Today I had perhaps the most pleasant experience getting a foreign object inserted into my vagina that I’ve ever had.
Let me explain.
I’ve had a frustrating experience getting birth control over the course of my sexual life, which I’m sure is a shared experience with many of you. The rules seem to be constantly changing in terms of what you can get and where and for how long and whether or not your prescription will be refilled without a trip to the doctor.
Despite being medically unnecessary, I’ve been required to get a pap smear once a year to refill a year’s birth control script. It’s like a scam-light, in the same family as the required twice-yearly teeth cleanings and getting your ends trimmed every six weeks.
I don’t mind getting a pap, but having to visit a doctor to get a prescription refilled that I’ve been on for 7+ years feels like a complete waste of time (OBG’s feel free to jump in, but I mean, come on). Typically this yearly doctor’s visit has been nothing more than a slight inconvenience, but when I lost my job in June it became a huge point of stress.
I was laid off from my gig at the agency I’ve worked at since moving to New York when the pandemic hit. It was a bittersweet goodbye, as my passions lay elsewhere. But along with saying goodbye to an amazing group of people whom I grew to know and love, I also had to say goodbye to my delicious corporate healthcare.
Suddenly not having health insurance makes you look back and wish you had gotten every test under the sun when you had it. Navigating the public marketplace for health insurance became the biggest point of stress for the better part of two weeks. Someone tell me WHYYYYY there are thousands upon thousands of confusing ass health insurance plans, all with strange terminology and ridiculous deductibles.
Suddenly not having health insurance makes you look back and wish you had gotten every test under the sun when you had it.
I hadn’t had to face the health insurance landscape in this country since starting at my agency in 2015–what I was looking at was a nightmare. And I’m a well-educated, English speaking, decently critically thinking individual with access to a computer and internet. With all of that at my disposal it took me days to sort through, hours on hold with various agencies and departments, and a few bouts of frustrated tears.
I do have to express deep gratitude for the public marketplace. However bureaucratic and annoying it is, the fact that I was able to shop for and secure health insurance is a B-L-E-S-S-I-N-G (I emphasis this as the Supreme Court is poised to rule on the future of the ACA. That will be a vote to watch).
In the end, having a lower monthly cost was what was most important to me in selecting a plan, since I was out of work without a lot of money at my disposal. To find a plan that fit within my monthly budget meant signing up for a deductible that is no where near what I would ever be able to meet in a normal year. I legit have to have my leg bitten off by a shark or something for this insurance to kick in.
I wound up going with an Oscar plan. Oscar is a healthcare start-up here in NY that, among other things, has a well-designed interface and compelling marketing materials and so yes maybe I’m a sucker. Also, out of all of the low-cost options Oscar seemed to be one of the only ones that is accepted anywhere that doesn’t look like a dusty black market hell hole.
This is not a plug but I will say I’ve been quite pleased with my experience with Oscar thus far. They really do make all the healthcare nonsense as simple as one can reasonably expect. It’s a little thing, but your welcome materials come in like…a cute, thoughtful package. You can chat with their reps and they get back to you within 24 hrs. with genuinely helpful responses.
My biggest concern was…refilling my birth control. Because I had a switch in insurance I wasn’t able to continue seeing my OBGYN or PCP (HOW FUCKING DUMB?). Using the Oscar app I was able to request a Nuvaring refill, chat with a rep over messenger, answer some questions, and my prescription was sent to the pharmacy. Literally…that. was. it. I made the request on Monday while eating Hot Cheetos and watching The Wire and was able to pick it up Tuesday from the pharmacy that’s so close to my house I don’t even put on real pants to go there. This is the closet thing to magic I’ve experienced, um, ever.
Also shout out Nuvaring which has been keeping me embryo free and making my boobs bigger for almost a decade, ow owwww!
Fast forward to Friday when I start having this weird, dull pain in my lower right abdomen. You know how women just know things? Like…I was like…this is definitely my ovary. I’ve never “felt” my ovary before (duh), but I just knew there was something wrong with that little guy.
So naturally I Googled it and then proceeded to freak the fuck out.
Fortunately a fucking start-up saved my ass again! Enter Kindbody (again, not a plug). This mind-bogglingly gorgeous facility was one of the only non-disgusting doctor’s offices to have availability within a few days. I researched and re-researched it because a place like this has the kind of image that makes you think they might make a podcast about it’s fraudulent downfall in a few years.
Lo and behold, it checked out. Appointment was booked, vag was swabbed. I had to get an ultrasound (which was really cool) to check out my uterus and ovaries. The absolutely lovely doctor showed me the screen which was terrifying only for the few seconds before she completely confirmed I was NOT pregnant.
She could tell that I had had a small, fluid filled cyst on the right ovary that had ruptured. Completely normal, completely common, nothing to be concerned about. Other than that, she said, my uterus and ovaries are beautiful!
She did my pap as well and we’ll see how this all checks out billing wise with Oscar. Part of me is clenching my butt cheeks waiting for some ridiculous bill, but I really hope not.
I was hesitant to even make an appointment because I wasn’t sure how much it would cost. I figured, hey, what if this is nothing? What if it just goes away and this was all a waste of money and time? How mad will I be when I get slapped with a $1,000+ gyno bill?
And yeah at the end of the day it was nothing. Although to hear my reproductive organs called ‘beautiful’ is a wave I’ll be riding for a few days minimum. But also the certainty of knowing everything was okay will have been worth it.
It really is a shame that this is a struggle so many Americans go through. You literally have to decide between your health, well-being and your finances. It’s scary to even consider getting really sick or having something happen to you even when you have insurance! It makes no sense. We’re such a sick country and then we have this crippled, out-for-blood-and-money system that pits you against your own best interest.
You literally have to decide between your health, well-being and your finances.
I just wanted to report on the pleasant experience I had and the companies that (so far) made it possible. And also to share that navigating women’s health is fucking confusing and scary but that taking care of yourself is so damn important. The first relationship you have is with yourself and the first part of yourself you really ever encounter is your body, right? I mean you are in there somewhere. Your body is the vessel that allows you to experience everything else in life. It’s important to take good care of it.
So consider this your reminder or urging or gentle (but not subtle) suggestion to get a pap if you haven’t had one in a while. Get a breast exam. Get that mole checked out. Download that home yoga app. Take the dog for ten minutes longer of a walk. Consider leaving out the meat at breakfast. Wash the make-up off before bed. You know the drill.
Treat yourself like you’re worth it and take care of yourself out there, ladies.