It has been quite some time since my last blog post. I could blame it on work because the spring was very hectic, but honestly, I just didn’t feel like writing. I’m challenging myself this summer to do at least one blog post per week so that I can continue to hone my writing skills. I have to tell you though that my topics will probably be pretty varied because there is definitely more to my life than being the survivor of sexual assault. It’s a small part of who I am, but it doesn’t define me.
Did you see what I just wrote in the previous paragraph?
My assault doesn’t define me and is only a small part of who I am. This is progress, people! It wasn’t even a year ago when I felt like my assault and trial were what defined my life, but I have moved beyond that. This is remarkable, guys! I honestly have a cheesy smile on my face while typing this because this is the first time I have been able to say this.
May was a long month emotionally and it didn’t help that all it did was rain almost every day. The older I get, the more I need the sun. At the end of April, I was given a beautiful opportunity that I never dreamed of. I got to say goodbye to my friend, Jill, who battled cancer for over a year. If you have read previous blog entries, this is my friend who had the destination wedding in Mexico in November.
Unfortunately, I’ve had more than my share of funerals in my life. I have a large extended family that I am close to and I keep a good group of friends and acquaintances. Up until the end of April, I had never had the opportunity to witness one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking things in life and that is saying goodbye.
We were fortunate in that we found out that Jill had a short time left on earth, so over 100 people drove and flew to Kansas to say words that needed to be said and offer love and support to her husband and family. I won’t go into details, but it was almost sacred. God really orchestrated all of it.
Jill was only 38. I relate so much to Jill because we are both fiercely loyal to our family and friends, are stubborn at times, love agriculture, and love a good dive bar while also enjoying the finest wine. She also held out to find the true love of her life. She never settled and that is what I admire most about her. She knew her worth.
I had the opportunity to say, “see you later,” before I made my drive back to Minnesota. I was sad, but I was also joyful because I knew where she was going, and she knew it too. She was at peace and it was beautiful. Was it hard and is it still hard? Definitely, but that peace just calms my heart.
Jill passed away a few days after we left Kansas. I think that all of us gathered there over the weekend knew the special gift we were being given and are all so thankful. Jill’s memorial service was held at her hometown high school gym. 600 people showed up to fondly remember her and dare I say that it was joyful? It was sad and there were plenty of tears, but there were lots of laughs too. Having the FFA members serve refreshments afterwards just made it a signature Jill event. It was perfect.
Unfortunately, during all of this I was hiding some important news of my own that I couldn’t bring myself to talk about.
In mid-April I was scheduled for my yearly women’s exam, which I always dread. I was never a fan of them before, but now being an assault survivor it definitely takes a lot emotionally for me to be there. I was expecting the routine exam and then the doctor said that I needed to have a more invasive procedure done. You see, my rapist gave me HPV. I have tested positive in my last two pap-smears for HPV, so now I needed to have a colposcopy. I won’t go into detail on what this is. Google it. It’s not fun.
My doctor explained to me that this was just precautionary. Typically, HPV cycles through a person and you don’t even know. But, considering that I was not in my 20’s anymore (or my 30’s for that matter) my immune system might not get rid of it. So what does this mean?
She said the dreaded, nasty word.
It could be cancer….and she went on to explain the varying levels and that we are catching it early and it is treatable. Honestly, I didn’t hear anything after the C word. I had just said goodbye to my friend who died from cancer and have several other friends fighting cancer at the same time. This just can’t be happening.
I just started sobbing. Partly because of the cancer potential, but more because I was upset that this stupid assault never goes away. Never. I had been doing so, so good over the fall and winter getting on with my life and my new job. Things were good and I felt alive again! Just when I started to feel like I had a future to look forward to, this stupid assault rears its ugly head. Dammit.
My doctor was absolutely wonderful and did her best to comfort me when I told her why I was upset. They took such good care of me and tried the procedure to see if there were any cancerous cells and take any biopsies, but my body both physically and mentally was having none of it. Anxiety set in and I’m back at the emergency room having my rape kit done. I just kept on thinking, “this can’t be happening.”
Fortunately, my doctor said that this was too traumatic for me and that she would suggest that I have surgery to get the samples. Surgery? Yes, surgery. Shit…I really might have cancer and cervical cancer at that. This was caused by my assault and I am stuck with this horrific reminder in my body almost five years later. Now I have to have surgery because I have too much anxiety? Unreal.
As luck would have it, my sister is a nurse on the floor above my doctor’s office. I texted her and she was able to meet up with me as I cried and babbled about my new reality. She calmed me down as only a sister can.
I had surgery a week after Jill’s memorial service. The time between the memorial service and my surgery, all that consumed my mind was, “am I next?” The surgery went well and they took several biopsies. It took me a couple days to fully recover, and I took that time to sit on our front porch and reflect for awhile. While the sun was setting on that Monday night at the farm, I came to terms with my potential diagnosis. Regardless if my biopsies were positive for cancer or not, I was going to be okay. I’d be better than okay. God is with me no matter what and hasn’t left me so far, so we will march forward with whatever results we get. I put my face towards the sun and felt so calm. It felt like I was having a conversation with Jill and I was at peace. It was remarkable how calm I felt. Maybe it was the lingering drugs, but I don’t think so.
Last week I got my results back and all is good! Nothing came back in the biopsies, but I still need to be monitored into the future. Praise God!
Is my assault every going to go away? No. It happened and I am stronger because of it. I cannot deny that it happened. It is part of the fabric of my life. I’m open about it to help others and to continue healing.
I’m proud to say that this is my truth and I will choose how the story ends. I know Jill would be proud.
Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending-to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how the story ends. – Brene Brown