For your support, I will send you one of my cervix paintings. I never knew a cervix looked so much like a donut. Did you? Vulvas just aren’t as comical or fun to depict. They are 6x8 (8x10 with a mat).
The long version of what seems like the never ending crappy year… and a counting.
June 2016: I filed bankruptcy because there was no way I was paying off my credit card debt from years before with my $1200 a month private student loan payments. I signed the papers and headed to work where my car promptly stopped working and had to be towed to a local shop.
August 2016: I find out my routine pap came back questionable and was send for a colposcopy. “Don’t worry this happens all the time. They probably won’t see anything and that will be that”. I go in not too worried. The doctor states/questions, “your last pap three years ago was totally normal?” They take biopsies and explains that it will probably come back nothing. We’ll just watch it the rest of your life probably.
September 2016: Well turn out it was CIN 3 and CIN 1 behind the cervix so I needed LEEP. Ugh ok. I guess I will figure out how to make this happen with work and school. I feel slightly overwhelmed and confused, but there is no time for that. My students at NIU and CUC are awesome and super understanding that I am kind of scattered. They do the LEEP and drip some of the stuff on my vulva… of course that lights up. They need to do a biopsy of my vulva. It’s never good when the doctor says this isn’t going to be good before numbing you.
October 2016: The dr had warned me that biopsy could mean I need to put on topical chemo for weeks to treat the VIN. The office calls and says yep VIN 3, you need to come in to talk about medication. I show up and get handed a referral to a gynecological oncologist because this is too complicated. WTF just happened.
I see the oncologist and he says yep this needs to be treated. We’re gonna do laser surgery when do you want to schedule it. I am still just going through the motions of life. This totally-routine-not-gonna-be-a-big-deal situation has spiraled out of control and I just need to keep work and school going.
December 2016: Time for laser surgery. I think the real treat is week 2 and 3 after when trips to the bathroom become complete torture. I need to pay my tuition, but my medical bills have gotten out of control even with pretty good insurance through NIU.
January 2017: I have to take a medical leave from NIU because I can’t pay my tuition down enough to enroll. This also means I no longer have health insurance. I couldn’t pay the gynecologist and they sent me to collections.
February – April 2017: I slowly pay off bills and prepare for my dissertation proposal defense in May, which will count toward summer enrollment.
May 2017: I don’t feel right and some of the things I seem to remember someone said was a sign of the VIN have appeared. Maybe I am just hypersensitive. Maybe my stress is just crazy with dissertation stuff and trying to keep the gallery going. I did pass my proposal defense – thank god.
June 2017: I go back to the gynecological oncologist and he says I look good after a brief look. I try to tell him there are some things bothering me and I am more or less shut down. Maybe because he thinks I am fine, maybe because he wants the gynecologist look into it.
I go to the gynecologist she does a pap and listens to my vulvar complaints.
July 2017: She takes more vulva biopsies, which triggered shaking and sobbing. Probably because it hurt. Probably because I felt from day one last summer and fall was not going to be the end of this. More bills. More stress.
The pap and biopsies come back bad and I am sent to a new gynecological oncologist.
August 2017: I enroll at NIU and need to do my data collection. I meet with the new gynecological oncologist. They do a colposcopy and say yep we need to laser another section of the vulva.
At the end of August I had another laser treatment of a larger patch than they planned to do along with laser treatment of the cervix and vaginal wall. I didn’t grin and bear the healing process this time. I complained. I slept because emotionally and physically I was exhausted.
Today: I go back to the oncologist in December, but won’t have insurance past that if I don’t pay my current tuition off. I have school bills, medical bills, and regular life bills. However, paying tuition for the next two semesters means I finish my PhD and keep my insurance. I think I’ve done some pretty kick ass things in my PhD… I need to finish.
So what’s the damage? (in order of importance, needs to be handled stat to not critical things)
School: $6,000 to finish – Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 tuition... hopefully not Summer 2018. I maxed out my lifetime limit on student loans. This is assuming I will have a tuition waiver in the spring from teaching. I still need to pay fees and insurance.
Medical Bills at the moment – still working on insurance and assistance programs: $230 gynecological oncologist, $1700 hospital/surgery costs, $653 gynecologist, $22 old gynecological oncologist, $600 dentist (because my teeth all decided to give up on me too) $3205 total
Car Issues: My gas cap will not handle itself and I need to pass my emissions test this month. I bought a new one. I put Vaseline on it. I’m at a loss. My windshield has been crazy cracked for at least a year. Plus other wear and tear things.
First World Problems…
My Computer: early 2011 macbook pro is hanging in there, but who knows how long. My last one died and my friend “sold” me this one for $300…..which I still need to pay.
Cats: I need to take them to the vet, but that’s a luxury at this point. However, Shakira is going soon to hopefully get a buzz cut.
Clothes (because if you knew how much I loved buying clothes when I started teaching): If I am not wearing underwear, I am not being flirty… I am running out and buying new ones is not a priority. My clothes are worn out and they aren’t replaced as they die. I have always struggled with my weight and trying to stay with the same clothes is hard. Cutting back to having on the necessary clothes was a huge change for me.
ADDED: Thank you so much for the support already. I was raised with stories of a grandmother who didn't take handouts when she deserved them and more.
So while I have my first work problems, I share them to rationalize probably more for myself that I really haven't been wasting money they way I did in the past past. Laughing about those struggles has actually helped me deal with all of this. I am surrounded by so many struggling artists and adjuncts all the time - we all have keep shoes longer than we should, make things work, and bemoan the things we would get if we just had a little extra cash.
I will look into all the options people are giving me, but it's another hurdle in swallowing pride and assessing what I really do need, what would make me feel better, or is just a pointless desire.
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