Wednesday, June 17, 2009
You are going to feel slight pressure...
Here is something I never thought I'd ever say: I'm excited to go to the gynecologist today.
I know, I know. Pelvic exams--with the awkward spreading of the legs, the cold kiss of the speculum, the geographically-indeterminate pressure as the cervix is smeared--are like the ladyparts equivalent of routine dental care: no one looks forward to it, it is majorly uncomfortable during, but once it's over, you feel good about yourself.
I'm seeing a new doctor today. Just as I constantly seek out new hair stylists, I haven't been loyal to a gyno for more than a decade. In college, I saw the nurse practitioner at the campus health clinic (I can still picture the poster she had tacked to the ceiling: while she probed my nether regions, I stared up at an inspirational image that said "Women hold up half the world."), After that, I went to Planned Parenthood for a number of years. Just recently, I started seeing a regular doctor, the kind that books out three months in advance and spends about ten minutes with you on the day you are finally graced with her presence. I saw her a few weeks before my wedding last summer, and she asked if I needed a refill of my birth control; the assumption was, of course, that once I got married, I'd start shitting out kids right away. On her windowsills sat a model of some new fangled-IUD lodged in a plastic uterus; the promotional text said that it was effective at preventing pregnancy for five years. "Actually," I said, pointing at IUD, "I'd be interested in hearing more about that." She scribbled out a new script for my regular birth control instead.
A lot has changed since that appointment, of course, including when G and I might start a family (maybe it was a good idea I didn't get one of those pups shoved up my hoo-hoo last year; five years means something a lot different now). But the biggest change, of course, is that I'm suddenly aware of my ovaries and when and if they might turn on me. So I'm going to a doctor who has intimate knowledge what that's like; Dr. L is BRCA1+ (you can read more about her here) and has already undergone prophylactic bilateral mastectomy (with the very same doctors I'm planning to use this winter). I love meeting other women like me, and working with Dr. L will allow me to have someone familiar with the anxieties and odds associated with BRCA mutations coordinate my ovarian screenings.
I'm also looking forward to my appointment today because it's proof that I'm confronting aspects of this BRCA diagnosis that discomfort me most. Last month, when I returned from the FORCE conference, I wrote that I needed to start acknowledging my ovaries and prepare for their eventual removal. My focus has been so laser-pointed at my boobs (hence the name of this blog) that I forgot (or didn't want to deal with quite yet) the realities of the flip side of the BRCA coin. I promised myself after the FORCE conference to take more seriously my responsibility to be as vigilant and aggressive about my ovaries as I have been my breasts, and now, a month later, I'm getting ready to do just that.
Life with BRCA brings discomfort and distress, but the unpleasantness of a trip to the gynecologist is more than worth it when you recognize it has the potential to save your life. Bring on the speculum!