Dear Doctor: Round two

Dear Doctor,

I booked with someone else today because I didn’t want to see you. The way you treated me last time we met left me uneasy in your care, blocked the trust that’s vital when putting your life in the power of another.

It was my final check up appointment and I had a worry I wanted expert eyes on. I felt a weirdness, an otherness in my ribcage I hadn’t noticed before. The doctor I replaced you with listened carefully to that worry. She said ok, let’s take a look. She pressed gently and firmly, feeling the weirdness. She pressed gently and firmly in all my other weird places, the hollow armpits bereft of their nodes. The lumpy boob with stitches covered in new skin.

She asked permission for every push of her hands. She showed me just how to hold my hands when searching, to be my own body’s sentry. She reassured me that the weird was normal. My ribcage was just my own. But she didn’t have an answer to one of my questions, so she left to find out. Without knowing, she let me down then because she found her answer with you.

You insisted on coming into the room, to see me yourself. What had been a safe space suddenly shifted to a battleground. I wasn’t prepared, I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t squared my shoulders back to project confidence or crossed my arms to defend my body. I was relaxed and happy. You came and you told me you wanted to examine the ‘tightness’ under my arm. I was confused and still in shock at the changing experience.

I had some problems with my arm but I was solving them myself. I was fixing it. I didn’t need you. But you insisted and you moved fast and I was still not caught up with the fact that you were there in the first place. So I did what you said. I undressed, further exposing myself to you. You poked and you prodded and you snapped my stiffened tissue back to normal. It hurt and I yelled and I told you it hurt. You didn’t stop and you didn’t ask permission.

You didn’t ask permission.

You left quickly after giving me some information I didn’t hear and don’t remember.

Afterwards I cried in the room that used to be safe. The other doctor was shocked and sorry. I felt her regret and it added to my own that I hadn’t challenged you. Neither of us had, so you probably feel confident you helped. That you did something I wanted. She asked me if she could tell you I was upset. I said yes because that’s the only power I had in that moment.

I felt angry with you, but mostly with myself. I had let this happen again. I didn’t stop you, I didn’t tell you off.

Then the tears of guilt and shame cracked and cleared. A powerful clarity came and I remembered the truth. You did this to me and I will not be the one held up for scrutiny or accountability. But I will do everything I can to stop you doing it again.

So I say it clear and loud. You do not have authority over my body. I do. Get my consent.

Yours, the patient.