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Gy-NO, or the time I had an assault flashback during an exam at the OB/GYN

December 1, 2012
Don’t forget to get your yearly. It will make your lady parts bright and cheery.

Don’t forget to get your yearly. It will make your lady parts bright and cheery.

No female enjoys going to her yearly gynecologist visit.

The pap smear is one of those things us ladies have to do to stay healthy, sane (especially if you’re a sexual health freak like me) and get a birth control refill.

For the last 10 years, I’ve gone to the same women’s health practice. The office is near Kansas City, Mo.

The practice has a stereotypical Midwestern vibe. A translation for readers who don’t live in the Midwest:

~ If you’re not married, trying to have a baby, or thinking about having a baby you’re not that important ~ xo, the Staff

Still, though, I go because I have to and because some doctors at the practice donate to Planned Parenthood (a rare thing in Kansas) and interested in things besides reproduction. And (luckily) three years ago, I discovered two wonderful nurse practitioners I enjoy seeing.

I have a regular MD, but I try to avoid making appointments with this doctor because a. the dr. delivers babies, like, all the time (aka this person is never on time) and b. this gynecologist made me feel very uncomfortable during my first appointment.

I was all of 17 years old when I first met my gynecologist. I’m sure I was a weirdo and a pain in the ass. Also: I was raped several months before the appointment. I did no want to talk to anyone about the assault because I was still in denial.

Recently I went back to my doctor. Was my experience different? More positive? Hell, no. It was much worse.

Now, I’m sure my doctor is very talented. This person has practiced for years. But although this person has practiced medicine for many years my doctor’s bedside manner is akin to a smug bully.

During the exam I asked questions about my health. The doctor dismissed most of my questions, or curtly answered, “I don’t know.”

When the doctor asked me to cough if I felt pain, I accidentally yelped.

“I know it didn’t hurt because you made a noise before I touched you,” the doctor laughed.

For some reason, the doctor’s response triggered my rape memories. All the thoughts I try to keep from seeping into my daily consciousness flooded into my brain, and I started sobbing. Once the exam ended:

“Oh, is that {my crying} because you’re in pain? Or is it just emotional and psychological,” the doctor asked.

“Psychological,” I replied.

“Ah,” the doctor replied. “So, what are you doing this weekend?”

I didn’t answer because by that point I was a bony, half-naked, blubbering mess.

“I guess I’ll just leave the room,” the doctor said.

“That seems to make people stop crying.”

I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out if I did something wrong during the visit. My idiotic brain went into victim mode and I forgot everything I learned in therapy — everything that’s supposed to help me return to the real world where things are boring and normal, and not so rape-y.

I thought, “I take part of the blame for this fuck up of an appointment. I did not remind the dr. that I was raped. I knew the information was in my chart and I wrongfully assumed the doctor read the information before the appointment.”

After I got home, I cried for another two hours. My dog looked at me, dumfounded, and appeared to think, “what’s the deal? Shut it, already.

Around 8 p.m. I finally calmed down. I decided to Google the dr. I discovered that many other women had experiences similar to mine. I was kind of relieved and nauseous at the same time.

Now, I understand that doctors aren’t paid to be a patient’s friend. Doctors are busy as hell, and overworked. But is it too much to ask to have a dr. that doesn’t crack jokes when a patient is crying during a medical exam? Or a doctor who actually stays up-to-date on medical information and doesn’t compare a question about a modern-day medical issue to polio, a disease I have never seen in action, or have fear of contracting? I kind of think not.

I didn’t write this because I want “get back” at the doctor. If I had wanted to do that, I would have posted the doctor’s name, gender and all that other identifier stuff.

I posted this article because:

1. I told the doctor I was a writer who enjoyed writing about women’s health. While I was sobbing and slobbering, the dr. asked me if I would write about my visit. I whimpered a barely audible, “probably not.”

The doctor smirked and said, “ah, so you just write about other people, not yourself.”

Written, wrote. No one will read it, but it’s here. And…

2. Ladies: don’t let your doctor bully you. If you are uncomfortable with your doctor, find a new physician. No one should make you feel inadequate or stupid for asking questions about your body and health.

Also…

3. Get a pap smear every year. Pap smears screen for cervical cancer. Cervical cancer grows incredibly slowly and abnormal cells can typically be removed during a minimally invasive, short procedure. So, go to the gyno, get your cervix scrapped, and don’t die of a totally treatable cancer, OK?

Image: Hey Paul Studios

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Sue permalink
    December 2, 2012 11:00 pm

    Have you tried getting your yearly exam at Planned Parenthood instead of at a pro-natalist place where some of the doctors simply donate money to PP? There are a few Planned Parenthood clinics in the Kansas City area, they are generally staffed by more compassionate people, and if they have a HOPE program they won’t even tie your birth control to Pap testing. I don’t know what your situation is, of course, but I’m definitely an advocate of people finding health care providers who they trust and feel respected by! I’m so sorry you had to go through this with your current doctor.

    • Abbie Stutzer permalink
      December 3, 2012 7:45 am

      I actually have gone to (and really like) one of the Planned Parenthood clinics in the area. I mainly switched to a regular practice because getting test result back from Planned Parenthood took forever. But that being said, I’m really considering going back after this. Niceness and professionalism trumps being on time.

  2. May 8, 2013 4:32 am

    Very shortly this website will be famous among all blogging viewers, due to it’s good posts

    • Abbie Stutzer permalink
      May 8, 2013 7:58 am

      Thanks very much for the kind words! It’s so very nice to hear every so often.

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