Part 2: Breast Cancer, Menopause, and Vaginas- Finding a “Vagina Enthusiast”
I sat on the exam table. Pleather surface sticking to my embarrassingly sweaty legs. I’ve been at the cancer game for over two years now and I can tell you this. Sitting in this seat. It never gets easier.
I fumbled with the paper cloth covering my undressed lower half.
My self talk debated. I could hold this paper napkin over my lap, and scoot on tiptoes over to the chair. Go in my purse. Get my phone. Scoot back. But, is it worth it? I mean, how many minutes would I have to scroll social media before there was a knock at the door. And how quickly would I have to scoot back and put my phone away before saying “come in!” without an awkward delay?
My inner voice was disrupted by four staccato knocks at the door. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock.
In walked my doctor.
She bounced a few strides into the room and warmly turned to look at me straight on.
She was amazingly put together in a mid-length, layered bob hairstyle punctuated with diamond stud earrings. At the same time, approachable in a black Patagonia zip fleece over matching black scrubs.
Although masked, the warmth flashed through her eyes as she outstretched her hand.
“I’m Dr. Cho. My name is Suzin, but call me Dr. Suzy. My sister practices here too and she is Dr. Cho and it gets super confusing. So… you can just call me Dr. Suzy.”
I stumbled a bit looking for the next right thing to say. I released one clenched first from the gown on my lap and reached out my hand.
“Oh…hi. Dr. Suzy. Yeah, um. That must be real fun. Working wtih your sister.”
We spent the next few minutes connecting over sister relationships. It felt like chatting with a girlfriend. I almost forgot about the exam table. And the naked lower half.
I told her about the double mastectomy. And the chemotherapy. And the tamoxifen.
She tilted her head. Listening patiently.
She told me about the hysterectomy with salpingo-oophorectomy.
I found myself aggressively nodding.
She told me about the journey. That this doesn’t end with surgery. Removing ovaries, removes estrogen. And a lack of estrogen causes vaginal atrophy.
I felt a sudden drop in my stomach as the discussion turned towards the reality of- Estrogen positive. Breast cancer. Menopause.
Tears welled in my eyes as she recalled menopausal patients. With vaginas like paper.
Sensing my dismay, she reassuringly patted my arm.
“You’re in good hands. I am a vagina enthusiast… this is my legacy.”
I smiled tenderly as Dr. Suzy pulled up her stool, took a deep breath, and declared… “Let me tell you about vaginal tissue.”
Join me for Episode 3!