It’s like something out of a horror film. You walk down a long, narrow corridor. You’re stripped of your clothes and given a scratchy, paper cover to put on and sit on a hard, half-erect bed. Then he comes in. Masked. Takes your legs and puts them in ice cold, metal cages. Then an even colder, metal device is stuck inside your most delicate of places and held open. And then he pulls out… Giant q-tips. Liquid-filled vials. The giant tube of KY jelly. The one time KY is NOT sexy.
For many women this is the expected scenario when they go to the gynecologist. They are nervous, intimidated, shy and embarrassed. Scared of not only how exposed they will be but of what will be found. With cancers affecting women on the rise, and women’s sexuality and sexual health becoming less of a taboo subject, sometimes the fear of the unknown can be more frightening than the coldest of speculums. And those same reasons are why it’s crucial to look forward to those visits.
I LOVE going to the gyno. I can’t help it. I’m not saying that I enjoy the stirrups, Pap smears or that horrific part when they feel for your ovaries manually. However, I love going to see my gyno. But it’s been a long scary road to get there.
For the first 20 years of gynecologist visits, I hated those appointments. My mother died of ovarian cancer after a very long battle with it. She was first diagnosed around the same time as my first gynecologist appointment. To me, having to walk into that office was tantamount to receiving a death sentence. Then, years later, there was the infertility. The years of medications, insemination, blood tests and invasive procedures to get me pregnant. Every one of those appointments full of hope and the potential for heart break. Then the post-partum appointments. Through all of these years, I always had a doctor I loved. Was comfortable with. Trusted my health and babies’ deliveries to. These appointments were a means to an end. Going to the gynecologist with a smile was a necessary evil to be the woman I wanted to be.
Then things changed. Due to unforeseen circumstances I had a new gyno. He was younger. A bit sarcastic. And made it okay to ask every question, about every weird symptom, smell, curiosity and fear I had. As I became single and sexually active again, every panic attack about STDs, pregnancy and dating became an email or phone call to him. And within this safe non-judgmental relationship, I began to embrace my sexuality. He sent me for my mammogram like it was a badge of honor as a woman to be able to get one. Called with the results of my Pap smear with good news celebrating my health, and when one was a little worrisome was open and honest with the possibilities, and how they could be dealt with. For me, he is a doctor that provides safety even through the scariest possibilities. That sees being a woman for the spectacular, complicated miracle it is and lets me embrace it.
Much as my young male doctor fits with me, I have friends who adore their female gynecologists. Others will only see one who is over 75 and looks more like Santa Claus than an actual man on the street. However, it’s the women who are filled with dread at going who I am sad for. This is a doctor trained specifically to celebrate the female body and who can remind us to celebrate our amazing bodies.
So I am saying to you, LOVE your gynecologists. Be open, honest and brave with them. After what I have shocked mine with, trust me, there is nothing they haven’t heard before! We are incredibly complex, beautiful beings who deserve health, wellness and someone to guide us through it. Our health should be our most prized possession and, even with the complications that having a vagina can bring, embracing our bodies is part of the beauty of being women.
Breasts, ovaries, uterus and all.