Today I called to cancel the urogynecological surgery I had scheduled for December 11. Perhaps “postponed” is a better term, since I will eventually do the surgery, but I didn’t yet schedule a date. I’m tentatively thinking March or April.

When I said that, the receptionist wanted to know why I was canceling. “Actually I’d like to talk to the doctor about that,” I said. “if you would please ask her to call me.”

“Well,” she responded, in her usual imperial tone, “the doctor is in surgery today and tomorrow. She can call you later in the week.”

“Later in the week I’ll be in South America,” I told her, loving how the words sound. (I am very excited about this trip.) “Could I send her an email instead?”

“We don’t give out the doctor’s personal email,” said the body guard of the high priestess receptionist.

“Of course not,” I agreed, “But doesn’t she have a professional email?”

“No. Well, if you are a member of MLM insurance* and have an online account and health record, she can communicate with you that way.”

I rolled my eyes as I sat at the kitchen table, but my voice stayed neutral and polite, “Well, as you know, I have PHC insurance* and have an online account with them.”

She tells me they can’t use that service, which is interesting, since they not only accept PHC insurance but also have their offices in a PHC building across from the PHC hospital where the doctor performs surgery. “It’s fine,” I said. “I’ll send her a letter. Thank you so much.”

1967 5 Terri Nursery SchoolOver the weekend, I realized it’s the littlest girl, the one who is maybe four years old, who was so frightened by last Thursday’s gynecology appointment. She experienced something like that, something painful inside her and someone touching her while sitting in front of her. She doesn’t need to be subjected to anything like that anymore. And as her wise, grown-up self, it’s my job to protect her.

I think I will make my letter to the doctor simple. I will simply tell her that I found the bladder study very triggering and that as a sexual abuse survivor, I need to slow things down, inform myself better of what to expect, and put things into place to ensure my psychological safety through a process that has a lot of potential to send me into a tail spin. I may add that I am somewhat disappointed that her office asked about a history of sexual abuse in her initial questionnaire, but then never brought it up as potentially relevant to the situation. I would like us to talk about this together when I get back from my trip. At the same time, I recognize that it is above all my responsibility, not hers, to take care of myself, and that is why I’ve decided to postpone the surgery.

Ultimately, I think these are the things I would like to see happen:

  • some acknowledgement from the doctor that this is important and worth attending to (if she is dismissive, then I will look for a different surgeon)
  • some basic discussion of what was and in the future could be a trigger for me
  • a conversation about how we will proceed, going slower and attending to my emotional state along the way
  • a detailed account of what to expect in the hospital, during and after surgery, as well as in follow-up appointments
  • time to make a plan with E., my husband, and the doctor, including a plan for how I might also get the floor nurses to accommodate my needs

In other words: I want to proactively protect and support the triggered little girl. I will not proceed as usual, paralyzed and compliant because I feel it is the expectation and then punishing myself for being “complicit” in a new traumatic experience. Yay! I can now almost see that horrible appointment as a good experience, because processing it has pushed me to a higher level of self-care.

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*totally random, made-up insurance names: Make a Lot of Money (MLM) and Profit Health Corporation (PHC). But I swear I’m not a cynic.

P.S. Yes, the photo is really me. So I kind of hope none of you went to preschool with me. I still value my anonymity on this blog; it makes it easier to write about my reactions to catheters.