Local woman grateful that she had the test

January 26, 2001

Local woman grateful that she had the test

By KATE COLEMAN / Staff Writer

Linda Canfield doesn't know what made her pick up the newspaper and notice an announcement about free Pap tests for women without health insurance in 1999. She doesn't know why she called the number - an office in Baltimore - and she doesn't know why she called the local number they gave her, but she's glad she did.

The number was for the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (BCCP) at Washington County Health Department.

Canfield, 49, hadn't had a Pap test in more than 20 years. "If it wasn't broke, you don't fix it," she says.

She was skeptical about the test because she recalled hearing about a lot of women who had "bad readings" in the '70s. Examinations are embarrassing. "We make all kinds of excuses ...," Canfield says.

The Keedysville resident also figures she's like a lot of women.


"I'm busy taking care of everybody else. It's hard to learn to take care of yourself," she says.

Canfield's Pap test was abnormal. She was referred for follow-up testing. She requested a female physician. Dr. Jowheri J. Mullick performed a colposcopy, the close examination of the cervix with a microscope-like instrument. That test was OK, but Mullick wanted Canfield to have a D&C - dilatation and curettage - a test that removes a sample of tissue from the uterus.

Canfield didn't have a D&C, and she didn't comply with other recommendations. "No way I'm going in there and getting poked every three months," she figured.

Lois Dreisbach, a BCCP secretary, persisted. Canfield hedged and told her she wanted to get out of the program. "We just don't let people go that easy. That's part of our program," Dreisbach says.

Canfield guesses she was in denial.

"I know if I let you go, you're not going to do this," Dreisbach told her.

"God bless her," Canfield says.

Dreisbach convinced Canfield to see Dr. Mitesh Kothari, an obstetrician and gynecologist.

"Kothari put a shock in me," Canfield says. He told her that on a scale of one to four, her cancer was a three.

Dr. Neil B. Rosenshein, director of the Gynecologic Oncology Center of Western Maryland, performed a hysterectomy on Canfield last September. Kothari told her he would assist, and although she was groggy, she saw him beside her just before her surgery.

Canfield said she got a little "bluesy" during her eight weeks of radiation treatments, but she got over it when she looked around and saw people worse than she was.

"You worry about the holes in your shoes until you see the man with no feet," she said. A few months of discomfort and inconvenience are worth the 20 years of life she believes she's gained.

Canfield called the staff at John R. Marsh Cancer Center in Hagerstown "extraordinary."

She says she never felt like a number. You're a human being when you walk in the door, and a human being when you walk out, she said.

Canfield says she will make sure she takes care of getting her "annual shakedown."

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