My yearly fight to renew a prescription for birth control looms.
I could just buy the stuff online and skip the prescription, but it costs more than three times as much that way. If given no choice, I will go that route.
There are two more months left to this year's prescription, but the whole mess is on my mind because of an e-mail received from an acquaintance mentioning her latest battle, breast cancer.
Since I have known her, she has been vigilant about attending all recommended appointments for disease screening, a practice I find abhorrent and unnecessary. She has repeatedly urged me to have a mammogram, and schedule a Pap test. "Take better care of yourself!" she would urge, with a gentleness that did not spark any resentment.
I guess she got her money's worth because the many tests finally found something.
Yearly mammogram number seven or eight revealed a suspicious spot. I am not sure what made the spot suspicious, but it was deemed suspicious so a biopsy was recommended. The biopsy identified some suspicious cells residing in the suspicious spot.
So far, it sounds like a band of cells in black masks and caps had been caught skulking through her body, and had been placed in a line-up by the cell police.
Actually, that's pretty much what happened.
The host of the suspicious cells has been undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, and is scheduled for a mastectomy and reconstruction. Her doctor is recommending secondary surgery to remove her ovaries and uterus since she has a long history of fibroids and may as well "get that over with" as well.
I asked if the suspects had been identified. She responded that the cancer was localized, and that no other body parts had been affected.
"Wait", I asked. "Did your oncologist ever tell you exactly what you have?"
"It's not the worst of the cancers. Non-invasive."
"What is the name of it?"
"Possible lobular carcinoma."
Possible. Possible? Ok, does this mean that she actually has lobular carcinoma or that the suspicious cells are suspected of being lobular carcinoma and therefore being hanged, along with my friend's body, without a trial? Since when does chemo, radiation, and mastectomy happen when the situation is still in the "possible" stage?
She is bald. She is bloated and exhausted. She is forever changed. She is gearing up for bodily mutilation and the recovery that follows, yet from what she has told me, it has not yet been ascertained that she actually has cancer.
Even if the cells are absolutely, positively suspected of being cancer, if they are that hard to identify, wouldn't it make sense to leave my friend intact and monitor the cells to see if they begin to look like more than suspects?
Ah, the pre-cancerous terror method claims yet another victim.
I have had pre-cancerous conditions, discovered during procedures and testing to which I objected, but was coerced into having. Not knowing my rights, or having the experience to fight off the persuasive bullies know as The Experts, I submitted to unnecessary testing to receive my birth control prescriptions.
It was always humiliating, and felt like rape, no matter how nice they were about it. The feeling of violation came from the demand that I submit in order to receive birth control, a substance that does not relate in any way to cervical cancer. My consent was given not freely, but because there was no other way to get the product that eased symptoms not related to its contraceptive properties.
It was suggested at the clinic that I use condoms if I didn't want to be examined and screened. I asked exactly how to use a condom for cramps.
The reason it felt like rape is because I was not remotely interested in the information being gathered. My body, my choice is the battlecry of the women's clinics, yet I could not choose (or so I thought) to use hormonal birth control without submitting to violation.
I already knew that if cancer were discovered, I would not treat it. Therefore, there was no reason to screen for it. I offered to put this into writing to cover their legal fannies, but the prescription was withheld.
So I submitted. I was very rude and let them know that I was not doing this for "my health", as it was so annoyingly put to me. It was about their rules. I refused their counseling. I refused to answer any questions about my past or my present. I told them not to send me the test results as I did not want to know.
They sent them anyway. I wrote "return to sender" on the unopened envelopes.
After the last one at that clinic, I received a phone call wanting to schedule a retest for abnormal cells. They couldn't tell me what was abnormal about the cells, just that I needed to hop up into the stirrups again to satisfy these strangers about gathering information that I didn't want.
I already had my prescription for the year, so ignored the demand. The nurse called again, then had the clinic director call me. I told her it was my business, and to leave me alone.
The next year, I went to a different clinic. I asked for a prescription without screening, but they refused. So, I went through the same humiliation and blackmail. They gave me the prescription once I'd submitted, but before the test result were back, which reemphasized that the demanded test had nothing to do with the prescription that was being withheld.
Were there more abnormal cells? Who knows? I didn't care, and still don't.
Living with monthly killer cramps was better than the repeated violation. I stopped going after that.
Ironically, I may have been more interested in screening had it not been extracted from me by blackmail.
About twelve years later, I discovered I'd been lied to. The tests and exam demanded of me in exchange for hormonal birth control had nothing to do with safe use of the hormonal birth control. It was simply a way to force women into screening.
I'm ashamed that I ever went, but I'm glad I stopped going.
Armed with the information that the screening was unnecessary, I called the clinic and demanded birth control without an exam. It took several months, phone calls and letters, but I was finally able to get a clinic to prescribe hormonal birth control without any exams or tests. They require a blood pressure, which I will allow because high blood pressure actually can have an impact on safe hormonal birth control use. It also is something that can be done with my clothes on.
Every year the clinic director tells me that I cannot "continue this way" and that I must "take better care of my health". I tell her to respect my choice and mind her business, which is that of distributing medical advice and procedures to those who want them.
As for my abnormal cells? Well, I've been on the pill for twenty years total, have borne two children, and don't seem to have dropped dead from my abnormal cells. Could it be that my suspicious body fragments were not abnormal at all?
I think of what might have happened if I'd bought into the story. Colposcopy? Cone biopsy? LEEP? All would have been unnecessary because obviously, I don't have cancer.
I can't help but wonder if my acquaintance who is losing her hair, losing her energy, losing her breast and in danger of losing her uterus and ovaries, doesn't have it either.
Meantime, I'll make her some freezer dinners and see if she needs anything picked up from the pharmacy. Her medical decisions are none of my business.
That doesn't make me any less sad about it.