You wouldn’t think having doctors see various parts of my body would bother me so badly. I’ve been going to the doctor for a long time. I mean, it all started 41 years, 9 months ago when the doctor saw me completely naked. Unfortunately, having to get naked has been a regular occurrence since then.
When I was sixteen, my doctor sent me home with the news that I had lumps in my breast, and I needed to see a surgeon. I was hysterical, as I’m sure you can imagine. First, my mother ripped the doctor’s head off and handed it to him on a platter. (Her exact words were, “Don’t you ever, ever, ever send a child home with the information that she needs to see a surgeon! What is the matter with you??” Note to self…never mess with a Mama Bear’s cubs.) Next, we called the surgeon. I had to go to the hospital and have a needle biopsy. They did not call it that, though. They called it “aspiration.” I’m pretty sure they were banking on the fact that the high school sophomore did not know big words. Anyway, the aspiration consisted of the surgeon reading the instructions while in the room with me and then performing the procedure. You can image what my mother did to him when she realized he was reviewing his Cliff’s notes before sticking large needles in me.
I’ve been to the doctor plenty of times in my life, and I’ve been in many precarious positions there. I mean, after all, I’ve birthed two babies. People said I would lose all modesty after childbirth. They were wrong. I was horribly modest then, and I’m horribly modest now.
So, when my primary care physician said I needed to go to a dermatologist for a full body scan, I told her I did not like the sound of that. She said it wouldn’t be so bad. I told her, unless the scan involved something science fictionish, like beaming me to another location, I was pretty sure it would be so bad.
I hesitantly made the appointment for The Scan. Like a dumb dumb, I made it for the day after we got back from vacation. Good plan, Al. Eat unlimited food for a week and then go stand naked in the doctor’s office.
All the way to the office, I prayed for the doctor or nurse practitioner to be fat and middle aged. At least let her be heavier than average, I prayed. I’m pretty sure it’s wrong to pray for that, but I was desperate. When I arrived, the very young, thin and pretty nurse walked me back to the room. She told me I could leave my bra and underwear on but would need to take everything else off. I asked her if I should take off my bra, since one mole that needed to be checked was in that general area. (I know…way too much information.) She said to go ahead and take that off and to put on a paper gown. Yay.
I sat on the table and waited for my fate. I was still praying for an old, fat lady. Hold on to the hope, right? There was a knock on the door and in came, you guessed it, a pretty, petite, blonde, beautiful young woman. Kill. Me. Now.
Doctor Beauty introduced herself and reached out her tiny little hand to shake mine. I thought I might break her sweet little fingers. She said she was going to examine me for moles, and she asked me to stand up. Doctor Beauty began at the ankles and worked her way up and down and all around. I kept picturing myself as the giant from Gulliver’s Travels while this tiny doctor and her little assistant moved around me.
At one point, not only was my gown shifted to reveal way too much, but Doctor Beauty was lifting my underwear and looking underneath. At that point, I asked why I had left the underwear on if they were going to peek under it anyway. Doctor Beauty said they tried to allow the patients as much modesty as possible. I tried not to laugh.
A moment later, I accidentally said out loud, “Yep. This is just as humiliating as I imagined it would be.” Neither tiny person commented or acknowledged me. It was better that way. They probably wished the giant would just hush so they could finish their examination.
Doctor Beauty decided to shave six moles from me for a biopsy, and she circled each one with a marker. She left the room, and the sweet nurse started preparing needles and razors. I liked the nurse more than Doctor Beauty.
The nurse and I started talking as she sliced layers of skin from my body. At least it distracted me from the needles. I thought the worst part was over since I was no longer standing half-naked in the middle of the room. Then, the most painful part of the experience occurred.
As the nurse and I chatted, I made a horrible discovery. It turns out this grown woman who was cutting pieces off me was the child of someone I went to high school with. I asked her if she could just stick me with another needle because that would hurt less than the knowledge that I was old enough to be this adult person’s mother.
When the nurse was finished, I got my cane and my bifocals, and I found my way out of the office. I cranked up the radio on the way home and played rap songs just to prove I still had it. I’m pretty sure the guy at the red light was impressed.
At least my body scan was over, and all I had to was await my results. I got the call and five out of six moles were just fine. The sixth was a little iffy, so I will have to go back and have it removed. At least it is just on my back. Hopefully, I won’t have to completely disrobe for that procedure. All I know is, Doctor Beauty is going to be hard-pressed to get me back in for another body scan in a year, as recommended. No. Indeed. It will take much longer than that before the memory fades enough for me to volunteer for another examination. -Al
I will just issue a warning here: Men and young people, read this at your own risk. There’s nothing TOO bad, but you may just get more information than you really want to know. Consider yourself warned.
I’ve been going through a lot of tests lately. I don’t mean tests, as in trials and tribulations. I mean, sure, sure, I’ve had those too, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I mean tests. As in, “This will only hurt a little.” As in, “Mrs. Not Your Average Al, you may just live to see next week after all…” Suffice it to say, middle age sucks.
It all started a few months ago, when our generous president made sure we got health insurance. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not making a political statement there. I have my own thoughts about Obamacare, but they are just that…MY thoughts. So, I’ll keep those to myself.
Whether we like it or not, Mr. Everything and I now are the proud owners of a shiny new health insurance plan, and for the first time in a gazillion years, we can actually go to a doctor when it’s not an emergency. So, we eagerly signed up for appointments. After all, he and I both needed bloodwork so we could get refills on some medications. Our previous providers had officially cut us off, so we had to do something or we would surely die.
The Mr. went first, brave man that he is. His outcome was not horrible. It consisted of bloodwork and an ultrasound to check out a growth on his thyroid. We thought it would be no big deal. Little did we know, that would turn into a trip to the ENT, where the kind doctor looked up Mr. E’s nose (I’m still pondering what his nose had to do with his thyroid…) and felt his throat before asking for a mere $202 out of pocket. Sure. No problem.
In the style of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” Mr. E’s visits progressed. If you go to the doctor, he’s surely going to feel your throat…. and if he feels your throat, he will think there’s something wrong…and if he thinks something is wrong, he will definitely send you for an ultrasound…and when you go for the ultrasound, it won’t come back okay….and when it doesn’t come back okay, you will be told to go to the ENT… and if you go to the ENT, the doctor will feel your throat….and then after he feels your throat, he will send you for a biopsy…if you have a biopsy, it will not feel good…and after it doesn’t feel good, the one thing that will feel worse will be the amount of money you owe out pocket….and when you pay the money out of pocket, you will be told everything is fine….and when you are told everything is fine, you will surely wonder why you went to the doctor in the first place!
Next was my turn, so off to doctor I went, where I eagerly awaited my opportunity to be weighed in public. That is, after all, one of my favorite things to do. Luckily, they did not have to bust out the lift to weigh me.
Anywho, I went in expecting to be sent for bloodwork. I did not expect to have the full gamut of tests run, from head to toe. I left the doctor’s office with a huge stack of orders.
The bloodwork was the least of my worries. There, they drew six vials of blood. I was a shade paler when I left the lab.
Next came the thyroid ultrasound. Mine was fine, so I did not have to give the mouse a cookie, thank goodness.
After that, came the leg vein ultrasound. I thought if one more person said, “This won’t hurt a bit,” I was going to slap someone. In fact, when you have varicose veins, an ultrasound on your legs hurts like a beast. Besides hurting, it’s extremely awkward to have to, “Turn this way, put your leg out flat, move your other leg out of the way, don’t forget to breathe, now act natural and don’t forget to smile, don’t mind my head right here, leaning over you in a very awkward place, now, I’m just going to dig this little ultrasound thingie into the bend of your knee while I squeeze your ankle. Relax. This will only take a minute.”
Back in my pregnancy days, when asked if something was going to hurt, my obstetrician would say, “This isn’t going to hurt me a bit.” At least he was honest. Some ultrasound technicians I know could stand to learn from his wisdom.
Along with my various ultrasounds came the big M, as in Mammogram (with a capital M). I’m just going to tell you, you have not lived until you’ve had someone reach over, lift your breast and put it on a shelf. Then, the experience is complete when they clamp a cold plastic plate down on it. Good times, people. Good times.
I left the radiology location so happy all my tests were finished. I figured I was probably glowing from the amount of radiation I had just been exposed to between the X-Ray and the ultrasounds. I was so glad that was over and behind me for another five years. Woo-hoo!
Two mistakes there… First, I found out at my age (“Women your age” is the most dreaded phrase…dreaded for the doctor, because my response is to punch him or her in the nose.)….at my age, I have to have a mammogram yearly. I don’t want to discuss it. The second mistake was in thinking it was over. Oh, no, my friends. I had not even made it out of the parking lot of the radiology office before I got a call saying I had to have another mammogram done on the right side. Oh, joy.
Later the same week, I went back to have the second mammogram done. I thought the first one hurt. I was wrong. On the second go-around, the technician once again lifted my boob (something I’ll never get used to) and sat it on the shelf. She pancaked me pretty good with the squisher. Then, just to ensure it was flat enough, she began manually cranking the squisher down tighter. Words went through my mind, but they were not nice, so I just bit my tongue. I thought I was going to black out there for a second. I envisioned myself, unconscious, hanging by my boob from the mammogram machine. It wasn’t a pretty sight. I actually started laughing as I pictured that. The technician looked at me like I was crazy, but it was better than crying, right??
I survived the mammogram and was so glad it was over. Then, they said I needed a sonogram. Oh boy. Allow me to disrobe in front of one more person. Yay. At least this sonogram did not hurt, and she did not have to squeeze my ankle to look at my boob.
I left the office, relieved it was over. I felt good that I had done something for myself. (Though I decided I should rethink ways of caring for myself….a massage, a pedicure, a cup of tea….these all seemed like better ways). A few days later, I got a call from the radiologist’s office. The woman said they had messed up. They were supposed to call me back for repeat images on both sides, so they still needed to re-do the left side. And so it began again….
The left side was not nearly as painful as the right. The technician who did it was much kinder and gentler. I pledged my undying love to her. That was kind of awkward, since she had my breast in her hand at that moment. I want to request her in the future, but I’m pretty sure I’m on her “do not treat” list.
So, the results of the mammograms were mixed. The left was fine. When the woman called to tell me my boob was fine, I said, “Oh, girl, don’t I know it? It is fiiiiine.” She did not find that funny. I really think I’m now at the top of her list. The right side was inconclusive, whatever that means. I was told they found nothing…no masses, no bumps, no hidden microphones or microchips, but they could not conclude anything. Well, thanks for that. That was money well spent. Now, I have to go back in 6 months to have another one done. Maybe by then, I will have paid off my out of pocket costs for my crazy mammogram-palooza.
So, the only thing that was left to do was one final doctor’s appointment. It was a thrill. Let’s just say it involved me, a doctor, a nurse and a razor blade. Come back next time, and I’ll tell you all about it. -Al