The week of a physical…is there anything more nerve-wracking? Anyone? Just me?
OK. I admit that the week before I get my annual exam, I get anxious for some reason. I don't really go to the doctor during the year, just for my physical, since I don't get sick very often. But it seems there are always “fun” adventures when it's time for my appointment. Adventures that while embarrassing, they deserve to be told because laughter is the best medicine.
So if you, too, have all kinds of anxiety when it's time to go visit the va-jay-jay doctor, hopefully this will help you out!
The first time I went to the gyno…
I was young and terrified, so naturally, I was tense all over (especially in the places where your muscles should not be tense). When she put the speculum in, I may have said, “If this is what sex feels like, I'll die a virgin.” She and the nurse who was in the room to serve as a witness to the invasion of my private parts managed to only eek out a polite chuckle. I'm sure they cackled later and added my statement to a list of “things you only hear during a pelvic exam” list that eventually made its way to one of the late night comedy shows.
Sidenote: When I just typed “speculum” into Google to make sure I was spelling it correctly, I was totally suprised to see Amazon results come up for a speculum. Seriously? Then I clicked over and saw that one of the listings was from Kink Industries. WHO in the name of God has fantasies about a speculum? Please let me never meet those people! The curious side of me clicked on another listing thinking that maybe med school students needed to buy these. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that you buy this torture device for less than $20? But wait- there's more. Speculums can also be purchased in the “Health, Household, and Baby” category? You can see for yourself. People order these to keep around the house? Are these the people who do at-home insemination with turkey basters? Are you for real? I am never going to be interested in an at-home pap smear kit, people! Just don't even go there!
Since I was young and my mother firmly denied my request to lend me moral support at this first venture into the world of womanhood, I didn't know everything to expect. Silly old me thought that they were going to actually cut part of my insides during a pap smear because I didn't know the difference between that and a biopsy. It came time for the knowledgeable nurse practitioner to do the breast exam. I laid there on the table with my insides exposed to the world and my outsides about to be gently massaged hoping I wasn't about to be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Her fingers were cold as she started rubbing in circles all over the place. I can still remember looking at her fingers on my skin because no one told me that you are supposed to look as far away as possible when you are paying someone to feel you up. You never look at them in any shape, form, or fashion. She finished that side and shaped her hands like scissors and proceeded to put my nipple in between her fingers and plucked it up like a magician saying, “Voila!” (She didn't say that part, but she seemed quite proud of herself.)
Finally, my agony came to an end when she slapped on yet another glove, pulled out the KY, and slathered it down two fingers. Then, fast as lightning without any warning, she inserted them into my rectum!
I pranced out of that clinic toting my brown paper bag full of meds to treat the yeast infection I didn't know I had, feeling like I had now fully crossed over into the land of womanhood. I was quite proud of myself.
My next doctor…
One year later, I went back and repeated the same hour of torture I had endured the year before. But the office closed after that, and once I went to the next doctor, I realized why. No one plucks someone's nipples in a breast exam and makes them stand up! Eek! I had been violated!
I felt like Joey in Friends, when he described going to the tailor and being measured for pants.
I also discovered that the whole rectal exam part, usually doesn't happen until later in life. Much later in life. And they may even happen from a different doctor who specializes in digestive issues.
However, my new doctor was not without her flaws.
Remember our trusty old friend, the speculum? Well, she thought it was a power tool, and I left that appointment bleeding. But I was still proud of myself for being a woman and showing up for my annual duty.
The next year, I went back to my new doctor, so grateful that she didn't treat my boobs like toy soldiers standing at attention. However, when she brought out the power tool again and rammed it in me so hard that I came off of the table and out of the stirrups, gushing blood, I started asking around. A friend of mine had also been to her, and the same thing happened. Apparently, it wasn't a one-time thing to accidentally ram in a speculum with the force of Thor's mighty hammer into my who-ha.
The next year, I asked to see a different doc in that practice, and she asked me one question and sent me home with a bag of meds to take. It turns out, I didn't need those meds and my body let me know that pretty quickly. If only I had realized that you can ask your doctor questions and that they should ask more than one question before diagnosing you with something that requires medication.
Finding a good gyno is harder than shopping for swimsuits and bras. Geez!
Ah! I finally found a good who-ha doctor
By this point in time, I was a pro at going to the gyno. But I was still nervous about what kind of adventures I would have with her. Since I was a new patient, my appointment was a little longer as she likes to bring everyone who is new into her office to meet her for the first time wearing something other than a sheet.
I was feeling comfortable already.
Once we had chatted for a minute, her nurse led me into the exam room and showed me into a cute little changing area with a curtain. This felt fancy! I put on the gown and sat on the crinkly paper-covered table. My new doctor walked in to do the breast exam, and it was at this moment I realized that I had put the gown on backwards.
While it certainly made the breast exam so much faster and easier to just reach inside without having to sit up and take one arm out at a time lest you feel as naked as you truly are, I have to admit that it made things rather awkward when it came time for the
power tool speculum to come out. Every time I had to relax my legs, aka flop them wide open while hearing your grandmother's voice telling you to cross your legs like a lady, it seems the sides of that backwards gown just wanted to get all in the way of that nice doctor's head trying to do her job.
A girl can't win, can she?
But I liked this doctor a whole lot. She was a keeper.
The next year, I bounced into the doctor's office, excited to see my new gyno hero. She didn't molest me, even though she was hovering around every private part I owned. And she didn't make me scream and jump off of the table. What more could you ask for?
The nurse called me back and pointed me into the bathroom with a tiny plastic cup. This wasn't the typical cup with a lid that you use at the doctor's office. I guess they see so many patients in a day who have to pee in a cup, that they opted for the clear plastic cups that restaurants usually reserve for people who order water instead of a soft drink. For a girl who drinks water like a fish, I knew I was going to flood that teeny tiny cup in about 2 seconds. Getting the right angle was imperative.
As I tried to balance myself at a slant so my tush didn't touch the toilet seat and I could hold my cup in a way as to gather the sample without contaminating my hand, as usual, I peed all over the place like a two-year old boy being potty trained. While trying to place the cup delicately on the counter so I didn't lose that precious liquid gold, I frantically looked for a paper towel within reach to wipe my hand on when all of a sudden, I had to go number two.
Now every woman knows that you not only paint your toe nails and shave every inch of your body for your annual exam, but you also drink everything in sight before walking into that office. And they also know that you don't want to poop right before you plop your who-ha in someone's face. Dingleberries just aren't nice manners, and no one's grandma had to teach them that!
And all I could think after finally finding the right gyno was that I was about to reward her with a dirty bum.
The nurse kept opening the little door to the sample window to see if I had finally finished in there. Meanwhile, a scene from Desperate Housewives was playing out as I kept wiping and cleaning down there to assure myself that nothing had been left behind.
Finally, I straightened up, washed my hands, and put that sample in the window with a sense of relief.
Somehow in the 15 minutes that passed between that ordeal, the finger prick and blood pressure station, and making sure to change into my gown with the opening at the back (somehow after that first year, my nurse always remembered to ennunciate that part of the directions), I forgot all about what had happened in Collection Station #3.
No new lumps were found in my gravelly boobs, and I was proud of myself for remembering to scoot so far down to the edge of the table that you feel like your ass is dangling in the air, without having to be prodded 14 times to keep scooting. I was totally winning in the doctor's office that day!
That is, until she took some metal instrument and touched a spot. She said, “What's this lesion right here?”
I looked like a jack-in-the-box as I sat upright on the table and said, “LESION?!” I meant, wasn't that something in the Bible that Jesus healed because no one wanted to be around those people? I had lesions? DOWN THERE?
She said, “I'm going to send it off for a test. I don't think it's anything to be worried about, but just to be sure.”
Now, who can fault a doctor for just wanting to be sure? Not me. But my anxiety went from a 22 (since I knew she wasn't going to play toy soliders with my boobs or pretend she was in shop class with power tools near my va-jay-jay) to a 300 on a scale of 0-100.
What? A lesion? Was there something happening in my relationship that I didn't know about? Was I dying? Would it be inappropriate to lean my head over and look while she was taking a cell sample? Could I ask for a mirror, or was that bad manners?
My thoughts began to swirl and I couldn't wait to get out of that place and to home to my own bathroom, where Emily Post says it's perfectly fine to look at your nethers with a mirror, as long as you lock the door.
I called one of my girlfriends close to hyperventilating as I cried about having some uncurable disease and the fact that I had been cheated on and my world was ending. She felt my fears and we started the countdown to when I would get my results the next week, because of course, this happened on a Friday afternoon. I now had the weekend the sit and fret. I couldn't even frantically call the doctor's office every hour on the hour to see if by chance my results had come in yet.
After a decade of waiting, my doctor's nurse called and said my test results came back clear. As I my lungs fillled with air and a sense of relief washed over my shaking body, it was then that I remembered the scene from Desperate Housewives that had played out in Collection Station #3.
What I've learned from my va-jay-jay doctor adventures
For starters, always put your gown on with the opening in the back. And forget being lady-like. Just because your body feels like you are a stripper in front of a crowd, your doctor and the nurse who is witnessing your prodding are not judging you for scooting to the edge of the table and opening wide.
Also, never make eye-contact during the breast exam. That is more ackward than the pelvic exam. Have a topic in mind to talk about while your doctor's face is just inches away from yours while they feel you up. The weather is always an appropriate topic. But I wouldn't compliment them on their massage technique.
Everyone knows the basic thats like taking a shower right before you go, shaving, painting your toenails or keeping your socks on if you have crusty toes. But don't forget to shave under your arms and to check for boob sweat when you change into your attire for the procedure.
Drink more liquid than you think you will need. Don't eat Mexican 24 hours before your appointment, and also don't get your freak on with your hottie during that same 24 hours. Doctors need a clean work area, LOL.
Bring in a list of questions that you have about how you've been feeling and don't be afraid to ask them. Like therapists, gynocologists have heard (and seen) it all. They don't think anything of it, unless you tell them they are wrong and what you read online was right.
If something is uncomfortable during the exam, speak up right then! From a speculum is shoved in too hard to wondering why they are playing with your nipples…ask! Don't be afraid! It's your body and everyone's pain levels are different.
And above all else- schedule your appointments around your daily poops, people!