Last week I took Gracie to the Vet for her annual check-up. We were a few weeks early, but something was going on with her gastrointestinal system. Gracie hates the Vet. To get her there I have to go on a roundabout walk that just happens to end at their door. Halfway down the block she realizes where we are, stiffens up, digs into the concrete, and refuses to budge. Her eyes narrow into little slits. I’ve betrayed her again.
In the waiting room I sweet talk her and give her a biscuit. I scratch her ears and tell her she is a good girl. She is anxious. She whines. I’m embarrassed that my dog is a bad patient.
Each visit she is a bit more obstinate. Each visit she has to wear “a party hat” so the Vet can draw blood, take her temperature, and give her shots. She doesn’t like it, and it is a tussle to get the muzzle on properly. She is fear aggressive, and it takes two of us to get it on safely.
Gracie is six, middle aged but juvenile. Something she has in common with me. The stool and blood tests come back; she has a little giardia, nothing to worry about, it has been going around. They give me five packets of a powder. I mix one a day into her dinner. I pick up some heartworm nuggets and Frontline. I pay the bill. Hopefully, we won’t be back until next year.
I stare at the telephone unable to make the phone call, unable to cross off “make appointment with gynecologist” from my list. I hate going even though I am sure the doctor is a lovely person. I am way overdue, but I feel fine. For years I didn’t go to a doctor. I wasn’t on birth control, I didn’t want children, I never got sick. I only started going during peri-menopause when I began hemorrhaging from fibroids.
I had huge fibroids. Depending upon the surgeon’s preference for sports or food metaphors I had either softballs or grapefruits. I was determined to go through a natural menopause, and thought I could tough it out. I couldn’t. After two surgeries to remove reoccurring fibroids I acquiesced and had a partial hysterectomy (uterus out, cervix and ovaries remain).
Looking back, I don’t know why I resisted having my uterus removed. I had read up and done my research. The hormones are in the ovaries and find their way into your bloodstream without the uterus, so there was no need to go on hormone therapy. If you keep your cervix there is minimal loss of sexual responsiveness. My system had to go through a little internal nerve rewiring but within a few months I was fine and had orgasms that I couldn’t complain about. I felt better almost immediately.
I was, and still am, ecstatic to not have my period. I never acknowledged how much I detested getting it. How uncomfortable it made me feel. My body betraying my mind. My denial ran to not keeping track of it; every month it seemed like a surprise. Cramps and crankiness. I always seemed to be out of tampons and Advil Extra Strength.
Each visit to the gynecologist freaks me out and kicks up all sorts of traumatic dust. I don’t like having anyone else touch me there or poke around. I tell myself that I can not wait until something is wrong; I have to go in for a visit. I try to psych myself up to make the call. I have to be a grown up.
I remind myself that if you are an adult with some combination of a vagina, ovaries, a cervix, and a uterus you need to go in for a check-up. For preventive maintenance. Doesn’t matter if you identify as gay, straight, butch, femme, transgender, female or male. But I wish someone else would make the appointment, snap the lead on my collar, walk me there, put on the muzzle, and pay the bill.