Life in Poland

Ladies of Poland…

…of America, of the world – go to the doctor! I am starting my own campaign to encourage the women I know to go to the gynecologist once a year for a pelvic exam, a pap smear and a breast exam. That’s it. That’s all I want from you.

There has been a lot of talk in the media reminding ladies to go to the gynecologist and get checked out. The topic comes up periodically in the Polish media and then everyone forgets all about it. I usually forget all about it too. Why? Because it doesn’t apply to me. I go to the gynecologist once a year. Why? Because I have been taught since I was a teenager that I have to go to the gynecologist once a year. I don’t even think about it. I write it in my calendar and a month or two before, I call and make an appointment. I show up for my appointment, get examined, pay (if I’m going private) and go home. A week or two later, the doctor calls to tell me the result of my pap smear and that’s about it until the next year unless I have some medical problems, need a prescription or get pregnant 😉

This year, I am not forgetting about it. I can’t. I am going to nag all the pink ribbonwomen I know until they are shamed into going to the doctor. I can’t forget this year because my nephew’s mother-in-law is dying from breast cancer. She’s 50. One year ago, she was dancing at her daughter’s wedding and soon her daughter will be crying at her own mother’s funeral. And why? Because the last time she went to the doctor was after giving birth to her now adult son, and when she found something in her breast, she was too busy planning her daughter’s wedding to even go to the doctor.

According to a recent article I read (Seks i Antykoncepcja – Polki 2009), 40% of the women who live in bigger cities go to the gynecologist regularly. I thought that percent was pretty pathetic until I read the next statistic. 2% of women in the countryside go to the gynecologist regularly. The reasons given by the women for not going (according to the article) are many. They are ashamed to go, some citing unpleasant visits in the past. Others feel that regular visits are unnecessary, that doctors visits are for when you are ill not when you feel healthy. Some claimed that they cannot afford to go to a private doctor and the wait for an appointment with a public doctor is too long. Others say that they don’t know a good doctor and the rest admitted that they don’t have a good reason why they don’t go.

I have a mission. To get my mother-in-law to go the gynecologist. Her last visit was 35 years ago. We managed to persuade her last year to get a mammogram on the pink bus. Luckily, the pink bus caught her on the way in to Biedronka ‘cause if they had caught her on the way out, she probably wouldn’t have got on and been examined. Unfortunately, that exam only confirmed for her the idea that if you go to the doctor, the doctor will find something. They found something in her breast which later turned out to be nothing, just a left-over from a bout of mastitis she had had years ago.

mammografia_2 This is just one of the pink buses that offers free gynecological exams

I asked my gynecologist about it and he agrees that the phenomenon described in the article does exist. He also suggested that some Polish women are prudish about a doctor seeing them naked. The strangest part is that after a pelvic exam, according to my doctor, some women do not want to remove their bra for a breast exam. I’d much rather expose the breast area than the pelvic area, wouldn’t you?

How am I going to get my mother-in-law to the doctor? That part I haven’t figured out yet. I’ve already tried the logical approach, explaining the benefits of preventative medicine, etc. She totally agreed with us and sent my father-in-law for a week’s stay in the hospital to get a comprehensive physical. We’ve tried yelling at her which ended in tears (hers) but she didn’t budge. We’ve tried the emotional angle explaining how we don’t want to lose her and…nothing. We even tried to work on her guilty conscience. What would happen to “father” without her?…and nothing. We thought for sure that witnessing the pain surrounding the illness of her grandson’s mother-in-law would certainly have an effect on her if at least out of pity for all of us but…nothing. Her defense –My pension is too little for a doctor’s visit. Our response- We will pay for it or you can go to the same doctor publicly. Her defense – You have to wait 6 months for a visit. Our response – 6 months is sooner than never! Her defense – You have to die of something. We don’t have a response for that one.

I think the best method is going to be just making her an appointment and driving her there. We’ll have to do it like we’re taking the dog to the vet. Don’t actually say the word “doctor’” so she won’t suspect where we are going and promise her a treat at the end. I hope it works.

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