Paps and Pancakes
By: Reenita V.
Going to get tested can be super scary, especially if it is your first time. It is hard to predict what is going to happen, what questions you will be asked, if it’s going to hurt, etc. To ease some of your concerns, I’m here to give you a detailed run down of my most recent STI check.
In Toronto, the clinic of my choice is Hassle Free Clinic because as the name suggests, it really is hassle free. You should choose the
clinic of your or if you have one, your family doctor. I visited the clinic during the drop-in time which means I arrived to a packed lobby and that the wait was going to be a long one. Instead of relying on books or playlist to get through the wait time, I asked a friend to come along (she plays a role in the pancake portion of this story) and having someone with me eased some of the nervousness. This was not my first time getting tested but nonetheless I was nervous. Drop-in times at a clinic means that the chances of running into someone you may know are pretty high . Running into an aunt, boss, or teacher at a clinic can be absolutely horrifying but
the thing to remember is that they are there for the exact same reason you are.
My number was called, my personal identification form was filled out and it was time to wait for the doctor to call. When my number was called, I followed the doctor into a small room and this is where the nervous butterflies turned to giant owls flapping away in my tummy. I felt slightly awkward as I entered the room. The doctor introduced herself, had me sit at the desk and eased me into the question portion of my check-up. The question portion can feel very intrusive but it is always important to be honest with your doctor. Here are the questions the doctor asked me:
- Had I been screened for STIs previously?
- What kind of contraceptives do I use?
- When was my last period?
- Do I have regular menstruation cycles?
- Have I had my regular gynecological exam which screens for cervical cancer?
- When was the time I engaged in unprotected sex?
- How many people am I currently having sex with?
- Have I ever had an STI before?
- Was there any pain in my pelvic?
- Any concerns the doctor should know about?
When the question period was over, it was time for the dreaded exam. The doctor left the room so I could undress, which I did quickly and just so you know, I did leave my socks on. I lay on the table with a medical sheet covering my lower half, the doctor re-entered the room. She made casual chit-chat while she retrieved a speculum and sat on the stool located at the end of the table. The exam started with the insertion of the speculum which as usual, the doctor gave me a heads up before this happened. This step was not at all painful however; I felt a slight bit of pressure from the expansion of the speculum. Keep in mind; all bodies are different as are experiences so the insertion and opening from the speculum can feel different for everyone. The doctor exclaimed that my cervix looked great and that she was going to take a couple of swabs. The doctor took two swabs and then the exam was done. While the doctor was turned away, I dressed quickly and let out the nervous breath I was holding for the whole exam.
Back in the desk chair, now fully clothed the doctor sat down allowing for any follow up questions. Having been tested before, I just assumed that I was getting checked for everything but sadly, I had never asked the doctor exactly what was happening during my exam. This time I confirmed with the doctor that I was being checked for bacterial vaginosis, yeast, Trichomoniasis, Gonorrhea, and Chlamydia. I made a later date to check for HIV, Hepatitis C and Syphilis as these tests are done through blood work. The doctor and I discussed how apprehensive someone might be about getting tested but she assured me she has seen it all and at this clinic especially, they are absolutely judgment free. The doctor informed me I would be informed of any positive results in a week and with that I was on my way.
My friend, who was experiencing her first STI screening, met me in the hallway. I gave her a look over and at first glance did not recognize any signs of trauma. In fact, she looked proud. Leaving the clinic, we started chatting about what happened in the room and if our expectations came true. Mid conversation we stumbled across an all you can eat pancake buffet – score! We loaded up our plates and sat and continued our conversation. Now, not everyone may jump at the idea of sharing such a personal experience with someone but, as we wiped syrup off our faces, I realized that sharing this experience created an opportunity to discuss concerns, experiences, and knowledge sharing. We went from scary and unsure to this incredible bonding moment and made an investment in our sexual health.