Almost a year ago, I started on a health care journey that many women can relate to. Last summer I was extremely fatigued, gaining weight, and felt terrible.
I was short-tempered, and didn’t have the energy I needed to get through an entire day. By 3pm, I was so tired I felt physically ill. I was sleeping way more than usual and waking up feeling as though I hadn’t slept at all.
I thought that it was just my busy lifestyle. I was convinced that my sweetie was sucking all of my energy out of me, but the reality is, there was no energy to suck. Na-na-na-na-boo-boo to him.
As it turns out my lack of energy and increased irritability did serve one grand purpose – it motivated me to take care of me better. I was feeling awful, so I started exercising more, cut out bad relationships, and watched what I was eating. I needed every ounce of energy to function.
There was something wrong with me, and had I not advocated for my own care, I might be very, very sick right now.
I had my first experience with “Women’s Health Care” when I was 18 years old. After several trips to my general practitioner’s office, I was sent for an ultrasound. Yes, I had a large growth on one of my girly bits, but not to worry it happens to a lot of women. My first thought was, if it happens to a lot of women, why doesn’t someone do something to help?
My G.P. nonchalantly let me know that, “It’ll pop when you ovulate next month.” The next month, I was back in his office, unable to cope with the pain, spending days with a heating pad pressed to my pelvis. He sent me for another ultrasound. “Well, it didn’t pop. It’s about as big as a grapefruit, but it’ll pop when you ovulate next month.”
“I’d like to see a gynaecologist,” I piped up.
“I don’t think that’s necessary. This happens to lots of women. You’ll just have to suffer with it until it pops.”
I’d done some research of my own. I did not subscribe to my own mother’s theory that as a woman I must suffer because that’s just the way it is. Quite frankly, the idea that I must suffer because I had a vagina and not penis made me downright angry.
“I would like to see a gynaecologist.” I said again, this time my voice was determined.
My doctor scribbled on a piece of paper, ripped it from his prescription pad, and an appointment was set for 3 months. Super. I had to walk around with a grapefruit sized tumor attached to my ovary for three months. Just great.
Not long after that appointment, I was curled up in the fetal position on my parent’s living room floor vomiting from pain. My mother took me to my doctor’s office and he sent me away and told me there was nothing he could do, I wasn’t bad enough to go to the ER, and I would just have to suffer until I saw the specialist.
After a few more hours of vomiting, I went to a clinic. After telling the doctor all about the ultrasound results, he checked everything – and I mean everything – except my girly bits. “Sorry, you’ll have to wait to see the specialist. Could be your bowels.”
My bowels?! I’m not sure which anatomy text he favoured, but my bowels had nothing to do with the produce section I had growing from my ovary, and had twisted my fallopian tube into a tangle of dead tissue. I went from his office to the E.R and had emergency surgery. The doctor prescribed no pain meds, and I walked out of the recovery room to go home and heal. I had not one, but three incisions in my abdomen, and didn’t know if I’d ever be able to have children.
Prior to surgery, this wonderful surgeon ate crackers and cheese as he stared at the ultrasound screen. Dr. Sensitive was sancking while the ultrasound tech used their lovely dildo device to confirm that yes, indeed, I had the state of Florida flourishing in my nether-region. I could have cared less, I just wanted whatever was making me feel like I was dying removed.
I drove myself to the follow-up appointment three weeks later, with an infected incision, still bleeding, and scared to death. I was sitting in a paper gown on the examining table and mad as hell when the doctor walked in and said (I’m not joking, he actually said this…) “I guess I should tell you what I did.”
Less than a year later, I had the same pain. Statistically I was at higher risk for this type of thing because it had happened before. I drove all the way home from university to see my family doctor . “It’s not possible,” he said to my face. This guy must be a comedian not a doctor.
“If I were a man, and I walked in here with a tumor the size of a grapefruit hanging from myballs, you’d send me to the E.R. in an ambulance, and I demand the same kind of care.”
“I’ll book you in with Dr. Great-Bedside-Manner”, he said, clearly annoyed that I was wasting another piece of his personalized note paper, but not willing to argue with a woman who clearly knew what she needed.
“No you won’t. I won’t see him. Send me to someone else.”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“Eating crackers and cheese while in the same room that I’m having an internal ultrasound is unprofessional. Send me to a professional.”
I was referred to a wonderful doctor. He explained everything, answered my questions,and just before being wheeled into the O.R. he came for one last chat to make sure I was ok. He held my hand as tears rolled down my cheeks asking him to let me know if I could have children.
I woke up with two small incisions that didn’t even need a suture, and he came into recovery to let me know that yes, he thought that I would likely have no problem bringing feisty children into the world. I was beyond grateful. I was also convinced that I no longer needed to settle for second class health care because my sex organs didn’t hang out like a dog’s tongue in August.
Fast forward ten years. I get a call to let me know that ‘they found something’ during one of my regular checkups. I was hoping that maybe it was Blue Beard’s treasure, the gold charm I lost a few weeks before, or maybe one of Willy Wonka’s Golden tickets. Alas, it was not. It rhymed with “Prancer” and scared the hell out of me.
Again I needed surgery. This time, I was lucky enough to get a gynaecologist who, essentially burnt out an entire organ with liquid nitrogen with no pain meds AT ALL. Don’t get me wrong. I can take a lot of pain. I gave birth with no pain control whatsoever- not by choice – by virtue of living in the middle of nowhere with nary a physician qualified to give an epidural. But I digress. Would any man be treated by having liquid nitrogen fired up his pee-hole sans pain control? I think not my dear readers.
Not only was no pain control administered, Dr.Worst-Of-Them-All had one hand up my va-jay-jay, and one hand holding his cell phone to his ear, talking to a computer guy about getting porn off his computer. That’s when consciousness mercifully left me.
So, today, as I sat across the desk from the doctor, her office painted my favourite shade of yellow, with lovely framed prints from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I calmly stood my ground and demanded the thorough, thoughtful health care that every human being deserves.
As a woman, I must say I’m disappointed with this doctor’s bedside manner. A person’s health is not only the numbers from lab work. Maybe she’s never had to deal with this herself, and can’t relate. Maybe she’s just burnt out. Maybe I don’t really give a crap because my tax dollars pay for what has become a mediocre standard of health caring in my province.
I run, I paddle competitively, I watch my diet and I educate myself about my health. I am responsible for my own well-being and the type of health care for which I settle.
So, my elegant and beautiful lady friends. Be bitches when it comes to your own health. Honour your mind, your spirit, your body, and your ability to speak up for yourself.