Dear Cancer Care Ontario,
I just wanted to say thank you for the lovely letter I received today in my mailbox thanking me for getting a Pap Test at my annual physical last year. I have to say though that I haven’t actually read the letter all the way through.
You see, I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Of course, since the letterhead said ‘Ontario Cervical Screening Program’ I assume you know that among its many fun complications, PCOS also puts me at a higher risk of all sorts of cancers, including cervical cancer and ovarian cancer.
(The main way to manage my PCOS is to lose weight, but PCOS also makes it extra hard to do that. I know, super fun!)
So you see, when I got an envelope today I was confused as to why I was getting a letter from Cancer Care Ontario. When I opened the letter and saw the words ‘Ontario Cervical Screening Program’ and ‘Your Pap Test Result’ at the top my stomach dropped. I panicked as I read through the first paragraph which first introduced me to a doctor I cared nothing about, then thanked me for getting a pap and then, finally, at the end of the first paragraph, told me that my pap was, in fact, normal.
I get a pap because I have an increased risk. I also get a pap because I knew someone who had cervical cancer as a young woman. I tell other women to get their Pap Test because I believe in early detection.
At first I was just a little bit angry. And then the tears came.
You see, there’s a pretty good chance that I’m going to get cancer at some point in my life. A pretty good chance that it will show up in my reproductive system somewhere.
I don’t know if this letter was meant to put the fear of God into me. I don’t know if you meant to make me think, even for a moment, that I had an abnormal result and that I might have cancer, but that was the effect of this letter.
And so, Cancer Care Ontario, I just wanted to let you know that this format is really poorly thought out. You buried the lede, as they say. You hid the information that I needed right off the bat. And I am left wondering if you send out similar, horrifying letters to those women who get back abnormal results, burying that fact in much less important information.