I went to the gynecologist today. I’d never been to the gyno in South Korea and I was really hesitant to make this appointment. It crossed my mind to wait until I returned back to the US. But, I’d also skipped my annual for a couple years now and it was messing with my mind. What if in those two years a cancer had been forming in my breasts and cervix? Ammirite, ladies? Some internet research pointed me in the direction of a very large hospital in Seoul . This hospital is THE cancer center for women. Perfect. They also offered services for foreigners. Again, perfect.
I made my way to the second floor to meet with my translator at the international desk. She handed me some papers and gave me directions to where I needed to go. So, that was the extent of the “services for foreigners.” There were two large desks, one side was designated for breasts and the other side for vaginas. I thought, “Okay, I’m going to be seeing 2 doctors instead of one. Fine. Let’s do this.” I chose the breast desk first. Immediately the young lady at the desk let out a sigh; already defeated by the sight of my face.
Desk Girl: “Con..st..a…Coonstan…Coonstance…Taaaaay…Coonstance Taylol.”
Desk Girl: “Thyroid or breasts?”
Desk Girl: “You want thyroid or breasts?”
She continued to take my temperature and asked me questions about medication and my weight. Then…
Desk Girl: “What do you like to eat? Vegetables or Meat?”
Me: “What do I like to eat? Uh, vegetables?”
Something about that question felt like MEAT was the wrong answer. She sent me to a dressing room where I had to take off my top and wear a robe. Nothing strange about that, naturally they want easy access to my breasts. It was hard being in that waiting room. I was there to take a preventative in my breast health. There were women there who were obviously receiving treatment or in the process of finding out steps to prevent such treatment. It was sad and took me back a couple years to when my mom was battling breast cancer. After a 1.5 hour wait, it was finally my turn to see the doctor. My exam took 2 minutes and the doctor was a very nice man. He was appropriate, answered my questions, and provided me with some helpful information. I got dressed and headed 2 feet over to the vagina desk; feeling hopeful my next check up would go as well. I handed the young lady my papers and she called the “foreigner services” lady. This is where it all comes crashing down. Keep in mind, Desk Girl is speaking to the translator who is then speaking to me.
Desk Girl: “When was your last period?”
Desk Girl: “Are you married?”
Desk Girl: “Sexual intercourse?”
Desk Girl and Translator start speaking to each other and sighing and throwing their hands in the air.
Translator: “They can’t do it because you are a virgin.”
How am I supposed to explain I’m not heterosexual but yes, I do have sex? I just don’t have sexual intercourse with a penis, with a man, with men, ohmygodwhyisthishappening?!?
Me: “Okay, I’d just like an annual physical done, this includes a pap smear. I’ve been getting them regularly since about 20 years old.”
Translator: “But you are a virgin! They have to put something inside you.”
Me: “Um, cervical cancer runs in my family. I’m 32. I want to make sure I don’t have any abnormal cells on my cervix. I want to make sure I don’t have cancer.”
Desk Girl: “Let me go ask the doctor if he can do this.”
He? HE!? Desk Girl comes back and tells me the doctor will perform a pap on me because I’ve had the procedure done before. At this point, I’m ready to pack it up and go home but that would mean all of this was for nothing. FINE! The doctor couldn’t understand why I was having this done. I get it. You are at a higher risk of cervical cancer if you have HPV and you have a higher risk of getting HPV if you are having sexual intercourse with men. But ALSO, shouldn’t you be encouraging women, especially my age to get an annual check up regardless of whether or not they are sexually active? It doesn’t end there because he hadn’t even seen my vagina yet. Note: Korean women don’t groom their pubic hair. I do. It’s all the same really, you put on a little skirt gown thingy and then you put your legs up. But have you ever had a doctor put a curtain, an actual curtain between your face and your vagina? They do that here. The doctor, the nurse, and the translator all had a giggle at my expense. In my mind the conversation between the three of them went something like this:
Nurse: “What would a 32 year old virgin want with a pap smear?”
Translator: “Poor thing isn’t a virgin! Lost her virginity to forceps. What man will want her now?”
Doctor: “Especially with that sickly bald vagina.”
Women around the world, don’t listen to this goon. Get your stuff checked, be healthy, and take care of yourself. <3