Thu 31 May 2012
Sometimes analogies are as clear as glass like I feel as giddy as champaign is bubbly or I am as low as a crab in an ocean trench. In fact, our DNA wires our brains to seek patterns from nothingness. This drive to create order compels us to interpret our dreams and identify concrete symbols from abstraction. Our medium is meaning and we seek to understand. We want to know and to be safe and feel well.
This genetic drive for stasis socializes us into a community of diagnosticians as our need to know is equally yoked with our desire to be comfortable. As such, we approach experience like a puzzle to solve or a diagnostic differential.
If we feel ill, we assess our symptoms to determine if we do or don’t need the intervention of a physician. Often the indicators are straightforward like a fever, or a rash that won’t go away, or pain.
Pain is the body’s signal that something is wrong.
Pain is a definitive, primal signal.
Pain flashes a warning.
Pain asserts the most elementary of medical principals.
If doing that hurts, STOP doing that.
Yet, in it’s way, pain is also entirely subjective.
When I’m in pain, it’s difficult for me to remember that it may have hurt less yesterday.
It (still) hurts (now)!
Make it stop!
Make it stop now!
I’ll drink anything.
I’ll swallow anything.
Get me an epidural!
I don’t care I’m not in labor (or even pregnant).
When in pain, it’s difficult for me to remember that I will feel better, let alone soon, or that my life, actually, is generally very sweet and comfortable.
I’m so comfortable in fact, with my first-world sensibility and Middle Class American propaganda that I’ve devolved into something of a pain-phobic persona.
I don’t want it to hurt.
Whatever “it” is.
Truth be told,
I don’t even want it to feel hard,
or require too much effort…
Whether its making dinner,
or raising a child,
or saving a marriage,
or growing in Faith.
I really don’t want it to be messy
I want my challenges like
I want my food,
(Hmmmmmm…. Notice I didn’t list healthy…)
As such, I avoid pain and difficult conversations and hard workouts for the simple reason that they hurt. I know they hurt. The gamble that pushing through the pain will take me to a better place often, and simply, isn’t worth the upfront pain tax. This is true when The Husband and I try to agree on a budget or our family needs to purchase a new vehicle or The Mamma needs to schedule her annual OB/GYN physical.
In fact, prior to this week, The Mamma was over a year past due her for her pap and pelvic. Even though I respect that my health is a family resource, and it’s a commodity that daily caregives for the five people I love most on the planet, I kept procrasstinating making an appointment Here because I knew it would hurt.
I wasn’t willing to pay the pain tax.
Ever since I was in grad school, I had the benefit of the medical care and relationship with of one primary physician. Initially he was my gynecologist and later became my obstetrician. He tended my every woman’s health issue from before I conceived of conception through every pregnancy and pregnancy loss and reproductive repair.
He caught each of the heads of our four children.
He held us together through four losses.
He helped me get my body back into shape four times.
He performed seven surgeries.
I trusted him
in a way that I haven’t ever trusted
anyone else with my body.
Except my husband.
So I thought I knew how much he meant to me before I finally made my appointment for that stupid pap smear Here.
I was so wrong.
Nothing at all went wrong with the appointment Here.
The physician was entirely competent and kind and professional. She was thorough and took a medical history as extensive as an archeologist on a dig. She tutored me on how to do a self breast exam and its importance. She inquired if I wore a seatbelt. She admonished me not to drink and drive. She warned that sending a text behind the wheel could kill me dead. She observed that there were treatment options available for recreational drug use and tobacco addiction. She inquired if my husband ever abused me and if I am safe in my relationship. She ordered blood panels and offered me a referral for a primary caregiver. She also asked to weigh me, inserted the speculum without telling me that she was gong to do it first and placed her finger in my bottom without a polite warning.
In other words, she didn’t know me.
Like, at all.
There was no malpractice and nothing inappropriate in the medical care she gave me.
As a woman physician, taking care of a woman with my medical history, she had every reason to expect I knew the ins and outs of a gynecological exam without verbal cue or someone to hold my hand.
Mine was a routine exam,
one of many she would do that day,
of the scores she would do that week,
of the countless thousands
she has done user career.
It was simply,
no biggy for her.
It was just,
as my lab prescriptions record,
a routine well visit annual exam for a healthy woman.
It was for me, however, anything but routine.
I felt anonymous.
As course as it sounds, I learned a lot about relationship from having a strange woman’s finger up my bottom.
Yep, I said it.
I went there.
I mentioned the nasty.
Ladies, we all know that appointment can be a literal pain in the butt.
Now I’ve got to figure out how to make my point without your thinking that I have some kind of anal fetish or engaged in an inappropriate relationship with my previous doctor.
No, no, no!
He was, however, a partner in my medical care and wellness. The Husband and I have had a relationship with him for over 15 years.
Relationship reduces pain. Relationship takes the impersonal out of sterile medical procedures. Relationship extends safety when you’re feeling naked and alone, let alone literally nude while straddling stirrups.
It hurts to be away from the people who make me feel safe and known and loved. It hurts to be anonymous, just another pap smear, just two more breasts to palpitate and one more woman to remind about sunscreen.
I knew it would be difficult to see a new doctor. But I didn’t realize how much it would hurt my heart.
I am so grateful that I enjoyed such flawless medical care from my physician the for so many years. His choice to care about me as a person was the longest acting, most effective and most life-giving prescription he ever wrote me.
I know it’s unlikely I’ll ever have that kind of relationship again with another doctor.
I am grateful to him.
He knew me.
I will go to the dentist and get a skin checked and make and keep my annual appointments Here.
I will also seek to nurture and grow the relationships that I’ve begun with people Here. Nothing is more important to my wellness nor better medicine than being known and appreciated for who I am.
There was a time when you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah