As a woman, I try to be as familiar as I can possibly be with all the different ways my body works. That way, I can tell when something is off. This is especially important when it comes to issues of sexual health. It’s not always an easy decision for a woman to visit a Gynae. So, if the smell, colour, amount or consistency of my discharge seems a bit off my first impulse is to head on over and ask Dr Google. Most times, this is suffice for answers.
On one of my many days of this ritual, I noticed something not only out of the ordinary but quite alarming. My panty liner was wet with a yellow discharge, like I had just wet myself. I thought my body was under some major stress somehow and decided to give it a day or two to clear up. This did not happen and so I took a hand mirror, put the torch on my phone to good use and went about examining myself. I noticed two things: the discharge was not only yellow but it was also frothy and it was flowing out of me. I immediately took to Google to type in my symptoms nervously and I was so shocked at the results. Although there were a few possible causes for my discharge, my mind was thrown by the possibility of an STI. I always insist on protection and the one time I slip up, that happens? I was angry with myself and with my sexual partner. I got in touch with him to ask if there was anything he hadn’t told me about. I was met with deafening silence. When he eventually answered to my messages, all I got was more questions. Red flags all over.
Since I do not have a constant income, I am not on medical aid and, of course, I didn’t have the cash to go for a check up. All my life, I have avoided medical institutions like the plague, only visiting when I had to see a sick relative or friend. I finally gathered a little courage, and walked to a satellite clinic about 20 minutes walking distance from home. Many waiting to be attended to were women bringing their children for their regular check-ups. I went through the motions of paying for a “card” which is really a book and the mandatory $5 registration fee. At least I could cover that, and cost of medication became the only remaining worry.
In time, I was called in to go and see the nurse who made no effort at all to put me at ease. She mechanically asked me what my symptoms were, and other general questions pertaining to sexual health. Then she asked me if I was married or dating the guy I was with, and instead of telling the truth, which was neither, I lied that we had been together four months. Her temperament had already warned me against telling her we were only sleeping together. That we were in a “situationship” strictly to cater to our sexual needs. I got a lecture regardless. She proceeded to tell me that I must make sure he marries me and not just play around with me, blah blah blah. Well, because of course marriage is the end goal….
Then the physical examination came. It was just me lying on the bed with my panties around my ankles, with a soiled panty liner still stuck on them. She proceeded to peek at my vagina at a safe distance with hands in her apron after telling me to open wide, then told me I could put my panties back on. She told me I had an infection. Of course I asked which one but she just said she didn’t know but the medication I would get would cover all of them. She told me to go back to the reception to pay for the medication, which she had not bothered to explain to me.
Only at the reception was I told that one of the medications was in injection form. I vaguely remembered my last one being a polio vaccination in primary school. The medications where surprisingly cheap and I was able to afford them. This was a blessing.
I was instructed to go to the back of the building to get my injection and the rest of my meds. The nurse in charge of this station was even dourer than the last. Granted, she did laugh with one or two familiar women but everyone else got the silent treatment. It was as if she didn’t want to be bothered and would rather be elsewhere. Well, I wanted to be elsewhere too, but here we were. When my turn came, I don’t even remember her looking into my eyes while talking to me. She asked me to pull my dress up and pull my panties down while facing the wall. The pain when she sunk that needle into my butt was enough to bring tears to my eyes, which I thankfully managed to blink back. I swore from the pain and all she said was “ndozvinoita dzimba” meaning if you are going to have sex, this is what you can expect. I’m sure she wanted to talk in even astringent terms. Her disdain was evident. She then gave me the other meds, told me how to take them and also make sure my partner was treated.
Being a nice person (read naive), I made sure I updated him. Again, my kindness was met with vague responses. I ended up blowing up which is when he said he had been to the doc recently and nothing had shown up. He could have just easily said it’s your baby. And it was. Taking the medication was a mission and I had a quite a lot to go through. I had to make sure I had eaten and I have a bad habit of skipping meals. There were no check ups from the said guy. He was “busy”.
It is sad that in this day and age, young women are looked down upon when they get such infections. That one thing defines everything you are. You are promiscuous or stupid or both. A medical professional cannot even hide her disdain and your partner leaves you high and dry. On the other hand, prohibitive costs keep you from getting thoroughly looked at by a doctor who can do proper tests that can pin point the exact infection and specific medication. Women are forced to make do with what they can get because the best is out of reach. We even have to depend on Google which can sometimes give you results that are way off.
This experience fortified in me the need to be careful in the matters of sexual health. I need to always insist on safeguarding my health because at the end of the day, it’s my baby. If it was a case of pregnancy this guy would have probably jumped at the first mention because unfortunately for most guys, this is more scary than getting a disease.
And when he thought I had recovered, he came calling.
Main image taken from www.oowomaniya.com
Article written by Kai, a young lady still finding ways of telling her stories lived and unlived in a bid to express self, exorcise hurts, create joy and find her tribe. Everyday she has to make a decision to use her words as weapons or bandages. In storytelling, she finds a silver lining.