The dreaded pap test: Opening up (literally) about my experiences

funny pap test quote, funny pap test storyI’ve managed to get away with only 1 pap test my entire life. It was in 2010 and I remember the dry “Indian burn” feeling of her not using any gel. When that part was over she said, “Now I’m gonna put my hand inside to check…

(I must’ve blacked out after “hand inside” because I don’t remember what the hell she wanted to check.)

I closed my knees and said, “WHAT?!” Then I covered my front bum and asked, “WHY?!?”

“You don’t want me to?” (As if my expression didn’t already answer this question.)

“Do you HAVE to?”

“You know what? You’re young. It’s okay. I’m sure nothing’s wrong. We can do it next time.”

“Okay, next time.”

Then I never saw her again.

Not just because of that, but I was living in a different city and had to find a new family doctor closer to home anyways. When we were shopping for family doctors, I looked for these important traits: good listener, understanding, gentle, and small hands.

My husband and my doctor VS me and my vagina

All in all, I got away with not having a pap test done for 3 years… until last week. My husband made an appointment FOR me with our new family doctor. I needed another prescription for birth control, so here was the opportunity.

“You HAVE to. What if there’s something wrong? You should check to make sure.”

“Nothing’s wrong though.”

“How do you know?”

“CUZ!!… Nothing hurts. Nothing’s fallen out. I’m good!”

Sadly, I lost that battle. Appointment was set. I was going. And he was taking me. End of discussion.

How am I supposed to (literally) “loosen up” in a doctor’s office?

Before my appointment, I was sharing my fears with a friend and co-worker. While you’re reading this, try and picture a very calm and reasonable friend trying to talk a dramatic, irate lunatic off the ledge.

“I don’t WANNA go!”

“Jo, you have to go. Nobody likes having it done. We just have to.”

“But it hurts!”

“Just relax. Look at the ceiling and breathe.”

“I can’t have sex without music!”

(I didn’t mean this literally. I was trying to imply that my vag can’t relax unless I’m in a relaxed setting. But in my moment of panic, THAT’S what I blurted out.)

She laughed and said, “Just try and think of something else.”       

“Look me in the eyes. Tell me you love me. Something… Anything!”

She pretty much gave up reasoning with me at this point. After my pep talk with her, I was off to the doctors.

things i'd rather do than get a pap testI had a chance to delay it, but I didn’t

I told the nurse that I REALLY didn’t want to do this. The doctor came in and said, “If you want, I can write you a prescription for 6 months of birth control. Then in 6 months, you can come back and we do the test then.”

That offer sounded SO tempting. I could put this all away for half a year and worry about it later. PLUS still get my anti-baby pills, which was the whole point of going through this horrific experience.

But then I thought… I’m already here. I’ve mentally tortured myself over this. I’ve shaved. I’ve googled what to expect. I’ve gone through all the preparation and self-torture. I might as well just get it over with.

“I’ll just do it today. If you give me 6 months, I might just forget the birth control and give up sex.”

The moment I said that, out came the utensils and up came my lunch. The first time I had this test done, I didn’t look at the device that was used to pry my body open. This time, I was face-to-face with this thing – which to me looked like a torture tool you should only see on Dexter.

Invasive vaginal inspection here I come…

My immediate reaction: Oh, hellll no!

My immediate reaction: Oh, hellll no!

I followed all her instructions, got on the bed, and covered my business with the sheet she gave me. (A sheet that she called a “robe” at first, so I spent a good 5 minutes trying to figure out how to “wear” this robe, almost ripping it up before I concluded, it must just be a sheet.)

Then she came in.

She told me to put my knees up. I did. She told me to spread my legs. I did. She told me to spread them a little more. I didn’t. But that didn’t stop her – she went in anyway. I screeched, squirmed and grabbed the wall with one hand and the bed with the other. Then I felt the turning motion of the device spreading me open. It was like she was using a jack to lift up a car. My insides wanted to die.

Then she took her swabs, which felt more uncomfortable than painful. The pain mostly came from being held open at the vagina against my will.

I did what my friend told me to and looked at the ceiling. There was a vent above us, and I felt cool air blowing. To feel air blowing inside your body like that, from that angle, was so disturbing. It felt so unnatural. That should NOT be an entry point from which air should blow into!

After the swabs, there was some maneuvering of the contraption. I squirmed some more. I felt the turning motion again and she said, “Okay, it’s time to take it out. You need to relax and let me take it out.”

She pulled it out from what felt like the longest tunnel ever. I have a short torso, so I thought, OMG did this thing rub against my lung? Thinking back to my first experience when my old doctor wanted to wear my vagina on her hand like a puppet, I wondered if this doctor was going to do the same.

I asked her, “That’s it?”

“You want more?”

Taking that as a positive sign that none of her body parts would be going inside mine, I celebrated and said, “Can I put my pants on?”

“Yes you can.”

I got up and started getting dressed. She cleaned up, washed her hands, took her notes, and printed my prescription.

Fast-track to a side conversation the next day:

Later when I recounted this experience to my friend, she said, “Jo! You’re supposed to wait until she leaves the room and then get dressed! That’s why she gives you a sheet.”

Literally mortified, I yelled, “What?! I didn’t know that!”

She laughed and said nothing.

“No wonder why she was rushing. I thought she was kicking me out. I felt like a cheap one-night stand.”

“She was probably trying to leave, so you can get dressed!”

Back to the doctor’s office: While I was speedily putting my pants back on…

I said, “That’s a one-year prescription right? I didn’t just go through that for 6 months.”

“It’s one year. If your results are normal, you don’t need to have another test for…”

“Like 5 or 10 years?”

“No, 3 years. But ONLY if it’s normal.”

“How will I know if it’s not normal?”

“If there’s anything wrong, I’ll call you.”

“Why do people say I need to do this every year?”

“Once a year if you’ve had an abnormal result or if your sexual partner has changed.”

“Oh okay, I’m married to a very nice man.”

[Awkward pause]

“Umm… okay… good for you, Joanne.” 

Re-living the experience over and over again

I walked out to the waiting room and gave my husband that “Get in the car!” look. He asked me how it went, so I described it for him. Every. Single. Detail.

Then I said, “The good news is I don’t have to take this test again for another 3 years if everything’s normal. And if anything’s abnormal, she’ll call.”

“Okay, great.”

“So if she calls, don’t answer.”

For those of you who are thinking, “Wait till you have a baby,” that’s definitely NOT happening. 

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