Tuesday, January 02, 2007

All's Well, Probably

Last Friday, I got a phone call from my doctor's office. The results of my Pap were back and my doctor wanted to discuss them with me.

"When would you like to come in?" the Admin Woman asked.
"When's your earliest appointment?" I asked back.

The earliest appointment was today at 12.40 pm. I was shown into the exam room about 20 minutes late, which is the latest my doctor has ever been, but not the latest I've ever had a doctor be. I sat down while AW busied herself with getting various implements and papers out of various cupboards and drawers. Over her shoulder, she apologized to me.

"I'm sorry I couldn't tell you what it was over the phone."
"That's okay," I said, "I knew you couldn't, that's why I didn't ask."
"I'm sure you heard the worry in my voice, though," she continued. I hadn't. Or had and successfully ignored it, convincing myself they just hadn't gotten enough cells to know anything. But the worry was coming through loud and clear now. She was also enjoying her role as sympathizer. "It's just that we're all women and when a result like this comes in, you get freaked out."

(Okay. Here's a tip on bedside manners. If the worst thing that a patient can have is CANCER it's probably a bad idea to tell her that the results are really freaky before the doctor has a chance to come into the room to accomplish the objective of an appointment made for the explicit purpose of DISCUSSING THE RESULTS. Which might be CANCER.)

There was a moment or two of silence while I digested that and tried not to cry. It was upsetting news. If you're going to have cancer, I thought, cervical cancer is a good one, since it's very slow moving and easy to get rid of. But oh dear, I thought further, I don't want to have any kind of cancer. I am the Queen of Ridiculous Ailments. Even if it's a slow moving easily vanquished cancer, cancer is not ridiculous.

I looked up to see AW just closing my file. It reminded me that I'd wanted to get the numbers from my blood pressure reading at my last physical, since all I'd gotten out of the Goob, my doctor, was "It's good!" and a snapping shut of my file.

"Could you tell me what my blood pressure was at my physical?"
AW looked up at me and said "Why? Are you concerned? You do look a little pink."

Of course I look pink, you twat. You just told me that the Goob is going to walk in here and tell me some Very Bad News. You're damn lucky you're not prying my head out of the acoustic tile 5 feet above.*

AW goes to leave. I'm still sitting in the chair. She turns around at the last minute and tells me to get undressed and sit on the exam table, gives me another sympathetic look and shuts the door. I take my bottom clothes off and sit on the crinkly paper. And sit, and sit.

And rub my feet, which have started to get really cold.

I also practice asking the Goob to look at my toe, which started hurting badly enough in the night to wake me up. You have to be fast on the questions while with her, because she's in and out of that room like a flash, and never asks if there's anything else. Well, my toe is something else. It's the only part of my foot that's warm.

Then I spend some time trying to get the very thin paper cover to cover both my ass and my feet simultaneously without crossing my legs. That would be undignified.

Eventually, the Goob comes in and flips my chart open on the counter. "Your test came back with atypical cells."


"What does that mean?" I ask. She looks startled.

"It means they are abnormal."

I nearly scream. I KNOW THAT.

"This could be from infection, or-" and this is her most shining moment "-they could be the pre-pre-pre-pre-precursor to cancerous cells. It would not be cancer for maybe 5 years." Okay. Atypical, I can deal with. We have 5 years to best some cancerous cells, and hell, maybe it's the dregs of an infection.

Her kindness for the day over, she walks purposefully over to the table, tells me to lie down and busies herself with implements and whatever it is that I can't see because I'm scootching my ass down to the end of the table and putting my cold feet in the cold stirrups. Then, without so much as a kiss my foot or have an apple, she slaps some lube on me, pokes her fingers into my downstairs and asks me if I've had any pain. I try not to be sarcastic.

She puts the speculum in, opens it, then turns it - I know that all of you with a vag are cringing along - and scrapes around on my cervix. It feels like someone is mining the core of the earth.

"If these results come back atypical," she says, holding the samples aloft, "we will set up a referral to a specialist."

At least I am well prepared for the world of specialists.

She beelines back over to the counter, drops the stuff and heads for the door.

"My toe!" I exclaim. "It hurts!" She jerks back into the room and stands a foot away from me. Looks down.

"It hurts around the nail? There where it is a little red? It is the beginning of a hangnail. Go get this cream. Wait, you have insurance? Yes? Okay. Then get this cream." She passes the prescription held delicately in two fingers. They don't touch mine as I take the paper. I think it's a sop to make me feel like I'm doing something about something. She boots it out of the room.

No tissue to be seen, so I wipe myself off with the scrapey thin paper cover, shove it in the garbage and put my clothes back on.

AW continues with the sympathy. "The results will be back in two weeks. You know, it's all in the mind, think good thoughts."

"I'm not gonna think of it at all till I hear from you," I reply, wrapping myself up to face the wind. "What's the point?"

I could feel the people in the waiting room thinking "There but for the grace of god..." And I'm not even religious.

*It's 110/70, for the curious. It's good.


Amanda said...

woosh...scary and the way the doc handled it was just so insensitive makes me want to scream. i know they see some things, but not even a tissue for clean up? my own doctor is weird but she's more sensitive than that. and two weeks till the results? geez...distractions are in order, big ones. this is very nerve wracking and scary, megan...i'll beam positive thoughts at your nether regions...

Pearl said...

Dear Lord, a few rounds of courses in communication and etiquette wouldn't do that, or a couple doctor's I've had, a whit of harm.

Anonymous said...

try not waving it over so many cancer sites...oh, and positive thinking! yeah!!

Anonymous said...

Jesus! That doctor need some sensitivity training, ASAP. I've heard that cookies can increase your positive thought radio ten fold. Shall I make you some cookies? It works; I've tried it. I'm trying it right now.

zoom! said...

Did she mention cervical dysplasia? Because that's what my abnormal-pre-cancerous-cells-pap-test was 20 years ago. It required a couple of trips to a cervical dysplasia treatment centre (which, incidentally, was absolutely jam-packed with young women) for some kind of assembly-line cervical zapping. The freakiest part was getting to see my cervix on a giant TV while it was being zapped. Dysplasia is apparently very common, and doesn't often end up as cancer if treated.

You deserve a better doctor. But I did love this line: "Of course I look pink, you twat."

minxer said...

I'll bake you some cookies too. We can do a cookie/pap-horror-stories exchange.

Asteroidea Press said...

cookies! cookies!

in truth, though, i'm not that worried - particularly after i keep hearing all these non-cancerous atypical cell stories. and for the one person i know who did have to have the cells removed it was only troublesome because she was living in a different country at the time.

i'll wait to see if i need to worry.

i was bemoaning the lack of tact in my doctor to my friend Chris, and she said "My doctor is really nice, but she's always wrong about my ailments." I guess at least the Goob seems to know what she's doing.

though she did *not* mention cervical dysplasia. sheesh.

what's shocking is that the goob is really much better than the doctor i had before her.