I recently turned 21, which is very exciting for obvious reasons. However, cervical cancer runs in my family, and I know 21 is when women are supposed to start getting tested for it.
I put off going to the gynecologist for years despite being sexually active, because I trusted my partner, but I guess I can’t avoid it anymore… But I’m scared! It’s so intimidating!! What is it like? Does it hurt?
Please convince me to go. I can’t bring myself to make an appointment.
Making that first appointment with a gynecologist can be daunting. If you’re sexually active, though, it is necessary to do.
The easiest part of the process is finding a doctor. Thanks to medical applications and location services, gone are the days where you were bound to your mother’s creepy lifelong gynecologist. For my first appointment, I just created a ZocDoc account and found a provider that accepted my insurance within a couple miles of campus.
The experience reminded me of my Tinder days. I scrolled through a bunch of profiles to determine which lucky winner would find themselves in my vagina. And they would be getting paid for it!
My bachelorette of choice was a nurse practitioner and new business owner. She was young and ambitious; she worked a day job at the hospital and opened her practice at nights to build her patient base. Since her office was open late, she catered to working women. I knew instantly that I wanted to support her, so I chose a time that worked for me and was on my way.
Choosing my medical professional based on shared values made the visit—enjoyable. For the first time I wasn’t awkwardly squirming in my chair, looking for my mom to answer questions and shield me from small talk. I felt like I was actively supporting female business owners, late night working women, independently practicing nurse practitioners, and East Orange small businesses, just by being there.
We talked about my sexual history, which wasn’t necessarily extensive, but since I had been active for at least two years, my visit was long overdue. I got tested for all the STD’s, talked a bit about birth control options, and had a pap smear done to check for cervical cancer.
Reader, I just felt you cringe at the words “pap smear”, but it’s really not that bad. Allow me to illustrate the experience:
Imagine being a little cold because the paper gown you are wearing doesn’t insulate quite as well as the clothes you walked in with. Your feet are in stirrups to give your medical provider optimal insertion access. You look through your spread legs and you see a lot of lubricant being applied to instruments, and after you freak out a bit, you think “dear god how am I going to put my pants on after this slimy mess.”
You know the procedure has begun when you feel a cold rod go inside you, but it doesn’t hurt because it’s drenched in lubricant. You think, “this is easy!”, and then the rod expands inside you like a pair of unlocked tongs. You jump a little. You feel the doctor swab your cervix and your mind skips from “oh my god there is a hydraulic press inside me” to “wow is my cervix really that deep?”. The swab goes away, the tongs are retracted and removed, you hear the slap of rubber as your doctor takes off their gloves, and you notice that your feet aren’t as cold anymore. Congratulations, you have just completed your first pap smear!
Notice how quickly you read that—you can definitely handle some discomfort for that short amount of time. So, please, don’t put off making that GYN appointment. Two minutes of minor discomfort is worth knowing you are cancer free.
Take care of yourself! You can do this!
Your Fellow Highlander
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