This I Believe

Karen - Brookline, Massachusetts
Entered on September 28, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
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I’m the kind of person who takes things personally. I believe that Thurgood Marshall was hanging on to protect my right to choose. I believe that Itzhak Perlman plays Dvorak because I like it. When three Ts pass my stop, overstuffed with students, it’s because I forgot to vote.

It’s all about me.

I also believe in the spirograph. If I drew a picture of my life, I’d be at the center. Tracking in loops around me are different people and their ideas. I bump into these people and their ideas. Together we make a loop. We leave a little behind and pick up more. The cycle repeats. It’s not predictable, but in the end it looks pretty good – like a spiraled flower.

The birth control pill was, of course, made for me. I was liberated by it. It made me equal and risk free. I was able to have sex in school with one less worry. Sex is good and I had fun.

After graduation, however, I had less fun. Instead, I had colposcopies, cyrotherapies and a laser cone for cervical cancer. Words like “frozen” describe the weather. “Seared” describes how tuna is cooked at trendy South End restaurants. But these words are also in my health record.

My cervix was so uniquely scarred that a teaching hospital asked if I’d let a class of med students view it. This request was not in line with the spirograph version of my life.

I was confused and scared for almost 2 years straight. Each cramp was emotionally wrenching. I just wanted to hide. The high point of it all was during the laser treatment. Everyone had protective goggles on and the little room smelled with me burning.

I was sure I was very alone. The loops in my spirograph had definitely stopped and I did take it personally.

I had the best medical care available at the time and the effects of the virus have stopped. It’s been more than ten years. I’d buried the whole battle deep in the back of my mind. I’d almost forgotten it. Then earlier this year the FDA approved a vaccine for the human papillomavirus — what I’d had.

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about my laser treatment. Re-living it. How horrible I felt. And the shame.

But now I believe that I wasn’t as alone. And that what happened to me is part of the spiraled flower after all.

I believe that researchers and scientists were in that little room with me. They saw me cry. They saw me hurt. They saw me afraid. And they made a loop taking me and my ideas to other people with even more ideas. Better ideas.

And all of them – they did something. They solved a problem, made sex safer and gave me some pride back.

I believe in myself. I believe that even though sometimes I think I’m alone, I’m really not. I believe in taking things personally.