I recently made an appointment with my gynecologist for my annual check-up. My doctor is a 'he' although at one point in my life I swore I would never allow some male to be in charge of my health care. I think I came to that conclusion after giving birth to my third child. He was born on the floor of the hospital after I got into a fight with my 'male' obstetrician but that is another story.
My current doctor was referred to me by a friend roughly five years ago. She told me he was a good listener (are you sure he is male?) and easy on the eyes. I like the idea of having a doctor who was going to listen to me since I always have lots to say and good looking would be a bonus.
Well, my friend was correct. Dr. S is a handsome listener. Every year, once a year, I go to visit and we have great conversations about my health. He is interested in my life - asks me about the kids, my husband and any recent adventures I have had. We discuss menopause, cholesterol, weight, exercise, breast health, heart health...the list goes on. I always bring a list of questions/concerns I might have plus anything else that pops into my head while sitting there.
He is quite patient with me since I can be a bit neurotic at times. He refuses to let me check my cholesterol levels every six months. He thinks I should train to run the Boston Marathon and tells me not to worry about my knees. He assures me that I am not pregnant - just menopausal and no, he doesn't think I need to take a pregnancy test.
When I had my annual visit with Dr. S three years ago I was in the midst of emotional chaos. I was pre-menopausal, PMSing and preparing for the fact that our 'baby' was getting ready to leave home for college. My husband and I would be experiencing the empty nest syndrome. My primary job for the past twenty something years had been being mom - a job I cherished. What was I going to do now?
I laid on the exam table, paper cloth covering my knees, as Dr. S prepared to do the Pap Exam. I squinched up my eyes, scowling, grimacing. Dr. S asks me if I am okay. "Yes," I reply, "I just hate this part. It hurts."
" Debbie, I haven't done anything yet. Please relax." I tell him that is easy for him to say and that a female doctor would not talk to me like that. He just shakes his head. The cold metal thing is inserted so I can be scraped out. I curl my toes up tightly. I start babbling to distract myself. I tell Dr. S that my baby is leaving for college, what am I to do. I have given the best years of my life to caring , loving, playing, encouraging, hugging, talking, teaching, loving unconditionally - now what? The babble continues. I think a tear runs down my cheek. I don't know how to cook for two. Who will watch the Celtics games with me? Who will help me take care of our dog? Who will help me decorate the house at the holidays? Who will I lay awake and worry about at 2:00 AM?
Dr. S., in a matter of fact tone, says, " Yeah, you probably should just lay down and die. Sounds like life is over for you."
Excuse me. What? I sat up, paper cover falling off, almost. How dare you tell me to lay down and die! What the heck. I am not a quitter. I have a lot of life left in me. I have only just begun to live. I cherish each day. I stood up on the exam table and raised my fist to the skies. I am woman. Hear me roar.
Okay, so I didn't stand up on the exam table - thank goodness. I am still living down the giving birth on the hospital floor incident. But I did start to think differently about life after kids. I am actually taking care of my needs and interests- for the first time in a long time. I actually had to explore and discover what my interests were at the age of fifty. I am taking more risks - in a healthy way. I am developing and strengthening friendships. I am thoroughly enjoying my marriage to my wonderful husband of thirty years. I am experiencing personal freedom. I love sitting back and watching the roads my children choose to explore. I still worry about them - I always will and I will always love them ~ forever.
But I am having fun. And I guess when I go to visit Dr. S this year I will make sure that I thank him for the wake-up call which allowed me to discover and explore this next chapter of my life. I have never felt healthier ! And I can't wait to tell him about my trip to India, the sixty mile breast cancer walk I participated in, my volunteer work, the red ribbon I won at the Fair and the dance classes I am about to begin...