Pap test, anyone?

Sheila na gig - these are Goddess images honouring the sacredness of the doors of life. This one was found at Kilpeck Church in Herefordshire. Photocredit: Ben Grader
Sheila na gig - these are Goddess images honouring the sacredness of the doors of life. This one was found at Kilpeck Church in Herefordshire. Photocredit: Ben Grader

Okay, so I went bravely forth today on my quest to find a doctor to do a pap test. Like many survivors, I haven’t had a gyne exam in several years, in my case, about 8.  I haven’t had (or thankfully, needed) any other medical care during that time. I have recurrent yeast infections (or something that behaves like it) that I’ve learned to manage with home remedies.

As a childhood rape survivor and taxpayer, I believe (silly me!) that I have a right to medical care that respects my needs. I would like to have an appointment with a doctor who looks me in the eye when she talks to me, treats me as an equal, tells me what she’s going to do before she does it, answers all related questions fully and allows me to sit up while doing the internal exam. I would further like the impossibility of a doctor that can do all of the following in a warm, friendly, matter of fact manner that doesn’t make me feel like I’m crazy for needing any of the above.

I called my local incest counselling agency to ask for suggestions. The intake clinician called back to say that they don’t have a list of doctors and I should try my provincial medical association. I dutifully went to the website of the provincial medical association. As is typical, they are actually a doctors advocacy group, so they don’t have any info for patients looking for specialized medical care.

Then I began having fantasies about becoming a health care advocate for survivors – doing the calling around to find a doctor with a clue, accompanying survivors to medical appointments. What I really need is for someone to do that for me.

I did a bunch of internet searching on the issue. Yes, survivors avoiding gyne exams is a known and documented issue. It’s particularly bad for survivors who get pregnant and have to deal with all the intrusiveness and insensitivity that can happen. In my region, you can hire a doula, or birth support person, who can help with that at least. I wonder if I could hire a doula to come to my pap test appointment?

A research group in Saskatchewan has put together a guide for doctors on how to offer sensitive care to survivors. It’s good, but what I really want is a one page ‘survivor safety lecture’ on some nice authauritative medical association letterhead that says. “the patient who has handed this to you is a child sexual assault survivor. She/he would like the following accomodations in the care you provide to accomodate her/his condition”, with a bunch of check boxes for things survivors commonly want. Maybe with a paragraph at the top explaining how these practices, if selected by the patient,  are recommended care for patients who have been exposed to childhood sexual assault with a nice official medical association signoff.

I’ve mocked uf an Information Sheet for Gynecological Care Providers to use since I couldn’t find anything like it. I don’t know if I’ll use it, but you’re welcome to, if it’s helpful. The suggestions are based on the document quoted near the top.

My wife has said she’ll come to my appointment , if I can find a doctor.  Oh, and by the way, women family doctors are in short supply in Canada. Apparently over 150,000 people in my province can’t find a family doctor. It’s hardly a buyers market out there. I’ve been to a woman doctor who explained in the first session that she had a part time practice and was there only for basic medical care. I forget her exact words, but in essence, if I was the least bit high maintenance I should find another doctor, if I can. I had a problem with painful ears which turned out to be blocked eustacian tubes. She did a quick exam and sent me for hearing testing, when really all I needed was to gently clear my ears and apply moist heat.  The ear specialist was cold and basically told me I was making up not being able to hear well (my ears weren’t blocked that day) and when I figured out what I needed to do on my own using the internet, I wrote my doctor a letter of complaint for not having spotted this simple thing. She called me in to discuss the letter, which essentially was her being defensive and blaming and I left her office in tears. I haven’t had a family doctor since.

I’ve gone to the drop in clinics, which are easier to get an appointment at, but a doctor I didn’t have to explain things to every time would be a blessing.

I’ve given up for today, maybe for awhile. I can only take on so much.

Photcredit: Ric e Ette, title: Lost (Perdito)
Photcredit: Ric e Ette, title: Lost (Perdito)

12 thoughts on “Pap test, anyone?”

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  3. Update: I still haven’t gotten a pap test. I saw on my local gay and lesbian centre website a special pap test clinic for transexual guys (born female, living as male) with a sympathetic nurse from the health unit doing the exams. I’m thinking they allow a nurse to take more time. It made me think of asking the people who put it on to do one for survivors.

    Trans guys are the only population I can think of that is less likely to get regular gyne exams than survivors. One of two trans guys I knew well, a roommate years ago, wanted us gals to hide when we had our periods because it freaked him out. As feminist dykes it is important to us to treat menstruation as a women-positive thing so I wouldn’t have put up with that kind of woman-body-hating from a regular guy, but I did from him. Not sure if that’s right or not. I think I agreed because I have some compassion about triggers, or more likely because I couldn’t articulate my argument. He was a jerk, so he didn’t have compassion about mine though.

    I have the names of some women doctors accepting patients. I haven’t made any calls as yet.

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  6. Hey,

    Just wanted to say that was not a baby step. That was a giant step.

    Hope you are feeling very proud.


  7. That’s great! You’re so brave. I’m working up to it, but haven’t found a place to go yet. I did ‘come out’ as a ‘survivor of child sexual assault’ to my massage therapist today though. She was fine about it. Baby steps.

  8. Hi,

    I just wanted to let you know that I got an appointment for next week due to this post. Haven’t had one in a couple of years.

    Thank you for the encouragement.


  9. Thank you so much for your blog, and for this post in particular. It really struck a cord with me. So hard to find decent medical care. And even harder on the gynaecological front. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

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