“To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” – Buddha
Eight years ago, my doctor found an abnormality on my cervix. This dysplasia was operated on by competent hands and I diligently scheduled a pap smear for every three months. Then six months. Annually. And then I got pregnant. I figured that my cervix was getting enough attention over my three years of childbearing to warrant a break from formal check-ups. At some point I realized that it had been three years since I’d had an annual exam.
As I was stewing in a post-swim sauna yesterday, my neighbor told me that she’d heard all physical ailments have some emotional core or cause. It was thought that through stream-of-consciousness writing that one could relieve the body of symptoms. Write as long as was necessary without censure and then tear up the writing.
Why had I let so much time pass since my last annual exam? At age 18, I was excited to go for my first Pap Smear, maybe feeling like this was a badge of womanhood. I had been referred to a male doctor who was pleasant enough and some of the diagnostics had come back inconclusive. Several years later, I returned to the same doctor for a follow-up where he proceeded to raise his voice at me, “WHY DID YOU WAIT? DID YOU REALIZE YOU COULD HAVE CANCER?” Then my uncle passed away after a long struggle with colon cancer. My aunt went through treatment for clear cell ovarian cancer. My cousin had a hysterectomy after a cancer scare. Yes, I was well aware of the possibility that I could have cancer. My genetics seemed to be a road map to that destination. I vowed to find a doctor who was a compassionate communicator – a long search that was never fruitful during my years living in Canada save for a female naturopath who saw me after another traumatic medical appointment with a male doctor. I turned to naturopathic care once I gained health insurance in the United States, but it was my doctor at a women’s clinic who reaffirmed my faith in the field of Gynecology. She was calm, funny, older, and out me at ease through all of the questions, exams, and procedures. I referred my friend there when her body wouldn’t stop her menstrual cycle. I passed along her name to anyone who needed a referral. Then she switched practices – overworked or under-appreciated in a hospital-based clinic? With my dentist at one end of the city and my kids’ pediatrician at the other, I couldn’t justify commuting to the next city over to go see the same provider. And by that time, I was planning my family and on the search for midwifery care.
The two midwives I worked with have given me a strong sense of personal power and knowledge of my body. I was changing the story from being operated on within to creating life to bring out. My energy went into decoding the meaning of an irregular colored infant stool rather than to listen to my body. I urged my husband (the breadwinner) to seek medical help for conditions stemming from his work. Therapeutic massages worked away the tension that builds from parenting young children, but I’d completely lost touch with the notion of establishing a primary care provider. My insurance didn’t cover naturopathic care, and the clinicians that were covered in my neighborhood were booked three months out. Any care provider that seemed worth her salt on Yelp was not taking new patients.
My husband kindly reminded me the other day that I wanted to schedule an annual while he was off. I called our insurance company to find a provider in-network and made an appointment all within the hour. It seemed all too easy. Now I could sit back and fret about the beast of a doctor that would be free to see patients on such short notice.
Alas, she was not only kind, but incredibly smart and with a soft touch. She read my cervix like a book and asked to get the lab results from the surgery years before to consolidate the diagnostics in one place where I could access them online. Now if the appointment had gone the other way, I would have kept trying to find the right provider for me. After giving birth to two children, I know better than to settle on a care provider who is any less than the top of her game.
My body, my soul, and my deep sense of self are connected in one complex system. Championing this search for compassionate health care has reminded me of that.
How have you found the best care providers? Do you refer this professional to others?