I often go for routine medical checkups prior to traveling to ensure that I am in good health as I wouldn’t want to fall ill miles away from home.
Another reason for my fixation is that I am a very ambitious person and often my life is planned out well in advance in terms of what I want to do, where I want to go and the kind of activities I want to engage in.
My doctor recently recommended that I go for a number of routine tests including getting a pap smear.
So I woke up early and braved the chilly June morning to join the queue at the UBH women’s clinic where the pap-smear service is offered for free to a set number of individuals per day.
What struck me when I sat there was the fact that most of the women there were really senior citizens and there were no young women.
Considering that the service is free; considering that black woman are more susceptible to cervical cancer as compared to other races; considering that cervical cancer is a serious threat to women in Africa – I just expected more young women to be taking their reproductive health more seriously.
Maybe the idea of having someone staring down your private parts is off-putting but then if you’ve had a baby before you know that it’s all part of the process of receiving health services and care.
I can vouch for the United Bulawayo Hospitals staff that operate from the Women’s Clinic and tell you that they are friendly, respectful and professional – you certainly won’t feel violated – and if it’s any comfort; they see so many private parts that yours probably won’t leave a lasting impression.
In any event, when my turn came up; I obligingly assumed the position hoping no one would pay close attention to the name on the card.
I wanted to be an anonymous patient to protect the ‘identity’ of my private parts.
Luckily for me; the young doctor who was attending later confessed that he was not much of a newspaper reader and so my name didn’t ring any bells but the nurse took one look at the name on the card and recognized it.
She expressed delight at finally meeting me, said she loved my weekly column and was an avid reader of the Sunday News and what a great job we were doing.
So there I was lying semi-nude, cringing and thinking, “oh no”.
But after a few moments; the discomfort and awkwardness I felt soon melted away because; she found nothing remarkable about my nudity since I suppose these things look pretty much the same especially if you stare into or at them as part of your daily duties as a health practitioner.
My point is, avoiding health care because you feel embarrassed, shy or uncomfortable is rather silly because one thing about our bodies is that we don’t come with spares.
If anything goes wrong in our bodies, we don’t have spare parts so we need to invest in caring for our bodies and appreciating them for the valuable assets that they are.
I share my personal experience in this manner hoping to encourage more young women to take up this service which is provided at no expense, with minimum discomfort and great ease.
The procedure involves taking a picture of the cervix to visually inspect it for cancer cells that could lead to cervical cancer and Bulawayo was the first city in the entire country to get this new innovative machine.
So what are you waiting for?
I suggest making appointments as girlfriends or group of friends to avoid boredom while queuing and heading there to get a check-up.
Take a novel, bring your music along and patiently wait out the queue knowing you won’t regret making time for it.
I mean if women can sit through a 5 hour hair-braiding session; and the time we sacrifice towards looking good in salons – we can actually spare a few hours for our cervixes to get inspected.
For the record, having done the pap-smear; I am not expected to show up for another one until after 2 years so the convenience and peace of mind was worth the experience.
Even if you lived in the developed world where strides in medicine can guarantee that you get ‘spare parts’ to replace what isn’t working well in your body by means of transplants and skin grafts – I doubt very much that the field of medicine will evolve to see the transplants of private parts to replace those that have been ravaged by cancer.
Do yourself a favor… if it means wearing a disguise, traveling to another city where no one knows you or whatever – get a pap-smear.
You need it and it’s free.
While issues like male circumcision have enjoyed much prominence in media coverage; the need for pap-smear testing remains a very obscured but pressing health care issue.
So this article is a modest contribution to address this oversight.
Men go and get circumcised.
Women go and get a pap-smear.
And if you’re reading this from outside Bulawayo, Zimbabwe or Africa – the same plea comes your way – take care of your body; it doesn’t come with spares.
To avoid fluffing on about the medical terms and all…please read more about Cervical Cancer