"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I can't help myself

I'm supposed to be cleaning my house today, since I'm hosting Thanksgiving and I have a cat and dog who love to run through the house, plucking their fur and leaving it on everything. But I needed to take a quick break to post something that's on my mind.

Be warned: I am now about to venture into the territory known as Too Much Information. I promise not to be graphic, or post any pictures. What does this have to do with writing?

Everything. You see, writers are funny critters. When something strikes us as worthy of writing about, we must jot it down, even if it is embarrassing, heartbreaking, or even potentially dull for a reader. (If it's the latter, we just liven it up after we've gotten it on paper.)


All the recent brouhaha about the TSA's new body scan/public grope procedures reminded me that I needed my yearly Pap smear. My ex-husband used to get mad about my yearly checkup because he was jealous of another man looking at me naked. What kind of tryst he thought I was having with my doctor under garish exam room lights with a nurse looking on, I'll never know.

For all of the anxious men out there, let me walk you through a standard checkup:

First, you are weighed. They let you put your purse down and take off your shoes, but you cannot undress. The best you can do is to exhale and hope it makes your lungs lighter.

Next, you pee in a cup, then carry the cup to the nurse's station for them to dip a little paper strip. While that strip is drying, they prick your finger with a needle and put your blood on another paper strip. Paper strips are big with nurses.

After they check your blood pressure, you go into an exam room, take off your clothes and put on a paper dress. Actually, they used to give you a paper dress. Now, they give you a paper crop top and a paper sheet to cover your lap. I'm five feet two and it all barely covers me. I don't know what my taller friends do.

The doctor and nurse come in, and ask you a bunch of questions about your health while the doctor pries your nether regions open with a vise and scrapes a few cells off your cervix with a skinny little plastic instrument that feels like a hammer and chisel while it's doing its job.

Satisfied, gents? Romantic enough for ya? Bet you're happy all you have to do is turn your head and cough.

So when I went to my doctor's appointment on Thursday, I began by sitting in the waiting room worrying about whether I had to pee. I didn't have to, which was a problem. It's not something I can do on command if there's nothing in the tank. Seriously, in the past, I have handed the nurse a cup with an eighth of an inch of liquid in it and said, "Sorry. It's all I had."

It was an awkward moment.

When my name was called, I went back with the nurse, got on the scale and tried not to look, then prepared for what came next.

"Come on back and we'll get your blood pressure," she said.


Apparently, I'm at the age of no longer needing to pee in a cup, or give blood. She took my blood pressure and escorted me to the room, where I got ready for the doctor. I was sitting in my paper ensemble when my body said: "Hmm. We didn't pee in the cup. We didn't have to pee, but we didn't. Do we have to now? We don't know. We were expecting to have to, and then we didn't. Hmm."

Since I was already decked out for the doctor, I couldn't very well run down the hall for a quick pit stop, so I sat there and told my body it was imagining things and I was fine.

The nurse practitioner was scheduled instead of the doctor. She's a very nice woman, explains everything and tries not to cause any pain. We began the exam by discussing menopause and what I needed to do next to control my symptoms without harming my bones, etc. Finally, it was time to stop examining my advancing age and start examining me.

"Hmm," she said as she worked. "Your cervix is closed very tightly and will not let me collect cells."

Well, that's a new one.

She tried for several moments, then told me she might have gotten enough to test, but she'd give me some medicine to help things along in case she had to call me back in for another attempt. It was also impossible to check my uterus out, so she made an appointment to get an ultrasound of that area, in addition to my mammogram and a bone density scan.

"I have to go back for an ultrasound," I told my husband that evening. "My uterus was uncooperative."

He didn't even blink. I guess he's heard weirder things come out of my mouth.

A couple of days later, I went back for the ultrasound. Naively, I believed the technician would goo up a small knob with cold gel and rub it around my lower stomach area, the way they do it when you're pregnant.

No. Think more internally, if you get my drift. First, though, she put my feet in very non-adjustable stirrups and scooted my tush down until I thought I was in some kind of secret yoga position that only true yogis can practice after they've broken both hips. As my thighs cramped and knees ached, she began her work. She looked at the monitor, moved the wand, pressed buttons, repeated, for about 10-15 minutes.

Just as I was going to ask if she was shooting a mini-series, she said, "All done. You can get dressed now."

Will the pictures show I'm healthy? Did she photograph my good side? And if I have this much fun at my regular appointment, how much fun will it be when I go for my mammogram?

See how this story fits into writing? I'll bet you're all on the edge of your seats. With any luck, it's not because your feet are in the stirrups.

1 comment:

Patricia Stoltey said...

You did a great job describing this very annoying "internal" procedure with a touch of humor, Gayle.

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