Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Holy pap!

WARNING: this post may contain Too Much Information for some readers. Especially the guys. You may want to skip it and wait for my next post, which will probably be about the Canadian citizenship test, with hilarious examples of really easy questions. Or maybe I'll remember to charge my camera batteries and get a couple of shots of amusing things I see on my ride to work every day. I think I've now typed enough waffle to fill the truncated post you see in Google Reader; keep reading at your own risk!


One of my distinguishing characteristics is that I always go for the laugh. In awkward situations, that goes double. I'm sure a psychologist would have a field day with that, but hey, it makes for good blog posts.

However, I really need to learn that there are times when I don't need to make someone giggle. Take my pap/smear test yesterday, for example.

While my doctor was in the middle of the exam, she asked whether I'm in a monogamous relationship. When I said yes, she said "oh, that's right, you got married, didn't you? I remember you changing your name. How long ago is that now?"

"Two years - today, actually!"

"Oh, congratulations! Are you doing anything fun?"

Now, this is where I really should have stifled that instinct. But the words were out of my mouth before I even consciously knew what I was going to say:

"What, you mean even more fun than this?"

This situation wouldn't be at the absolute top of my list of times you don't want to hear the words "I'm sorry, I'm going to have to wait to continue until my hands stop shaking". But it's pretty close.

At least this was with a doctor I actually like. Until a few years ago I was seeing a male doctor who, although a good physician, did not have the most warm and welcoming personality. While preparing for a similar exam, he squeezed the bottle of lube a bit too hard, and a great big glob shot across the room, hit the wall, and gradually slimed its way down to the floor. If he'd just laughed it off, I would have chuckled and moved on. But he was known for being formal and uptight, and actually got incredibly embarrassed. Like, completely mortified, and apologising profusely.

You know how the urge to laugh gets stronger in situations where laughter would be inappropriate? Yeah. I really felt like I couldn't laugh out loud. So when he tried to start the exam, my entire body was shaking with suppressed laughter, and he had to leave the room and come back five minutes later when I'd calmed down.

Cancer screening is no laughing matter, really*, but it's good to know it can occasionally involve a good chuckle.


*the Test of the Flying Lube Glob actually came back abnormal, and I had to go for a colposcopy. Luckily the results came back normal, as did all subsequent pap tests. If yesterday's is clear, I'll be moved back from annual to biennial check-ups from now on (all free - yay, socialised healthcare). This is part of my reason for (over)sharing these stories - I'm quite evangelical about getting my friends and family to keep up their regular testing schedules. And it's amazing how many of my friends have also had an abnormal result and colposcopy - but never told me about it until I recounted my own experiences. We need to get the word out there!


  1. LOL Great story!

    I also had my pap yesterday - we are pap-sisters!! Funny enough (perhaps funny isn't the word, but you know what I mean), I also had abnormal results on a test a couple years back and had to go through the whole colposcopy thing and getting paps twice a year. Things have been normal ever since though, and I'm back to annual check ups!

  2. I assume the smear testg is set up to be too sensitive, and tend to give false positives. That way the test can be cheap and quick, but doesn't miss many positives.

    I should point out, though, that I have never had a smear test. Wrong tubing.

  3. Mrs CH, apparently an abnormal result is very common (Bob probably has the right reason), it's just that no-one talks about it. Which is a shame, because I got a bit stressed (even though the doctor told me that the worst case scenario would involve laser or freezing treatment), which might have been avoided if I'd known about my friends' experiences. Not that I told anyone about my colposcopy, either, until I got the results back.

    LOL at the pap sisters thing! I hope we both get a clear result!

    Bob, lucky you! When Mr E Man gloats about the same thing though, I like to remind him that prostate exams start at 40 (he'll be 38 next week). I'm trying not to think about mammograms.

  4. Haha - I would have done/said the same things. This is the conversation I was having with my (male and nowhere near as hot as Hot Doc) doctor when I had a pap this summer:

    Doc: Ok, I'm going to insert the speculum so just relax. That's a very thick accent you have - where are you from?

    Me: The land far, far away.

    Doc: Wow - I've always wanted to go there but I guess you get people saying that all the time, huh? It must get uncomfortable in some circumstances.

    Growling and/or laughing in that position isn't very comfortable I can assure you!

  5. Yeah, it's probably hard to get that exam started when your body is seized up with suppressed laughter.

  6. Mammograms aren't that bad - it was better than the pap thing anyhow :) Of course hanging by one breast off a large immovable object isn't exactly comfortable! Ok so I'm vertically challenged and so was the machine. It couldn't get down any further and the stool wouldn't go up any higher. I swear I'm taking my own stool next time in about a month.....

    viv in nz

  7. PiT, that's funny! Uncomfortable sounds about right...

    I once had a conversation about whether it's better for a male doctor performing a pap to be hot, or not. I said hot is better than gross or creepy, but my friend said that she had a hot doc do hers and it just felt wrong! I suppose "boringly normal" is best...

    MXX, yeah, proceeding was not an immediate option!

    Viv, thanks for the mental image! You really think their equipment would be better designed!

  8. If you've never seen or heard of the PBS/Nova program called "Doctors' Diaries" I'd highly recommend it. While the series is amazing, I must admit I laughed out loud when seeing the med students learning how to do pelvic exams in their freshman year. The video is on the PBS website under "Chapter 2" and the bit I'm referring to starts about a quarter or a third into it; the transcripts are below the video in the popup window.

    And for the record, my male GP is "boringly normal" and married which was perfect for pap and breast exams. Musculoskeletal exams on the other hand are infinitely better if performed by a Hot Doc who's not at all creepy and very, very easy on the eyes.

  9. Thanks Cath, I wasn't really in the mood for my yearly testing, but now I think I should go. Even though my male doctor is annoying. The first time I came to see him he looked at my birthdate, from which he could easily see that I was 28, and then without even asking me whether I had a steady relationship or so, which at that age I think is pretty likely, launched into telling me about the dangers of "changing partners often". I was quite angry that he immediately took me for a slutty student, which I have never been. Bah.

  10. PiT, unfortunately the videos only play in the US :( Shame, it sounded amusing!

    I lived with 3 medical students during undergrad, and I heard a lot of their stories. In fact, the first time one friend ever recognised a patient out and about round town, it was the woman whose pap she'd observed a couple of days before! She (my friend) was mortified, but I imagine she's over that now!

    Nina, that's awful! I'm so disappointed that doctors still behave like that. Even if you were 19, that would have been inappropriate without getting a history first. I think it's definitely grounds for changing doctors, if you can (I was able to change within the same (large) practice, just by saying we had a personality clash and I'd be more comfortable with a woman).

    Oh, did I mention that my former doctor always tested me for pregnancy and herpes first, regardless of what complaint I went in with?

    I do hope you go for your test though... hopefully with a new doctor!

  11. Yes you are right, I could and should change doctor. I never understood why men would want to become a doctor for "women things" other than some weird and sick interest ... Perhaps if he would look less like a retired playboy it wouldn't be so bad, but he has this perpetual artificial suntan and perfectly styled white hairs ... yuck.

    Something else, what are you doing end of October? Seems as if I will be on a short Vancouver visit!

  12. Speaking of medical students and paps, I was once asked by my doctor whether I'd be willing to have a student do my exam. I said yes and...well, I'm never saying yes again.

    It wasn't horrible, but the student clearly didn't know what she was doing, which made an awkward and uncomfortable procedure even more awkward and uncomfortable and, in addition, take three times as long!

    Oh, and my doctor is very good-looking. Married with children, but definitely hot. I agree hot is better than creepy or gross, but it is a little weird.

  13. Thanks for sharing. I would have freaked out as well. Fortunately all mine came back fine so far.
    I once had a hot doctor. Weird, yes. But at least he seemed to know what he was doing, unlike the woman I saw before that.

  14. Nina, well, if it's a family or general practice doctor who happens to do paps as and when required, fair enough... if they choose to specialise, yeah, it's a bit weird!

    It reminds me of an episode of Friends where Rachel is dating an ob/gyn doctor, and he won't sleep with her. He points out that she's a waitress in a coffee shop, so surely when she gets home from work, the last thing she wants to do is look at another cup of coffee...

    Another blogger coming to Vancouver - awesome!!!! I think I'll be here, although our vacation plans aren't finalised yet (we're planning to go somewhere warm in November, but haven't actually booked anything yet.) Keep me posted, I'd love to meet up with you if I'm in town!

    Mad Hatter, that's too bad... I guess they have to learn somehow, but it's no fun for their test subjects! Maybe someone should invent some kind of substitute (like the rubber arms with veins in that they learn to take blood from). I'm sure such a piece of equipment would never ever be misused by anyone, obviously...

    Amelie, competence is definitely the most important characterstic of a doctor! I'm glad you've been getting all clear results, keep up the testing though!

  15. You'd not get a Dr doing your smear test in the UK, they long since farmed out such 'routine procedures' to practice nurses, who are (around here at any rate) generally female. If it is a routine test in the Dr's surgery, I'd prefer female HCP's, if it 'women's things' that require a Dr then male is OK, so long as female staff are present.

  16. MH> I remember being young(er) and going for a pap and an exam when the Ob/gyn asked "would you like to volunteer for some med students to observe on how to do a pap". If it wouldn't have been for the fact that there were "some" and I was the age of the students, well maybe. As it was I really didn't feel comfortable thinking 5 students my own age staring at my private parts (especially since I saw the group outside prior to the question - both male and female 20-25yo).

    another thing that might be strange is if the plastic gloves are really cold.... Keeping a straight face wasn't easy but at least it was a relaxed atmosphere and we all saw the "humour" in it.

    In regards to the female/male; I had a friend in college who would never go to a woman, only male doctors. She didn't like the idea of a woman "touching her private parts". For me personally, I never thought of it like that and prefered talking to a female who could relate to pms/boob ache while on the pill etc...

  17. UHDD, I remember that from when I was still living in the UK. The nurses I had were always really good - and I suppose it frees the doctors' time for appointments that do need a doctor!

    Chall, yeah, it might feel different if the students are way younger than the patient! (and if there's no chance that you might recognise one of them!)

    I've never had a problem with cold gloves or other things; all my doctors/nurses have been pretty good about warming things up first!

    I'd rather see a female doctor for the same reasons you gave, but a guy is OK. The touching of parts is so far from anything sexual that it doesn't really bother me at all any more, although when I was younger I was more likely to get embarrassed...

  18. LOVE it. any talk of va jay jays or TMI makes me happy :)

  19. Jolly good, I have another post in the works that may interest you ;)


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