Sexclamation ! - Part Two
Well today is the day I turn turkey (is that a good way of putting it?). I'm sure I'll feel like one - gobble, gobble! - legs akimbo up on that chair! I'm having that STI screen.
For those of you who read my first post, the weird thing about this is:
- I'm 55,
- I've never had an STI screen, and
- I'm a Sexual Health Clinic doctor.
This is to celebrate having my own blog on the HuffPost! What better way to do it! (Well a glass of Chablis in the hot tub might be preferable ... but that comes later!)
I had a sleepless night. There is so much humiliation in this. It's full of what ifs and maybes and I'm not good with uncertainty. What if I can't find the clinic, or I wait for ages in the waiting room, next to who knows who? I might see someone I know. What if someone recognises me? What if it's a male doctor? I really want a female doctor. What if they ask my personal details and they are leaked for example to HuffPost! What if I have to get undressed and they laugh at me, just because I'm 50+ and everything is heading in the wrong direction! What if they find something I didn't know I had? I can't even examine myself down there. It's not anatomically possible! And how long is it to get the results? And what if any of the tests are positive? What do I do then?
So I tell myself not to be so stupid. I know the answers to all this, but somehow, as it's me in the passenger seat this time, this is different.
Well signposted, I find the clinic quickly, but first problem, I'm early and the doors haven't opened yet! I can't stand in the queue that has formed by the door. So I walk on past nonchalantly. About ten minutes later I walk back and they've all gone in. Phew! A receptionist aged about 50, with a curly perm, Dame Edna glasses and a nice smile asks if I have an appointment. Yes, I made it online. She hands me a clinic questionnaire. I take a seat on one of those apple-green, plastic chairs, amongst all the other patients. In fact no one even looks up. They are all busy with their questionnaires too.
The questionnaire asks me various things. It's a way of triage, to make sure people with symptoms are seen first. So I have to tick a load of boxes about my symptoms. Easy, as I don't have any. In fact, if clinics are busy, they often ask asymptomatic people to go home and come back another day - but I hope they don't do this for me! I have readers interested in what happens next!
OK, so I waited two hours. Crikey those chairs are uncomfortable. Imagine sitting on them if you had genital ulcers! But anyway - eventually they call my number. Note, not my name.
The consulting room is clean and fresh. The doctor is female. She introduces herself but I can't remember her name (just as well as she probably doesn't want to me mentioned in this blog!). I'm not telling her I'm a Sexual Health Doctor by the way. It's a secret between me and the blog readers!
Here's what she asks me:
- When did you last have sex?
- Was that with a male or female partner?
- A regular or a casual partner?
- How long have you been together?
- What type of sex did you have oral, vaginal, anal? (- anal !? - Do I really need to answer that?!)
- Did you use a condom, did it split/burst or fall off?
I stammer the answers.
Then she starts again,
- When did you last have sex with someone other than that person?
- Were they male or female?
- Regular or casual? ....and the pattern of questions is repeated.
She wants to know have I ever injected drugs, had a blood transfusion, had medical treatment abroad or been sexually assaulted.
I'm suddenly worried about that that incident in 1977 behind the bike sheds when I was 16, or that drunken fumble in 1982, or that guy I met on holiday in Zakynthos after my finals? Ahhh! - What to mention? It's like answering to the Gestapo! What's regular and casual anyway?
Then she ushers me into "the bloody chamber" - OK it's really called the exam room. I am left to undress. I am suddenly really aware of the noise of feet going past in the corridor outside the door. Is the door locked? Can I lock it? I feel vulnerable. There's nothing special about me. I've had children, so all bear the scars of childbirth. But I hope I don't look like Quasimodo down there. What will they say, what will they think? Perhaps there's a wart there I haven't noticed. I blush. Anyhow, time to do it, so I strip off my bottom things and sit on the edge of the exam couch, a piece of prickly blue couch roll wrapped round my nether regions like a genital turban.
In our clinic we have George Clooney to look at on the ceiling. It's a talking point. Lying there, a few minutes later I note there is no such picture here - only chewing gum. Errr gum? On the ceiling! - what? - how? No time to think about that one as my labia are prised apart and a cold plastic speculum noses its way inside me. It's fairly gruesome having it done however nice everyone is. There's a lot of twisting and pulling, and I feel I can't wait for this to be over. The doctor is trying to be friendly and chatting to relax me. "Nice up there," she says encouragingly. I wince. (Is it?) Actually I didn't think she was supposed to make personal comments. - she tempers that by saying, "I was referring to your recent holiday in Scotland." Oh - I see.
Then it's all over and I'm back in the consultation room again, clothes on. I must be pretty much normal as she hasn't said I'm not. Is it relief I feel that that bit is over? I'm being sent now to have some blood tests. Actually I don't mind these too much.
I have to wait five days for my results. Five days? Well that's not too bad. But I am full of trepidation. What if the tests are positive? What will I do then? How will I explain to Edward that he - we - are incubating an STI. Like some sort of primordial, invisible, genital soup. It's coursing through the pelvis doing backstroke. And we have no idea it's there at all. They will text me within five days they say, when all the results are back.
It will be a long five days.
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