and if it could be me instead just by willing it so, it would be. I can only hope your news is as good as mine was in the long term, though I carry the awareness of the possibility of change.

    Had there been the HPV vaccine available, I would have gotten it for you, but we’re both in the wrong generation. Maybe today other Moms will re-think that choice for their daughters. Better yet, maybe that idiot surgeon will too! Pap smears don’t prevent, only detect, and are entirely dependent on actively pursuing health care. And we all know how much more expensive that is becoming, and how many fewer of us are in the economic position to do so.

    Thanks for sharing this with all of us, and please keep us (me) updated. And any time you want that hug, for whatever good it will do, just call.

  32. October 12th, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    Leigh Williams says:

    I think you were brave to write this; at the very least, it must have been damned unpleasant to recall all the details. But what it was, mostly, is GENEROUS. Altruistic. Selfless. Looking out for others’ safety (at your own expense) when you are yourself threatened is the highest definition of courage.

    I’m making the appointment for HPV vaccinations for my 15-year-olds tomorrow. And I’m scheduling a Pap smear for myself, too. You’ve transformed this ordeal into a healing touch in three more lives.

    All best wishes, and my gratitude, to you . . . and listen to Greg; he’s always right about important things, you know!

  33. October 12th, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    Stephanie Zvan says:

    Thanks again to everyone. Particular thanks to those of you who’ve shared a bit of your own stories or who are doing something to stop this happening to someone else.

    CB, if you’re up to it, I’d like to hear how yours comes out, too.

  34. October 12th, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    George-Ann says:

    Your narration is profound. Writing can be cathartic, a way to alleviate anxiety. We hope you’ll have good news tomorrow – our thoughts are with you.

  35. October 13th, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Stephanie Zvan says:

    Results came back. Mostly good news. There is no invasive cancer in the biopsies, but the removal of the bad cells will still be complicated by how extensive the lesion is. More details later, but right now, I’m going for a beer.

  36. October 13th, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Stephanie Zvan says:
  37. October 14th, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    ZenMonkey says:

    Sending all the best possible wishes to you and anyone else going through this. I did as well — my HPV strain was aggressive and pissy, but after undergoing LEEP I have had normal Pap smears for years now. As scary as it is, I nevertheless have great hope and confidence for you.

    And thank you for writing about it. I really think more people need to hear these stories to counter the scare tactics employed by the antivaxxers. If you are interested, I briefly wrote about my own story here:

  38. October 14th, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    Stephanie Zvan says:

    I agree, Joey. Thanks both for sharing your story and for staying in the faces of the antivaxxers.

  39. October 15th, 2009 at 11:24 am

    CB says:

    Great news in your update Steph although it sounds like you’ve still got some nasty stuff to go through.
    Here in the UK we seem to do it a wee bit differently: When I had my visit to the Colposcopy clinic I was told, like you, that my smear showed CIN2-3. My Doc did a LEEP excision of the area that seemed to be affected. The chunk removed is sent off for biopsy and if the lab says that all the nasty cells were well in from the margins of the sample then I shouldn’t need any further treatment. If it has progressed beyond the area he removed, especially if it has gone further up inside, then I’ll have to go back for more treatment. The LEEP procedure was fine and I haven’t had any problems (so far) with recovering from that. The downside is it will take 4-5 weeks to get the results from the lab so I’m still waiting. Good luck with your next stage of treatment. I went through all this before, 12 years ago. Back then it was CIN3 by the time I got to colposcopy, but the LEEP done then (which was much more extensive than this time, and consequently much (MUCH) more painful and took ages (6 weeks) to stop bleeding resulted in ‘normal’ smears ever since. And yes, I have attended all my (annual!) smear tests since then, so hopefully this time it’s been caught sooner and has already been zapped.
    I am SO glad my 14 year old daughter had her HPV shots a couple of months ago – hopefully she will never have to go through all this.

  40. October 15th, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    BAllanJ says:


  41. October 15th, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Joshua Zelinsky says:

    Wow. Stephanie, you must have a lot of courage to be writer and post this. We’re all hoping for a safe recovery. My family has a history of cancer (especially lung and breast cancer) and it is rough just being around people going through something like this. I would have said that I can’t imagine what you are going through but the above is so well written that I think I can catch a glimpse and it leaves me horrified. Please, be well.

  42. November 3rd, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Desert Son says:


    Found my way over here from Pharyngula, just wanted to say, “Courage!” Hang in there, fight hard. Here’s to your medical team in all their professional and knowledgeable and capable best, your extended caregivers in hospital and home, your family and friends for walking along side you the whole time.

    No kings,


  43. November 3rd, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    clare says:

    I’m here via Pharyngula, a stranger who just wants to wish you a speedy return to good health.

  44. November 3rd, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Runolfr says:

    May random chance (and skilled physicians) operate in your favor.

  45. November 3rd, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    clheiny says:

    Hope all goes well.

  46. November 3rd, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Thomas Winwood says:

    Another Pharyngulite here wanting to wish you all the best in beating your runaway mitotic division.

    It is one of those miracles of modern science that things like cancer which in previous years would have been a flat and uncompromising death sentence now carry optimistic levels of survival with competent treatment. Good luck to you, your friends and loved ones, your medical team and their supporting cast, everyone.

  47. November 3rd, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    CrispyShot says:

    Also found my way here via Pharyngula, but it turns out I work with Ben, so you… don’t know me at all. Still, I hope everything turns out as well as it possibly can.

  48. November 3rd, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Jim says:

    Great post. Just another Pharyngulite wishing you a speedy recovery.

  49. November 3rd, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    MrArboc says:

    Keep your faith!

    In science! You are in good hands and you obviously have great friends!

  50. November 3rd, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    pharyngulite says:

    I’d just like to echo Zenmonkey’s comment. I had a CIN 3 PAP result, which was followed by a LEEP procedure. That was 17 years, 1 healthy/uneventful pregnancy, and a large number of normal PAP follow-ups ago. Best wishes.

  51. November 3rd, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Richard Harriman says:

    I wish I could say something profound, uplifting and “significant” but suffice it to say that there are African “Pharyngulites” (LOVE that word!) that care and are thinking about you. Thanks for your bravery, honesty and humour. XXX

  52. November 3rd, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    wyrdphynix says:

    I hope that all goes well for you!

  53. November 3rd, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    rmp says:

    Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery!

  54. November 3rd, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Aaron says:

    I don’t know you but heard about it on Pharyngula. I hope your surgery goes well, it’s scary but things will turn out fine! Best luck — we’re all rooting for you.

  55. November 3rd, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Luke says:

    I don’t know you, but I do know your situation. I wish you the very best and here’s to a speedy and uneventful recovery!

  56. November 3rd, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Mathematician says:

    Best wishes from another pharyngulite.

  57. November 3rd, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Bryan Elliott says:

    The hail of support can be as uncomfortable as the fear it seeks to alleviate. Still, I hope you pull through this with as little damage overall as possible.

  58. November 3rd, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    mk says:


    Words fail. Just wanted to wish you well.

    Most sincerely.


  59. November 3rd, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Rob says:

    I wish you a speedy recovery, and many moments of wonderful distraction and helpful friends in the meantime. I would say to be brave, but you seem to have that covered.

    Good Luck.

  60. November 3rd, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Charlie says:

    I’m a cancer survivor who understands the fear and doubt that you are going through. I was diagnosed they day before my son’s first birthday, and had the good fortune of watching him grow up and graduate high school in May, so don’t give up hope. I do want to wish you a successful procedure and full recovery from a Pharyngulite.

  61. November 3rd, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Bubalus says:

    Yet another Pharyngulite wishing you a speedy recovery

  62. November 3rd, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    R. Schauer says:

    Well wishes from an atheist brother…best wishes to you for a speedy recovery and to Ben for hanging in there.
    All the Best, -R
    (BTW, I friended you on Facebook from Ben’s page.)

  63. November 3rd, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Steve Grundy says:

    I (another pharyngulite) hope you have the support of the good people close to you and recover quickly. I thought my mirror neurons were about to shatter when reading your words. Please take this as an e-hug.

  64. November 3rd, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Eric Wood says:

    Good luck! We all know you will do just fine. I expect you to be back writing next week.

  65. November 3rd, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Serenegoose says:

    Just another pharyngulite wishing you the best.

  66. November 3rd, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    SteveWH says:

    My very best to you. I hope that all is well and you have a speedy return to health!

  67. November 3rd, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    David says:

    Ms. Zvan,

    This is my first time to your website. I saw your post mentioned on Pharyngula. Your writing is deeply moving and I am going to share this post on my Facebook page to ask all of my friends with young daughters to look into getting the vaccine. Your struggle will and probably has already made a difference whatever the outcome. Here’s to a speedy recovery.

  68. November 3rd, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Roger Scott says:

    Hugs and kisses from Australia. Get well as soon as you can.

  69. November 3rd, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    MrFire says:


    Best wishes from one more pharyngulite stranger. Your post was haunting but beautiful.

  70. November 3rd, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    sa says:

    Get well soon <3 Hugs& kisses from Germany!

  71. November 3rd, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Psychodigger says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    I got here via PZ´s blog. I know what you are going through by proxy, having seen my mother and brother in law lose the battle, and even that was absolutely horrible, let alone having to face it yourself. My thoughts are with you. Beat the bastards!


  72. November 3rd, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Peter McKellar says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    Whilst I drop by occasionally I’ve come here this time via Pharyngula.

    It seems that religious people recover slower because they try too hard to make their peers’ prayers happen. I send my best wishes for your recovery – rapid but in your own time.

    I hope the next few days (weeks and months) pass without too much stress or anguish and leave you with some strength. There is a team of medical professionals working to make you better and hordes of people (some you know and many) you’ve never met that care and wish for good outcomes. What’s that Irish blessing? – “A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet”.

    Take our will as your strength, pace yourself and come through as a winner.


  73. November 3rd, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    jc morrison says:

    just another pharyngulite hoping things go well for you.

    very nicely written, by the way.

  74. November 3rd, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    maureen brian says:

    Another visitor from PZ’s place! Keep going forward and just take it easy on yourself. You’ll get there and that was such a beautifully written piece that one day you’ll look back and see that by the time you put it down in pixels you were already on your way out of the scariest bit.

    Meantime, big hugs to you and all the good friends who are supporting you.

  75. November 3rd, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Gilgamesh says:

    Stephanie, of course I don’t know you personally, but my wish for your health or more specifically your ability to cope with difficult situations is heartfelt.


  76. November 3rd, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Tzi says:

    Here via Pharyngula, another stranger wishing you a speedy recovery.

  77. November 3rd, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Gilgamesh says:

    Stephanie, of course I do not know you personally, but I do wish you fortitude in your ability to cope with this difficult situation.


  78. November 3rd, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Johnny says:

    May the fruits of scientific and reasonable inquiry heal you quickly. Get well soon!

  79. November 3rd, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Dahan says:

    More well wishes from a pharyngulite you don’t know. Stay strong. Get better.

    Thanks also to the people helping care for you. Thank you to the Doctors, nurses, and staff and everyone else involved.

  80. November 3rd, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Sastra says:

    My daughter recently went through something like this ….and the wait, wait, wait. She’s fine, and I hope you’ll be fine, too. Best wishes, and a cyber hug.

  81. November 3rd, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    wingerx says:


    Another visitor via Pharyngula.

    Your post was poignant, devastating, and beautiful. Thank you for sharing it.

    My family and I are pulling for you to have a full and quick recovery.

  82. November 3rd, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    arvind says:

    Here’s hoping for a successful surgery and quick recovery back to full health. Came here via PZ’s blog today, although I’ve read and loved your writings before. You write wonderfully even when it is on a topic that is so painful and personal.

  83. November 3rd, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    ER Doc says:

    Yet another Pharyngulite wishing you best of luck and a speedy recovery

  84. November 3rd, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Dusty says:

    Yet another visitor who read about you on Pharyngula. You write beautifully about such a terrible topic. You are in my and my wife’s thoughts.

  85. November 3rd, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Capital Dan says:

    And, as you wait, we all will wait with you.

  86. November 3rd, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    recovering catholic says:

    I saw PZ’s post about your ordeal on Pharyngula, and just wanted to add my voice to those wishing you a speedy and uncomplicated recovery. I know you’ll be feeling well enough to celebrate the winter solstice!

  87. November 3rd, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Teddydeedodu says:

    Stephanie, I feel for you and I hope all goes well. On the other hand, I am glad so many people here can show their compassion and humanity without the shackles of belief. It makes one feel good about the human species.

    A nice piece by the way. Similar to what I felt (and all I had was an endoscopy!) Very truthful, Captures the very essence of fear. Of unknowing. And of the agony of waiting.

  88. November 3rd, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Olga says:

    Here via PZ’s post, too. Best wishes, stay strong and get well soon.

  89. November 3rd, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Glendon Mellow says:

    All the best Stephanie! Thinking about you & Ben.

  90. November 3rd, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Eugene says:

    Thank you for showing us how it feels like to be the recipient of our care. For those of us who work on the frontlines of delivering medicine, we often forget what it means to be the person, the individual being subjected to “procedures”.
    Best wishes.

  91. November 3rd, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    cyan says:


    Hoping that you are well and that you continue on. We value you because we need you to do so, so very much. Infinite mental hugs to you, for you and for me.

  92. November 3rd, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Robert Sparling says:

    good luck man.

  93. November 3rd, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Talen Lee says:

    I know little of you, but that you are a fellow human being, and I hope you have a chance to read this. Perhaps a little thing, but I hope you feel better soon.

  94. November 3rd, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Annie M says:

    Dear Stephanie
    I am so sad that you have had to go through this. Even though we’ve never ‘met’, you are in my thoughts. As someone else posted, we are waiting with you. We are all here for you. Stay strong. Lotsa love from Australia.

  95. November 3rd, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    Liz S. says:

    Stephanie, I wish you the best of doctors and the best of luck! Hope to hear soon that this has turned out well for you. You must let us know if there is anything at all that we can do for you besides cheer.

    When you have recovered, I will join your effort to get out the word about the vaccine; I promise.

    What an inspiring writer you are!

  96. November 3rd, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    Glenn Davey says:

    Hey good news about your results, Stephanie.

    Thanks for the great post, it really put me in your shoes. I especially like the phrase ‘helpful violence’.

    Anyway, all the best,Steph xo

  97. November 3rd, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    Carol K says:

    Thank you Stephanie for sharing your situation with such honesty and clarity. You have made a difference in the lives of a lot of people today. I wish you strength for the fight.

  98. November 4th, 2009 at 6:24 am

    David B says:

    Another Phalyngurite here, and another person seeking to give you heart by saying that it is now – I forget, but about 15 years since my own removal of a tumour from my bladder.

    All the best


  99. November 4th, 2009 at 7:23 am

    Pat Silver says:

    Hi, I’ve come to you from Pharyngula. So, good wishes and hugs to you from another stranger.

  100. November 4th, 2009 at 7:25 am

    John M. says:

    Most of all, Stephanie, don’t get worried and uptight. I stay very relaxed and laid back about my various cancers – prostrate, skin – and so far they’ve been successfully treated. I’m in remission these past 7 years with just one small lump on the scalp that has to go.

    I took to heart Winston Churchill’s dictum for the secret of success in 7 words, ” Never give up. Never, never give up”. I use my mind to continually tell the rest of my body there is nothing wrong with it, and it gives every semblance of having responded in kind. Getting down about one’s health is, well, … unhealthy.

    More than that, the first-rate, state medical system in France is always on top of the job, 24/7. :-))

  101. November 6th, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Erin R says:


    I lurk around your blog, and I’m sorry to say that this is my first post. Cancer us, I think, one of the scariest diseases around, and one that I’ve had to deal with all too frequently in recent years. For what it’s worth, I’ll be keeping you in my thoughts. That doesn’t do anyhing practical, I know, but it’s the most I can do along with offering my words of support. I’m sure you’ll pull through this. Cancer treatment have improved massively in recent years, and it’s clear that you have a strong support network. An though I don’t know you and can’t offer much in the way of support, one thing is clear from your blog: if anyone has te strength to fight cancer and win, it is you.

    Best wishes,

  102. November 6th, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Erin R says:

    I’d also like to apologize for the typos in my post. It’s very difficult to proofread from a phone.

  103. November 10th, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    shiveley says:

    I just wanted to send you my heartfelt support and a bushel full of “get well” wishes!
    Take care of yourself, the world will wait.

  104. March 13th, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    Pat O says:

    I’m waiting for the results of an untrasound-guided core needle biopsy of a breast lump, microcalcifications and heterogenous tissues and I was wondering how I was going to make it through the next few days and how I will handle being on the phone, hearing the results and wondering if I should be sitting down so my legs don’t buckle. And now I feel a little less alone with my burden. Thanks, Pat

  105. March 13th, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Stephanie Zvan says:

    Thank you, Pat. I hope everything goes well.

  106. March 13th, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    Mike Haubrich says:

    Pat, I hope you get the best news possible in your situation.

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