This is not a pornographic entry. It’s about my annual ob/gyn exam this week.
And what fun it was. Really. There’s nothing like voicing your medical concerns and questions whilst having a conversation with someone’s head bent over your labia. Really, guys, I know you bitch about the whole “turn your head and cough” thing, but the annual pap smear exists in a whole other stratosphere. “Turn your head and cough” would be the medical equivalent of getting a strep culture to us chicas out there.
And it’s not that I’m particularly shy, really. I present the Gulfport Backstage Babes calendar as proof of that, as well as a few other episodes I won’t print here for fear someone will flag the blog. So let’s assume I’m telling the truth and don’t have a problem with the exam, per se, but some of its finer points.
Because I don’t have health insurance except for a medical crisis type of thing, I go to Planned Parenthood for my annual exam. For $70 I get a pap smear, an internal exam, a breast exam, and advice aplenty. But because it’s Planned Parenthood, every time I go, I get the Birth Control Third Degree. Now, it doesn’t matter to these guys that I’m in my thirties and was married for seven years, their job is to Educate (capitalization intentional). They have taken Education to the point that I feel like they’re birth control pushers. Which is ok if you’re 17 and really don’t know about birth control (yay, Pinellas County Schools, way to guarantee yourselves plenty of future students, which is really such a problem in the most densely populated county in Florida), but when you’ve doubled your high school graduation age and managed to remain childless, perhaps the staff there should assume you’ve got the finer points of birth control worked out.
Now, there is the whole STD thing, which I suppose could be a concern since I was married for so long, but since I have never had one and request an HIV test every year (no, I don’t have reason to worry, but once you know ten or twenty people who have HIV, paranoia can make you do crazy things- if you can call getting tested for HIV “crazy”), let’s assume I’m out of the woods there, as well. Let me take a moment to say that I am glad Planned Parenthood exists- for all of us out there without a PPO and for teenagers who just want to go on the pill without their fathers killing their boyfriends. I just get a little tired of getting hit over the head with birth control (they actually have a Nuva ring paperweight in the office, which would make a fantastic copy holder for me).
And when I walked in the office this week, I noticed they had some new decor. Namely, posters created (hopefully) by school children, all creatively incorporating actual condoms into the design. Real condoms. One of my favorites had condom packets shaped into a puppy. I don’t know what the message said; I couldn’t get past the dog (I named him Trojan in my mind). Another one had what I’ll refer to as an “artistically wanting” rendering of a pair of pants and a head, and a catchphrase that read “Think with the brain in your head, not the one in your pants.” It kept me occupied while I waited.
But that, along with the pretty flowered pot holders over the stirrups in the exam room (it made me feel like June Cleaver was holding my feet while I got a pap smear, a sentence I never thought I would type or say as long as I lived), wasn’t the best part. The best part was the reminder phone call I got last week.
Planned Parenthood, by nature, is very, very careful, so each time I go, they check to make certain it’s really alright if they SAY they’re Planned Parenthood when they call. I have no problem with that- if I know you well enough that you answer my cell phone, I probably don’t care if you find out I have a breast exam next week. So I wasn’t surprised when they left me a voice mail reminding me about my appointment. What I did find amusing was what the receptionist said on my voice mail after she reminded me about the time and date.
“… and, remember, nothing in your vagina for 72 hours before your appointment!” And yes, she sounded as perky as a prom queen hopped up on frappucinos. Nothing, huh? I know some of you think of me as a bit wild, but only two things, and then three, came to mind when she said that. But they clearly wanted to be VERY clear about the whole “nothing” part.
And, sadly, I have been obsessed with why they word it that way. Is it a lawsuit thing (you know, somebody sued them once because they neglected to mention that some sort of foodstuff might mar the test results), or do they really just see that much freaky shit?
And then I realized I really didn’t want to know.
Once I saw the nurse practitioner, she went over my history and asked me if I had any other concerns. I said yes, I wanted a mammogram. She said I couldn’t have one until I was 35. I explained that I was less than two years away from that, and that my aunt had died of breast cancer a few months ago (and she was in her fifties), AND I knew someone my age who was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, AND two blood relatives had also had breast cancer.
Well, she said, those people weren’t on my mother’s side of the family, and if my aunt was diagnosed in her fifties, she didn’t have breast cancer when she was 33. Plus, she said, my breasts felt fine. While I always enjoy hearing that (you take compliments where you can get them as you get older), I politely (really!) told her I didn’t care, I wanted a mammogram and I was willing to pay full price for it out of my own pocket. I didn’t need a referral; I just wanted her to tell me where I could get one.
She claimed not to know, although she did tell me about several other new tests that might work, but also added that I would have to find them on my own. The whole episode really pissed me off; they’ll give a woman in her thirties the pill (a trigger for breast cancer), but won’t give her a phone number of where she can go to get a mammogram when the pill ups her risk (I’m not now and never will again be on the pill, but still, it was the principal)?
So what’s all the hullaballoo about monthly self exams and “click here so someone can get a free mammogram”? AND I would like to point out that almost 34 isn’t that wildly different than 35, biologically speaking. I think I could understand if I was 19 asking, but less than two years? Come on, give me the name of a clinic or something.
The situation ended (all very politely) with me telling her, “Look, I’m just asking for a name. There’s got to be a lab or doctor somewhere in this county who will take cash in exchange for a mammogram.”
And she suggests I do a search on the net. What a cop out. Sure, her hands are tied, whatever. It’s still al lousy policy. And then I realize I can go to plastic surgeon and get my breasts cut off easier than I can get them checked for cancer.
Which is pretty fucked up, when you think about it.