Pap Smear Campaign

I saw my midwife for my annual lady-parts exam 2 weeks ago. It was much ado about nothing, mostly just catching up about personal things since I work with my midwife when I am functioning as a doula and she wanted to hear all about how I was doing.

I wasn’t due for my 3 year pap smear, but she did one anyway, since my body and hormones have been through a lot recently. I instantly forgot about the pap, as I have never in my 36 years had an irregular result.

Cut to 10 days later when I got a text from my hospital system’s health care app. There were new test results. Huh?

At first I honestly couldn’t remember what test I had done recently. I open the app and look in test results and see that it is my pap. No biggie. I open it and it says, ‘IRREGULAR.’ Um… ex-squeeze me?

I hadn’t received a call from anyone. If it was abnormal, why hadn’t I been contacted prior to this result being pushed into my inbox?

I panic, even though I know that abnormal paps are not unusual and most of the time mean absolutely nothing. But if you had just had a very estrogen-positive lady cancer and had never had an abnormal pap before, this result would cause you panic. I promise.

I immediately call the midwife. She has left the office so I leave a message. Next, I take the screenshots of the results and email them to my oncologist. I figure she would want to know this information and perhaps discuss it with me. I don’t flag these emails as ’emergency.’ Just regular ol’ emails. As you can see, I sent them around 5:45pm.


Around 6:30pm I get a call from UNKNOWN CALLER. It was my oncologist calling from home. She launches right into asking me why I emailed her a ‘frantic’ message with a picture of me wearing a hat.

Um, what? I didn’t send you a photo of me wearing a hat (she was commenting on that tiny profile pic that the app must have pulled from my pictures, I’ve never even noticed it). Why are we talking about a photo of me wearing a hat anyway?! I sent you test results that were concerning to me and I don’t think my email was ‘frantic.’

She proceeds to make me feel incredibly stupid for bothering her after hours with an issue that isn’t a big deal and should be addressed by my midwife anyway. I am so gobsmacked by the reaction that I am getting from her that I am speechless. I feel instantly embarrassed and flummoxed. I start to cry. I couldn’t stop.

Now an awkward situation is about 1000xs more awkward. I try to explain to her that I did call my midwife and when I emailed her the results for discussion, I certainly didn’t expect her to call me after hours from home. I figured that my oncologist would care that I had my first abnormal pap in my lifetime less than 6 months post-cancer treatment and would want to discuss with me. That night, she sure didn’t.

I asked her if it was possible that my Tamoxifen (very strong hormone therapy) might have something to do with the irregular result. She says no. Hmmm. I do 2 minutes of internet research and find this…

We can profile Turkey or we can assume correctly that they have competent researchers who did this obviously scientific study. Seems pretty credible to me. At least valid enough to warrant my questions.

I digress. Let me circle back to crying on the phone with my oncologist at 6:30pm about a pap smear.

Whoa- this left a terrible taste in my mouth. And I still had no idea why my pap was irregular or if it even mattered.

I spoke to my midwife the next day, who explained that abnormal paps like mine are truly no big deal as long as you don’t have HPV, which I do not. She said it could be caused by anything from a tampon to a yeast infection to a change in pH. We would re-test in 6 months.

She told me she understood why I felt alarmed and she was sorry she hadn’t called me prior to the result being published on the app.

I am so disturbed by the reaction and phone call that it is making me rethink some care choices I’ve made. If I was my own doula client, I would counsel myself into thinking critically about my all-around health and to do what my conscience tells me, for my own mental and emotional well being. We should only entrust ourselves to caregivers capable of comfort.

Taking one’s own advice is always the hardest.

What would you all do? I dislike a lot of human emotions, but shame is one I really despise. And this episode made me feel shamed.

If I want to freak out about a paper cut after getting breast cancer as a healthy 35 year old woman, I should be entitled to that emotional response. Seeing irregular test results in my lady bits which are also affected by hormones? Freak out party for one, please.


18 Comments Add yours

  1. Lindsay says:

    Gosh, what an awful experience. You should have been called prior to receiving the email with test results. And no matter what time your doctor calls you back, they are to treat patients with respect and care. If they do not deem it an emergency, they can call you back the next day. If this is the first time you’ve experienced this kind of care with this practice, I’d chalk it up to a doctor’s bad night. If this is a trend, get the hell out of there and find a new doc. That’s what I’d do. I’m livid for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mygrancerblog says:

      Ugh, I know right? Thank you for your lividness-by-proxy

      Liked by 1 person

  2. rmp1002 says:

    I get it. Shame on your onco for making YOU feel shame. When I got diagnosed with cancer, I emailed my family six through the online system to ask for a refill of my Ativan as I just got dx with CANCER and was having a bit of “the hysterics”. She responded with a very condescending message totally not mentioning the cancer and instead saying I really shouldn’t be taking Ativan very often and maybe we should discuss other options. Hey, could we do that maybe when the cancer is gone? Doctors. Sometimes they need a smack.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mygrancerblog says:

      All the Ativan!! Thats nonsense. Anyone going through cancer should have Ativan thrown at them like its candy off a parade float!


  3. Emily Boccia says:

    I found a small lump under my skin that I thought was my expander. I called the PS and she told me I had to talk to my breast surgeon. I called the breast surgeons office and went in for an appointment from there I went for an ultrasound and the radiologist said it needs to be biopsied I walked right back up to the BS office and said I needed to see her. I waited and she saw me without an appointment. When she walked in I said – “I’m sorry I walked in here like I own the place but I was panicked”. She said- “I’m glad you did! I’m here for you!”

    Your oncologist should not have dismissed your panic! That’s not fair!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mygrancerblog says:

      Now that is a good doc. I hope the lump ended up being benign…?


  4. Rhoda says:

    Foul! I call foul! This is when I would write a letter to the onc and explain how she made you feel. Sit on it for a day before sending. Reread it. If you are ready to send it, ask her if this is her standard of care. If she apologizes, fine. She gets another chance . If she’s defensive, you decide if you are done w her. You didn’t deserve that response. Aaargh 😖

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mygrancerblog says:

      I feel like I already know my answer. My husband who is basically benevolent, never liked her vibe. I should have listened to his gut. I think deep down I knew she wasn’t a great for for me either. Seems silly to switch providers when I am done and only seeing them 3-6 months apart though right?


  5. Anonymous says:

    If you have a gut feeling, go with it. I didn’t follow mine and ended up with a reoccurrence 9 years later, and an oncologist that was totally ignoring my symptoms and treating me like I was paranoid. Follow your gut feeling always. There are great docs out there. Don’t settle for shitty ones. Even if she was having a bad day, that was a totally unacceptable response.


  6. Emily Grenesko-Stevens says:

    I think your response to the test result makes a lot of sense. You sent her an email – it’s not like you paged her or showed up at her office demanding to be seen (even if you had, whatever, she can deal). I don’t like her response at all. I don’t really know whether or not you should ditch her, but I do know you did nothing to be ashamed of. If she doesn’t want people asking her questions about their medical health then she probably shouldn’t be a doctor. And it makes me nervous that you were easily able to find that study and she blew off your question.

    LOVE THIS BLOG!!! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mygrancerblog says:

      Thanks Emily! Why is life so hard? Can’t we just watch Bravo and eat pizza and be happy?!?!


  7. Tina Compton says:

    Nope, not silly at all. When my mom was ill we had a similar experience with her BS. She changed her Doc and never went back to the original. Shame on your Doc!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Stephanie says:

    Omg! You had every right to panic. I was wondering if you were still seeing the midwives. Good to know you are! I am so sorry about the irregular pap. That would have equally freaked me out.

    Hope you have a clean one in six mos. thanks for being so public about your challenges. It is so meaningful to all of us!

    And, yay for hubby gut feelings!


  9. Margy says:

    Hi Grace. I know from your previous posts that we shared the same Dr. I always found her condescending but stuck with her because she does have a good rep. and I didn’t have to deal with her that much, thankfully. I always felt the most understanding and reassurance from my surgeon, Winchester. I’ve emailed him some kinda crazy worries over the years and never felt bad about it, even though he’s a pretty busy guy! The onc dr’s treatment of you, though, warrants looking around. I switched my long term gyne for making me feel my anxiety over “little” things was annoying. On the flip side, I have proceeded to treat all of my other drs since my bc 8 yrs ago as quasi therapists and they are SO nice. I’m even talking my allergist! It takes a LONG time to trust your body again. It betrayed you after all. Do, ask, be whatever you need to be as you regain trust and lean on people who can help you get there with patience and compassion💗 Margy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mygrancerblog says:

      Love hearing that you can corroborate my feelings! Well, I don’t love that you had cancer and doubts about your care… you know what I mean.
      Winchester placed my arm port. He was great. He put up with me when after surgery I was beside myself cause one of my fake eyelashes got stuck in my eye during the procedure. I was drugged and on a fake-eyelash-rampage. Typical Grancer.


  10. Margy says:

    Nice! I love him. And we have to laugh at some of the absurdities right?!


  11. Jessica R. says:

    I realize we are several years down the road here but I must comment.

    1) The recap of the oncologist fixating on your hat had me laughing so hard my post-surgical Saran Wrap nearly came undone.

    2) MyChart informed me of my possible (turning out to be actual) reoccurance. I raised hell with the hospital administration over it and got myself one day of complimentary valet parking for the inconvenience. Where are the headsmack and richeous anger emojis on your blog comment options?

    3) I haven’t read your next post but I’m assuming you broke up with this monster. How dare she. I’m experiencing burning rage on your behalf two years in the future. May our indignance live on in perpetuity. Have I said “how dare she yet?”

    4) I broke up with my first oncologist too. Not because he shamed me but because he would never – in a million years – have responded personally to an email. He was very busy publishing in medical journals and heading departments. And, while admirable, I wanted someone who would recognize me in the hospital elevator.

    Sorry for the novel. Continuing my Grancer binge…

    Liked by 1 person

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