“I missed you last week,” I said, staring at a water spot on the speckled ceiling.
His voice drifted from between my knees. “What was last week?”
“We had a Bone Club meeting. Lots of people came.”
He didn’t look up. “Anyone like me?”
I chuckled. “No, you’re right. It wasn’t up your alley. Male osteoporosis has exactly nothing to do with you.”
He laughed. “Glad you realize that.”
He put something hard inside me and though I flinched, I kept talking. “The June program has to do with breast cancer though. My company’s sponsoring it, so I’ll hope to see you there.”
“I’ll try to make it. That one’s a better fit for me,” he replied. And then, after I felt him push in further—“IUD looks good.”
“I love that thing,” I sighed, as the nurse handed my doctor a long cotton swab.
I felt that truly disagreeable sensation of something swipe across my cervix.
“How long have you had it now?” he asked, giving the speculum to his nurse.
“My IUD? Eight years.”
He stood up and with one hand inside me and the other on top of my belly, he started poking around, “When are we going to take it out?”
My eyes widened. “Well it doesn’t expire until 10 ten years, right?”
“Right…Well, actually it could last longer, but it’s only approved for ten.”
“So we’ll take it out in two years.”
“No babies before then?”
My voice got nervous and small. “No, I don’t think so. I have a question though, when you take the IUD out, can I keep it or is that some biohazard thing and I can’t take it with me?”
He kept squirming around, feeling at my ovaries, I think.
“Of course you can have it.”
My face lit up. “For real? It’s been with me for so long, I really want to keep—Ow! What the hell are you doing down there?”
He took what I’m almost sure was his entire hand out of my tiny opening and tossed his gloves, “There’s a mass there. So let’s go do a vaginal ultrasound and check it out.”
Unruffled, I used my arms to push myself upright. Maybe I believe that cancer happens to other people. Maybe I’m brave. Maybe I’m just dense. But when it’s my own body, until I’ve got test results, I tend to react apathetically to potential health disasters. I like to think of this as an admirable quality. “Is that the ultrasound where you poke a big stick in me?” I ask.
He smiled. “Yeah, that one. You can put on your top, just leave off your bottoms and wrap this around your lower half,” he said as he opened a drawer and handed me a textured paper sheet. “Then come out and Emma will take you to the ultrasound room.”
While I was getting dressed, or half-dressed, rather, I glanced at the counter and noticed that the model of osteoporotic bone versus healthy bone that I’d brought in a few weeks ago was behind a similar model from another drug rep. Before gathering my things, I switched their places.
I didn’t so much feel like a fashion plate walking barefoot past the waiting room, wearing a ruffled blouse and floor-dusting paper skirt. Emma carried my coat while I carried my pumps and slacks, and tucked under my arm was my clutch-wallet where I’d stuffed my underwear.
In the dim ultrasound room, I set my feet into another pair of stirrups wearing socks of their very own and did the scoot-to-the-end-of-the-table-until-you-feel-like-you-might-fall-off thing. Once my doc had slipped a condom over the ultrasound wand and lubed it up, he raised the exam table and stood between my legs, swizzling the stick back and forth through my lady business.
He pointed at the monitor. “There’s your IUD.”
“Right there, the straight line.”
I had no idea what he was talking about. “Uh, okay.”
“And here’s your right ovary.”
“Here,” he tapped the screen.
I looked back up at the ceiling. “I don’t know how you people can tell what’s in there. It looks like mating ghosts.”
He sighed and continued as tour guide of my body. “You’ve just ovulated. So you’ll have your period within the next two weeks.”
“Thanks for the heads up,” I said, because I never know when my period will show up. My husband is baffled month after month when one day I’m surprised to discover that I’m bleeding.
“How can you not know?” he asks, “It happens every month.”
I’m unfazed. “Yeah, but with an IUD I’m never sure when that’ll be.”
“You can’t calendar it?”
When the gyno was through fishing around my insides he slid out the wand and sat down with my chart. I scooted back, released my feet from the stirrups, and sat up. “So?”
“It was bowel.”
“Yes, the mass I felt was bowel.”
“Oh good. No weird cysts. Just stuff moving through.”
I was familiar with this. When waste is on its way out of me, it seems to linger near my cecum and ask for directions. And then it goes for a malted or something before continuing on, obviously unconcerned that it’s backing up traffic. Since I’m small, it’s not hard to locate lumps; this physician wasn’t the first to verify that the right side of my abdomen hadn’t sprouted a tumor.
My woman bits doc is up in his years. During dinner at a bone health seminar a few months back, I had him estimate how many babies he’s delivered over the course of his career. More than 6,000. The guy’s had a good run.
Straightening my paper outfit, I asked him, “You’re not going to, like, retire on me any time soon, are you?”
“It’s not in the cards yet,” he said, marking something on my chart.
“Good,” I replied. “Don’t ditch me.”
He closed the chart and stood up. “Because you have to have a baby first!”
“Yeah, I can just see it: ‘So why did you guys finally decide to have that baby?’ ‘Oh, I really like my gynecologist and he was going to retire, so I had to get knocked up before he handed me off to another OB/GYN.’ Yeah, that’s a great reason to have a baby.”
He chuckled, “Well I should still be around in two years when it’s time to remove that IUD.”
“So let’s worry about taking that thing out before I get jazzed about putting something else in.”
“Good plan,” he said, and left the room so that I could take my underwear out of my wallet and put myself back together.