This week I met with my doctor for the last time before my surgery. I showed up with my husband and a very clear agenda of what I wanted to discuss. I needed to figure out — once and for all — what we were going to do about my cervix.
I had long thought that along with my ovaries and uterus, I would automatically take my cervix out, too. If I was going this far by having prophylactic surgery to prevent getting cancer, I might as well remove my cervix. Why stop there? I had also assumed BRCA1 affected my chances of developing cervical cancer. It made sense to take it out. But, within the last few weeks, I had heard that removing my cervix might be a mistake — like throwing the baby out with the bath water. And ever since those rumors hit my ears, I have been anxiously struggling with the pros and cons of making this huge, irreversible decision.
There seemed to be one primary reason to keep my cervix. The cervix, I was told, leads to greater sexual satisfaction and that by taking it out, I would be decreasing my ability to enjoy sex with my husband. Fantastic. It’s enough that this surgery will force me into menopause before I’m 40…but now I may be altering my ability to enjoy sex? I’m only 37! Is it too much to reduce my risk of cancer and have fun with Mark well into old age?
I panicked. And the research I was doing didn’t do much to calm my growing unease. In fact, the more phone calls I made and the more Googling I did, the more nervous and upset I became. Turns out there are very few guidelines written for women like me, who have tested positive for BRCA1, and who are making these surgical decisions.
My doctor told me very clearly that removing my cervix will not impact our sex life. He even joked — looking right at Mark — that any man who says he could tell if a woman has a cervix (or not) is a liar. And, if I wanted to keep it, he wouldn’t be able to do the surgery laporascopically as planned; he’d have to perform the surgery abdominally, the old-fashioned way. Abdominal surgery means a longer hospital stay and recovery.
The record was also set straight, by the way, on something else: BRCA1 does NOT impact a woman’s chances of getting cervical cancer. My doctor told me they are not related at all. Cervical cancer is caused by a virus — not a genetic defect.
So, after weeks of emotional distress, my final decision took me all of a few seconds to make: on Thursday, November, 29th, my cervix is also coming out. My surgery will be shorter. My recovery will be quicker. And I’ll still have great sex, too.