Appointment and Ramachandran

I woke up this morning trying hard not to feel anxiety about today's pap smear appointment. The last appointment was "successful" after being heavily sedated. And the two times I had attempted with doctors prior to that were fails. With the first attempt, after just a few minutes the doctor stopped and told me, "You know, we don't have to do this.", and, not anticipating it would be -that- awful, I agreed and we stopped. With the second attempt, I told the doctor about how horrible the first attempt was. She told me that since I'd never had intercourse, paps weren't necessary for me. Whether this was true or not, I liked the answer and rationalized that she was correct and ran with it.

For years and years I accepted this logic and had resolved to never get a pap, ever - until I went in to meet my current doctor for the first time. Clearly, she's had a lot of experience with trans men avoiding the necessary health inevitable. Right off the bat she a.) asked, upfront, if I'd had one done before and, upon learning that I hadn't, b.) put me on the spot and asked if I'd like to have one done right then and there. Despite my excuses and stammering, I eventually relented.

She injected one arm with some kind of sedative used for pregnant women, and then we chatted while waiting for the effects to kick in. As I became woozier, she tried. But still, my body had a panic attack-like reaction. Despite positive affirmations and the sedative, the second she started my breathing became rapid, I started to sweat, pain triggers were activated to the max and I clenched my teeth as tears ran down my cheeks. She stopped and injected more sedative into my other arm and resumed once I was out of it more. Through the hell of it, eventually she finished and boom! my first successful pap!

It's so bizarre to me. I genuinely have no conscious aversion to a pap smear. Again, personal experiences like this have me extremely, selfishly interested in learning everything I can about human noggins - my favorite, currently, being this Ramachandran researcher I've mentioned on and off, the neuroscientist famous for his research on phantom limb syndrome.

A nifty byproduct of this whole college shindig being that I can ask the campus library for any which article from any journal and they magically acquire it for me. The first article I asked for that I hadn't been able to read yet? Phantom Penises in Transsexuals: Evidence of an Innate Gender-Specific Body Image in the Brain by V.S. Ramachandran, where he posits:

How the brain constructs one's inner sense of gender identity is poorly understood. On the other hand, the phenomenon of phantom sensations... has been much studied... As transsexuals report a mismatch between their inner gender identity and that of their body, we wondered what could be learnt from this regarding innate gender-specific body image... We explain the absence/presence of phantoms here by postulating a mismatch between the brain's hardwired gender-specific body image and the external somatic gender. Further studies along these lines may provide pentrating insights into the question of how nature and nurture interact to produce our brain-based body image.

So exciting! And a lot more spot on for my particular experience than anything I've heard about gender.

Er, ahem... back to my initial story here - so this morning I woke up, thinking about my upcoming 10:30am appointment. I sat through my morning class, anticipating pap horrors, and had a difficult time focusing. And then, at long last, ... the appointment.

My mom went with me to provide moral support. I signed in, waited... doctor arrived, asking, "What are we in for today?", to which I replied, "A check-up. Hormone levels. And, uh... other stuff.", my voice clearly filled with defeated dread. "A full physical?", she asked. "Uh, yes.", and then she replied, "Oh, darn. It looks like we just have you down for a blood test.", then she took me to the exam room.

While in the exam room, my brain immediately traveled towards a route of escape, and when she returned I proposed, "How about I make an appointment for my physical later down the road, seeing as I'm due, and for today we'll just have my hormone levels looked at?" - cha-ching! Seeing as she had another patient behind me who had been slotted in due to the mistake in how long the appointment would take, she accepted my proposal and wrote me down for December 13th.

On one hand, I felt incredibly relieved. On the other, it's even more relieving to just have it done and over with, knowing that I can rationalize another one or two years away until going in for another.

But, once I looked in my little student planner, I realized that December 13th will be during finals - and my fall break is coming up in the near future here. After a long, solemn sigh, I called to reschedule for sooner than later - October 22nd.


  1. Poor dear :(

    Ugh, my aversion to getting my ladybits checked out pails in comparison to your story, but if it is any consolation, my appointment of doom will be within the next month or so too!

    At least this doctor seems sensitive to your concerns and needs. At least you'll have all the dread over with by the time finals come around!

  2. We should have a bit appointment pity party this week in the form of studying! Doesn't that sound like irresistible fun!?


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