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Time for the annual big probe

Today was the day for my annual gyny exam - oh joy

I always hate it when this thing comes around. Maybe no matter how many years you've had it, you never quite get used to being splayed like a starfish trying to hold a conversation with a complete stranger while he puts jelly on his gloves. Got to be done though, hasn't it?

My gyny's not a complete stranger of course - in fact I've seen rather more of him than I would like over the past eight years. The reason is that I have uterine fibroids. After I was whisked into the local maternity unit wailing in pain in 2001, my current gyny kept me in for several days, flushed me out with various chemicals, and then announced I had fibroids - lots of them. The biggest is about 3cm and if I push hard, I can feel it like an apricot in my stomach.

It didn't exactly come as a surprise - I had all the right symptoms and by this time was bedridden for about 15 days out of the month - so I'd put two and two together, and besides, I was in so much pain that I didn't care. It never occurred to me until later that it could've been more serious. My best night in hospital was when the clocks changed overnight and I got my pain meds one hour sooner. Later, however, all this pain and bleeding was knocked on the head by a couple of courses of acupuncture - only wish I'd thought of it before.

Since that time, I've had an echography every January, plus a cervical smear and full examination every summer and today it was time for the latter. I don't know which is worse. At least with the echography you get to keep your kit on and there are machines to look at, but you have to have a full bladder while they press on you with their little machine. With the full examination, it's quicker but you feel more vulnerable.

In France, it is a rather different affair from the procedure in Britain. There's none of this Dr-goes-out, or Dr-turns-back, or Dr-calls-nurse malarky. Instead, the chap (it's always a bloke, isn't it?) chats quite merrily as you strip off completely, climb up onto the chair and try to get comfy in the stirrups. You remain starkers throughout the procedure - I used to take a t-shirt up to cover myself with after the breast exam, but these days I seem to be made of sterner stuff.

Well anyway, the upshot is that I have to go back on the progesterone, which is a bit of a relief, really. I haven't slept a solid hour in the past six months, and my mood swings are now so bad that I signed my grateful husband up for the Red Flag service that warns him when I'm due on so he can hide the sharp knives and emigrate to Bolivia for 10 days. Maybe with some progesterone, I might be livable-with again - well, as much as I'll ever be.

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