Today’s post comes from a dear friend of the blog owner – it is a subject that we all felt needed more exposure. We encourage you to share her experience, and go through your day with her message close to your heart. There is never a reason anyone ever has to struggle alone. – C
Today, I want to talk about woman’s health. Not the, “I’m going to eat clean and go to the gym” woman’s health, but rather GYN health. It’s a subject I feel isn’t talked about enough; I think, in a way, it is taboo among women, and it prevents them from speaking to others. I’d like to change that.
Back in December, I got a phone call from doctors office – I was due for my “woman’s well visit”. Honestly, isn’t this every woman’s LEAST favorite doctor appointment? The nurse told me they would do the visit at their office, and I didn’t need a referral to an OB/GYN office. I thought this sounded very convenient, and was impressed. On the day of my appointment, upon arrival I am told a nurse, not a doctor, would be performing the pap-smear. In fact, I didn’t see a gynecologist at all during this visit! When everything was finished, I was told I would receive a phone call with the results.
About ten days pass by, and I receive the phone call all women dread – my results are abnormal. The woman who called with my results said it could mean pre-cancer, cancer, or STDs. In my head I am think, this is completely insane. The STD part was especially insane – I’ve been with the same person since high school! She told me that the abnormality noted is 99% of the time is related to HPV. The nurse who performed my test tells me she will put in a referral to a specialist, and would call me back that day. She did not call back that day. She did not even call that week.
Of course I’m thinking the absolute worst at this point. I decide to go in person to the clinic, and speak to someone. And I am glad I did, because I happily left with an appointment at an outside GYN Clinic. Another week goes by, and the new clinic I was supposedly referred to for testing has yet to receive an actual referral! They hadn’t even received my test results. I call the clinic, and the woman on the phone tells me I cannot have the testing if I don’t have the referral. She goes on to tell me I would need to pay out of pocket for an office visit. To say I was frustrated would be a gross understatement.
The next day, and the day before my appointment, I go to the original hospital again. I go to three different offices, before someone in patient advocacy steps in to help. This truly lovely, and amazing woman looks at the system and explains the nurse did not put in the referral yet! The patient advocate goes through a back door in the system, I’ve now been waiting three weeks, and gets my referral in. She also prints out hard copies of everything for me.
The following day, in the new office, I am scheduled for a Colposcopy. Colposcopy is a procedure to closely examine the cervix. During colposcopy, the doctor uses a special instrument called a colposcope – it greatly enlarges everything, and allows the health care provider to find problems that cannot be seen by the eye alone. The week after the colposcopy, I have another appointment to discuss results with the GYN clinic. To my great relief, the doctor comes in, and says, “Great news! There’s nothing wrong!” There’s nothing wrong!!! After an entire month of freaking out, I am so overjoyed by the news.
Yet, I still remain so infuriated by the lack of patient care I was given by my primary care office. I am so resentful thinking my original testing could have been performed wrong, and that it caused be undue stress. This process should absolutely, under no circumstances, take three weeks to complete… especially if your health care team says they will finish same day. It certainly should not take a patient marching all over the hospital, multiple times to receive appropriate care.
The take away is this: Advocate for yourself! Fight for your health care, and fight for answers. Don’t be complacent. While these appointments aren’t fun, they are necessary. According my GYN, he stated starting at 18, or once you become sexually active, a woman should have a pap smear every three years. Once a woman reaches 30 years of age, he stated every five years is sufficient. If, in that time, she has an abnormal pap, they should be performed annually for the next two years, and then spaced out to three years. This is absolutely a part of staying healthy. I urge you to take care of yourself first, this will ensure you can take care of your family.