(This post is not for the weak of stomach. It openly discusses medical procedures and body organs)
Several years ago I had a hysterectomy. I had endometriosis. It unfortunately runs in my family through the past generations. I was 44 at the time. I had symptoms for a long time before I finally gave in and had the surgery. I felt amazing when I left the hospital. I was taking no more than a Tylenol for discomfort. The surgical pain was minimal compared to what I had been living with daily. In my book the surgery had been a complete success. I went for my recheck in two weeks and again in two months. I was given a clean bill of health and went on with my life.
Then my yearly physical came due. I called and scheduled the appointment with the office nurse. She indicated that I no longer needed to have a pap test since I’d had a hysterectomy. I had a momentary doubt in my mind. My surgeon had been clear that he had not removed my cervix. I reiterated that information to the nurse who, in turn, reassured me it wasn’t necessary. So I decided I’d bring it up with my doctor during my appointment.
Appointment day came and my doctor.. the one I’d had for many years, assured me, that a yearly pap test was now unnecessary. I decided to trust.
But this year, when I had my regular physical, I had a gnawing feeling about that pap test. My regular doctor had retired and I had a different physician. When I asked, he too indicated it wasn’t necessary, but to quell my uneasiness. He did the pap test. He indicated upon examination that everything looked just fine. Yay for me. I have a happy cervix.
Til two weeks ago when I got a call from the doctor’s office. The nurse said they were providing me a referral to a gynecologist because my pap test had come back abnormal. After a deep breath, I asked the nurse what the test had indicated as abnormal. She put me on hold, and came back with “it just says abnormal.”
Well, with my past medical experience, I knew that was code for “I’m not gonna tell you bad news.” She gave me a date and time in two weeks to see the specialist.
Of course I worried. It had been years since I’d had a pap test. Years. I was scared at the possibilities. And mad because I had trusted my doctor’s opinion. Two weeks can be a real long time when you’re waiting.
I arrived at the Gynecologist’s office and checked in at the desk. They asked how long it had been since I’d been there. I laughed and said “about 26 years since I’d had my last baby”. We updated my file and I took a seat in the waiting area.
Lots of mommies-to-be came in, and a new mommy and infant. I was the only grandma there waiting for my turn. And I was last to be called back. Of course they had to start things off by pointing to the scale. Ugh.. but that was nothing. The nurse pointed to the ‘first room on the left.” I walked down the well-lit hallway and turned to the left. I stopped in the doorway. The procedure room. Clearly, something was happening today besides the consultation I thought I was having. Nice.
Both my daughter and my girlfriend had offered to go along for moral support. Nah, I told them. It’s just talking, I’ll be fine.
The nurse met me at the doorway, saw the deer in the headlights expression on my face and deduced that I had no idea there was a biopsy in my immediate future.
She sat down. I stood. (Wasn’t getting anywhere close to that short table with stirrups.) The nurse was very wise. She gave me my personal power back. She gave me her time. She gave me information. She drew a picture. And she apologized for the unprofessionalism of the other nurse that scheduled my appointment and refused to tell me my results. She validated that I indeed, had a right to know. During those few minutes of her time, with her honesty, she earned my trust and confidence.
I signed releases. I got undressed from the waist down, unfolded the sheet and climbed up on that short table with stirrups. The doctor and nurse returned. The procedure itself took just a few minutes. The nurse left and the doctor spent some time with me explaining what comes next.
The point of this blog post is that we need to be our own best advocates. We have to speak up and ask for what we want. Ask quesitons over and over until you understand. Ask enough people until you do get the answers you deserve to have. After all it’s your body. You have the biggest investment in it. So listen to what it’s telling you. I’m glad I did.