‘You’ve read the leaflet?’
‘A couple…dozen times.’
‘Oh dear. Sleep much last night?’
‘Ok Kate. Let’s get this over and done with, shall we?’
She insists that while there will be some discomfort, anytime it becomes too much to handle we stop. It can be rearranged, I can be given drugs, gas, whatever I need. There’s no room for bravery here, I decide my limits.
I’m sent next door to change, and when I come out I find a screen has been put up shielding both doors from the waiting room- no part of this needs an audience, beyond the cluster of women waiting back in the room arranging various gadgets, adjusting screens, guiding me to a bed and helping me into position. It’s strange to me how quickly this has stopped being strange, the only slightly uncomfortable moment being when I stop to rearrange my top, getting tangled in the hospital gown.
From a social awkwardness point of view, this is the only uncomfortable moment. From a physical discomfort point of view what the hell do you expect?
I’m put into position, shuffled down, leant back, suddenly aware of a nurse on my right holding my arm down on the bed, which I’ve unconsciously started gripping. I find this at once vaguely reassuring and unsettling.
The first part is manageable, the manoeuvring of the camera causing a sensation similar to severe period cramps. Not great, but manageable. I’m instructed to keep breathing, distracted by the nurses’ chitchat about working hours, bloody rain hitting again, the joys of a trashy novel on a bad day, until they reach the womb, and a screen is tilted my way and I’m looking at an actual image of my own actual womb. That’s horrifyingly fascinating. I try not to laugh at the commentary -‘so what did you get up to today? oh you know, grabbed a coffee, had a look round the ol’ uterus…’-feeling a little precarious, I’m trying to keep as still as possible.
I’m brought back to focusing on my breathing as the camera is removed, because yikes. Not that they yank it out or anything, but everything about this just feels weird.
‘This is weird. This is so weird. OH BLOODY ow this is weird. ‘
I apologise for wussing out but there’s no need, they say. I’m doing great, they say. They say they get all kinds of reactions, they’ve seen it all man, they’ve had screaming, shouting, whimpering, singing. I should feel free to sing, they say, whatever helps. I don’t feel free to sing but I do take a moment to relax and allow myself to laugh before-
‘Ok Kate, this is the horrible bit, we’re going to take a sample now.’
The start is weird. So weird, a slightly different weird, there’s slightly more pressure on my right arm, there’s smiles all round, there’s soothing, I look around, I breathe, I see some kind of something connected to some kind of tube connected to some kind of mask hanging nearby, just in case, and I’m breathing, and I’m bracing myself.
The pain is hard to describe, and my impulse is to jump back, more pressure on my arm, more soothing, a shout escapes, I can’t help myself, the noise is sharp and the pain is sharp, and then it’s over.
I apologise again, I’m excused again, I’m laughing again, I’m being propped up, carefully. I’m aching, but I’m grinning. They explain what happens next, how long the biopsy results should take, booking my next appointment and insisting I give myself the rest of the day to do nothing.
I leave optimistic, smiling, and absolutely in awe of these women. This is their everyday, and beyond carrying out the exam itself with crazy efficiency, they made a day I’d been dreading feel almost enjoyable, and made sure I left feeling completely reassured and confident that this will be resolved.