“Ooo, that was brutal.” The woman in the white robe dropped into the chair.
“Oh, it’s brutal alright,” the other woman in a white robe replies.
“I don’t remember it being that brutal.”
In a white robe, I glance up super quick and then back down to my journal. What was brutal?! It’s not my turn to be punished today, but I’m sure I’ll get mine sooner rather than later. From what I overheard at the check-in desk, they were all mostly getting mammograms.
I was the youngest person there, and the older ladies, perhaps feeling sorry for me, were smiling at me kindly. Oh, I wanted to say, don’t feel sorry for me. I’m only an imposter here. A sick person, yes, but only in the head, apparently.
Skip this paragraph if you don’t like womenfolk problems. I was there to get an ultrasound to check out my right armpit and breast lymph nodes because I have a lot of lumpy tenderness and itching inside (no rash) and some nipple discharge (no children). It’s not an infection, it’s like fibrocystic changes, except in my armpit as well. No need to be squeamish about it, it’s just life.
A notice on the door states that because of Covid, only the patient may enter. Normally I’m incapable of going anywhere by myself, but my fiancé and I had to part ways at that threshold. But even if patients were permitted to be accompanied, I think it would have been pretty awkward anyway.
A pathetic air permeates these facilities. The lot of women is pretty sad, when you take a step back and look at all these tests and medical procedures they have to endure. One wonders, how much of it is even necessary? But we are made to feel like our body parts are all dangerous, ticking time bombs, and we are the sum of these dangerous parts, even in situations where they’re irrelevant.
Doctor: “How are you?”
Patient: “I’m good, how are—”
Doctor: “D’you want a pap smear right now?”
Patient: “Uh… Can we do my eye exam first?
I doubt anyone would argue with the fact that outside of the doctor’s office, women’s bodies are over-sexualized and categorized according to their degree of sexuality. But in the clinical setting, this changes. The breast, for instance, loses any sexual (or maternal—society has long forgotten that quality) connotation and becomes simply a blob composed of some varying ratio of fat, muscle, ducts, cysts, nodes, and, as every woman fears, tumors. There’s no more need to be embarrassed, even in front of a male doctor.
The particular office I visited is designated as the “Women’s Imaging Center” and is separate from the rest of the entire imaging facility. Because it must be private for women, you see. The décor puts me in mind of an AI trying to decorate them to make them homier and more suited to what it’s told women like. But the attempts to make the place not seem so “clinical” fail pretty flat.
It tries to make the place more comfortable with carpeting and upholstered chairs, but they’re uncoordinated. The hallways are wainscoted, but they’re painted sloppily. The dark wood lockers are made of laminated particleboard. There was a Buddha head and a vase, both of which looked like they came from Pier 1. The AI probably heard that serving coffee makes one feel at home, so it added a Keurig machine, but forgot the coffee, water, and cups to serve it in.
As I was laying there during the test, there was country music playing quietly from somewhere, and I kept wondering, do people get bad news to this music? It’s not enough that you must deliver bad news, but you must deliver it to country music, too? Sorry, I’m in the northeastern US, that’s not gonna fly. But maybe the AI misunderstood the concept of soothing music. The lights were very low, but mainly I just stared at the ceiling A/C register that you only see in office settings.
I probably won’t have to go back there for a while, and while I should be grateful for that, I can’t but think of some of the sad faces I saw in the waiting room. Some of them were there for routine tests, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone that day went home with less than good news. Or, which is just as bad, if someone went home believing they were fine when they really weren’t because the unseen radiologist takes about forty-five seconds to read your test, and they’ll receive worse news later.
I’m reaching the point where I’m actually embarrassed for all the time of other people I waste on this. Maybe I shouldn’t be too hard on myself, because lots of women were there for routine testing, so my test is legitimate in that way, but deep down I know what my secret motive is and it’s not getting a routine test. I confess to you that I secretly like indulging my fears and having a pet worry to nurse. If you take that away from me, what do I have left in life? Well, life, but that’s beside the point. Yes, I know I’m a broken record for any regular readers of my blog, but it’s my crippling obsession.
Ultimately, my results were fine and not very helpful. No answer to what my problem is. There was nothing to indicate anything suspicious is causing my discharge, but when I asked them what exactly IS causing it, they said that maybe my brain is telling it to. Okay. And y’all wonder why I’m paranoid.
So that’s about it. That’s my visit and my lament for the life of women. Women are constantly gaslighted by doctors and made to feel crazy while sitting in health facilities designed especially for women because of all their medical needs, half of which are probably manufactured to tantalize you with the promise of a cure for your hysteria-induced imaginary problem that you’ll be diagnosed with ten years too late.