July 13th, 2009


the story so far

I've been putting off this post for days. As I said, it feels very personal. On the other hand, with time and perspective (and research), it also feels like maybe I overreacted a bit. Although not really. And whilst in some ways I feel like there should be parts of my life that I keep private and don't blog (I do not blog everything, I know you think that I do), I also strongly believe in women's health and that prevention is so very important in that and that as a society we talk about all the wrong things and none of the really truly crucial things.

So with that, here's my horoscope for today:
It has been quite a week. You may need some time to recover from it. Don't make plans or commitments until a little more time has passed and you have gained some perspective on recent events. Gradually, this week, you will start to see how much power you have, and your sense of purpose will deepen and sharpen too. A situation may seem frivolous or trivial but the game that is now being played has a very real consequence; one which could yet benefit you greatly. Wait a while longer and you'll see.

See how it implies I should hold off a bit on the Santorini plan?! :P It was a really memorable week for my family this week gone. A lot of really significant things happened that I doubt any of us will forget this particular week.

For me, personally, it happened on Tuesday night when I was having my routine papsmear.

Long time readers of this blog will remember that about 5 years ago, my routine papsmears started coming back abnormal. After you get three abnormals, they send you to a gyn oncologist and you have a colposcopy which is a papsmear under a microscope. It's an opportunity to have a look at a part of your body you'd never normally see on a TV monitor, I guess. The Dr put something, I want to say silver nitrate?, on my cervix and told me the abnormal cells will appear white, or the other way round, it was a while ago now. In any case, the entire visible area showed to be covered in what was later confirmed to be Stage IV precancerous squaramous cells - cervical displasia.

That was a very scary time. I was booked in for laser surgery and the doctor burned off the layers of abnormal cells. You might recall my description - half sitting up in a chair, with him at my feet, some kind of smoking equipment between my legs and a bucket at my feet. That bucket, and what it was used for, will forever be scarred on my memory - I can only imagine the horror of a backyard abortion which this felt for some reason so akin. It wasn't. This doctor is the best gyn oncologist in Perth. I was in a very expensive private hospital with the best of everything. And I remember shaking through the whole procedure. The nurse kept holding my thighs because I was quivering so much.

But to be honest the rest was fine. I don't remember any pain at all. I went home and watched old movies in bed and was fine really.

After this procedure, you have regular colposcopies till you get a run of clear papsmears. I have not had an abnormal one since. After a few (went from 6 monthly to yearly), the doctor told me that even though they were all clear, because of my Crohn's Disease, he wanted to continue to monitor me. And he has done yearly since. And I was perfectly happy with that. It's a more expensive way to have your routine papsmear but with a brilliant doctor, and if there was any risk, I wanted to be on top of this.

And it was with all of this in mind that I sat and waited for two hours last Tuesday night for my routine papsmear. I take a book and I don't mind the wait - he's the best and it's worth it. But he's an oncologist. I'm usually the youngest woman in the waiting area. And this Tuesday I watched as woman after woman went in there for a long consult and came out and booked surgery. Every time this happened, I watched and felt for these women. And then I thought, "but that's not me. I'm here for my regular papsmear." And for some reason, I was really really sure that he was going to say to me, "look it's been five years, never been a problem, no need to keep seeing me."

He was running late and I got shunted to examination room 2. And I could hear the receptionist chastising him for examining the woman before me when he wasn't scheduled to and that she had labelled the samples with my name and not the other lady's. When he came in, I playfully hassled him too, telling him that I watch TV and I don't want that other lady's results. We got into the usual banter, he hassles me about not having had babies yet, and chats about my work and this time about TPP and he was telling me about something that he is prototyping etc etc and then ... the tone of the room changed as we were both looking at the screen and saw something very much there, very much looking like it shouldn't be there and that very much had not been there last time.

It was really big and when I commented that and asked if it was just cause it was on the microscope, he told me that no, it was very big. It was a polyp. He biopsied it and then he treated the base with silver nitrate. What he didn't tell me is that that was going to cause my cervix to shed several outer layers which would hurt a lot for several days and be worsened by twisting in yoga.

He told me that it would be a week or so till I heard the results but that it would be benign. The receptionist told me it would take several weeks. So I don't know if I will hear this week or next week.

I've been trying to assume things will be fine. Chatting with my sister, who was overly informed on this particular subject due to a friend going through it, encouraged me to google about for a bit. I found out that 99% of cervical polyps are benign. I found no correlation between displasia and polyps and cervical cancer and no correlation between these and Crohn's Disease. So in some ways I feel silly for my intense and serious mood of the last week. On the other hand, if there were no links between autoimmune diseases and cervical cancers, why would he have wanted to continue monitoring me? And ultimately, it feels like no matter the outcome, I will never really be free of this.

The good things are these - it was there but now I know and am doing something about it. I trust this doctor with my life and I am getting the best of care. Polyps can prevent pregnancy so this could have been a problem for later on that may not have been obvious, had I not been under such careful care.

And unlike the last time (10 years ago) that they took biopsies (for the Crohn's), the thoughts that immediately ran through my head with the "what if this is it?" thought were not in fact regrets. They were two very definite things that I was glad I had done -> one was personal and the other was Twelfth Planet Press. And that shows, if nothing else, that emotionally and mentally I am in a good place.

The stats say this will come out benign and until I know differently, I am running with that. But my headspace suddenly tunnelled into what was important and what wasn't last week, and I think a lot of things were made very clear to me and will mean I change things in my life and how I live. Cause otherwise, what the fuck is the point anyway?

And so I conclude with my usual - make sure you are up to date with your papsmears.


Hottest 100 and Sexism

Yes, there are almost no women on the Hottest 100 of All Time for Triple J. Yup. We discussed it a bit yesterday on one of the threads here and also over at Twitter. And we've even come up with a bunch of female artists who deserved to be there over some of the male ones.

But just now, I had to bow out of a conversation with a friend about it because I was beginning to get quite internally upset about it. See, I can't watch and discuss this kind of stuff and be removed from it at the same time. I see males do it all the time, more often with respect to the sexist stuff in science fiction publishing, and I see them say things like, "isn't that interesting ..." and I want to yell on the top of voice - NO IT'S NOT FUCKING INTERESTING! IT BREAKS MY HEART!

But you know, yelling doesn't win arguments, especially on the internet.

See, it's like that guy I was with that time who enjoyed holocaust movies and didn't get how I can not watch anything remotely related to the subject in any removed fashion. And he was horrified when I politely agreed to sit through one that "wasn't that bad" according to him when really what the fuck would he know? and I had to leave and sit in a quiet corner for an hour and calm down. And had nightmares that night and the next. Because, like, when I said I cannot watch anything remotely related to the subject, I meant, you know ANYTHING remotely related to the subject. To him a black and white picture of a young boy is a picture of a young boy. To me, it could be my sister or me or a boy I went to school with, had we lived there and not here, and then and not now. What I'm saying is, it's *personal*. For me, there is no objectivity on the subject. There's no element of it that doesn't say: Alisa, this could have been you, it was in fact your great uncles and aunts and great grandparents. And so on.

And so too on the sexism issue. See, I am female. No getting around it. So everytime it comes up, *every time*, what I hear when people say, "well it was merit based", or "we chose what we thought was the best" or "men write better than women" or "men sing better more enduring rock songs than women" or "I don't like reading stories about/by women" or "isn't that interesting that that happened like that (again)"... what I hear is this: Alisa, you are not as smart, not as talented, not as good as a man. And never will be.

Because, you know, I am a woman.

And of course it makes me mad when someone clearly less smart or talented than me says it. But it also makes me sad. Because it means that I am being dismissed because of my reproductive organs. I am being dismissed as never being able to contribute as much/well as a male could and *simply* because I am female. Because if women far more talented than me can't write/perform a long standing song out of *100*, or a short story worthy of winning a big prize, then what about me? What can I ever hope to do or achieve?

Obviously, I don't think the above. And I don't get out of bed in the morning thinking the above. I didn't graduate last in engineering school. And I didn't graduate in an all female class. So ... I was better than some men in my class at maths and physics. (I was better than a lot of them, actually) And I don't think Twelfth Planet Press suffers at the hands of a female editorship or publisher.

So what I am saying is, when I hear other people talking about the sexism ... I *hear* them say that stuff. It's like when people meet me as the first Jewish person they have ever met in real life (happens a lot, I live in Australia). And they have all these preconceived ideas about Judaism and Jewish people and that's not based on their real life experiences. It's hurtful I guess, because you are judged not for who and what you are but for what others have said about people *like* me.

So I say this, when you think of the top artists of all time, do you really not include Madonna, Garbage, Sarah McLachlan, Miss Higgins, Portishead, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Regina Spektor, Blondie, Tori Amos, Annie Lennox, Carol King, Ani Difranco, Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, Cyndi Lauper, Joni Mitchell, The Cranberries, Dusty Springfield, The Waifs?


Other things have been happening

Firstly, damn you people and your email replying!!! Late last night I worked into the wee hours and I saw only 44 emails left in my inbox! I haven't see the number "44" for oooh ... years. I've spent all day replying or dealing with the replies that came back. And I am still edging back up to 60 now!! Nooooooooo...............

Anyway. The good news is now no longer embargoed - my little sister is having a baby! With her husband, even!! She's about 13 weeks along now. So that's all ultra exciting!

A bunch of Aussie news, reviews, mag, podcast outlets have joined together to run all our RSS feeds through the one place. I don't really understand it all, Nyssa sorted it all. It's her baby. Although the new ASif! Twitter makes the ASif! feed muuuuuuch neater!

The feed is here: Aust SF News Conduit And includes updates for: ASif!, A Writer Goes On A Journey, OzHorrorScope, Terra Incognita Podcasts and Ticon4

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