Earlier in the year I realised it had been nearly 2 years since my last Pap Smear (which is apparently an out-dated term, Pap Test is the preferred now. What do you call it?) and I would need to book in to get it done shortly. Of course I put it off. I’ve never known a woman who has said “Oh I am due to get my pap smear done, better go do that right this second!” it’s usually “Oh, I need to get around to doing that” but the experience is so awkward we just keep pushing that date back.
One of the main reasons I’ve been postponing mine is that I don’t have a regular doctor that I visit and it seemed really strange to have my first meeting with a doctor be one where they inspect my cervix. I thought I might wait and see if I had to visit the doctor for any other reason first but that never happened so I sucked up my courage and made an appointment. A local medical centre has a female doctor who specialises in female and sexual health so I thought, although awkward (for me), she would probably be a good choice to see. I made an appointment online and tried to prepare myself for the whole thing.
I arrived to my appointment, got to the front desk and was told that the doctor I had chosen doesn’t actually take new patients and I should never have been able to book her. Regardless of the fact that I had been able to book the appointment they weren’t going to let me see her. Although the receptionist did whisper “Is it for a Mirena implant?” and I wonder what the outcome would have been if I had said that it was for an IUD.
After being told I couldn’t see the doctor I had researched I was also told that there were no appointments with any of their female doctors for that day. My options were to see a male doctor or see no one. Given I’d finally made the appointment I figured I’d go with the male doctor, how bad could it be? It couldn’t be any worse than normal, right?
I took a seat and waited for the doctor to call me in. I tried to stay calm and relax as much as I could.
The doctor called me in and asked me what I assume are standard questions but kept pressing on when my last test was. I don’t know if he didn’t believe that it was 2 years ago or maybe didn’t think I needed it yet but he asked me multiple times and at that point I was still fully dressed.
Then it was time to remove all clothing from the waist down (I kept my socks on!), spread my legs and let a strange man inspect me. It was about as pleasant as you would expect what is basically a plastic set of tongs clamped open inside you can be and then he made it even less so by proclaiming that there was a lot of blood and how that wasn’t very good. He then asked me again how long it had been since my last test. TWO YEARS!
At this point I’m getting even more uptight and the relaxing of my muscles just isn’t working. I assume he can see how nervous I am but then, the phone rings. Given we were in the middle of a procedure and the speculum was ‘in place’ I never thought in a million years he would actually go and answer that phone but… he did. He went and answered the phone while I just lay there, legs wide, in shock.
Unfortunately, the appointment didn’t get much better and it ended with him shoving a bunch of tissues at me telling me that there was some ‘stuff going on there’ and pointed in the general direction of my crotch. Because this appointment hadn’t been humiliating enough.
Once I had gotten dressed he essentially dismissed me from the office without giving me any understanding about what the issues with the test may mean.
I walked out of the medical centre and raced over to the nearest toilets where I shut myself in a stall and cried and tried to process what had just happened. While I gave permission for him to complete the test I have never felt this way in one before and didn’t expect to feel violated when it was over.
Fortunately, they were able to process the sample he did get and the results came back normal. I don’t know if I would have been able to work myself up to getting it done again so soon if they hadn’t been. It makes me wonder if this is a common experience for women during pap tests and is one reason why women fail to get them done regularly even though they are important in detecting abnormal cells and cervical cancer.
Next time I think I’ll investigate a gynaecologist so I can then be confident that it is a common procedure they do all the time.