In 2008, after a routine smear test, I was informed that my test showed abnormal cells in my cervix. I had been having smear tests for a couple of years before and the results were always good so I was surprised to see this change.
My initial reaction was “keep it a secret”. I couldn’t tell my mother in fear of her reaction. Her fear of anything related to my health frightened me into not immediately speaking of it. I couldn’t bear her gasps of worry from what was an easily dealt with complaint. The doctors had made it clear that I would have to go through a procedure called a Colposcopy. Here the surface of the cervix is closely examined with an instrument called a colposcope. This device carefully looks to see if their are any abnormalities or cancerous cells. I was warned that a biopsy of the cervix may also be undertaken to determine whether the cells were indeed cancerous. The doctors reassured me that it would not be painful, just uncomfortable but it felt pretty uncomfortable – borderline painful to me.
It didn’t even cross my mind to tell my father. It was plain to me that this would be another thing he would use against me. The myth that cervical cancer developed after being promiscuous was something my father believed. That the HPV virus (linked to Herpes and cold sores) must mean that I was a slut. He had implied how “promiscuous” I was before after a doctor friend (albeit drunken doctor friend who hated my mother and often flirted outrageously with my father) stumbled into my bedroom one day at a party at my father’s house. When I caught her in there, she muttered something in Bengali and left. I went over to my desk where she had been standing and noticed how things were slightly out of place. She had been spying on me and had clearly noticed my carefully placed medicine at the back of my desk. Behind a couple of asthma inhalers lay an open packet of contraceptive pills. I was twenty one years old. Surely, other than proving that I was sexually active, it also clarified that I was being safe.
My father didn’t see it like that and berated me for ruining his reputation. I was not to have any indiscretions or appear reckless with life. Sex was sure fire reckless and crude behaviour to him. Though he happily flirted and flaunted affection at his married, drunkard doctor friend.
Cervical abnormalities can affect most women in their lives but it doesn’t mean that they will certainly develop cancer.
My father did eventually find out whilst partaking in his usual habit of delving through my post. Medical letters were a thrill for him to find as it gave him tremendous power over my basic human right – my health. Of course, after discovering my ongoing problem, my father was quick to verbally scold me, humiliate me and lash out at me. An argument ensued and I was left defending a cause that my father should have been supporting me through.
Once he knew the truth, what was essentially manageable to me became a nightmare for the following three examinations over the next two years.
My father now had control over my mind and my body.