Things I waited too long to see a doctor about: Parts one and two of an ongoing series
By Nayla Lee
I’ve always been doctor-shy; I didn’t go to the dentist from 3rd through 9th grade, and I don’t even remember the last time I had a regular primary-care physician. It’s not about health insurance — I’m lucky enough to be covered under my parents’ plans, which is a privilege that I didn’t understand until I was embarrassingly old. I have no excuse; I’m not scared of doctors themselves, or even doctors’ offices. I don’t mind calling to make appointments. I’m literally just lazy. But recently, that laziness came back to haunt me. Easy preventative measures or early visits to a professional could have nipped many of these issues in the bud, and made my life much easier in the long run. Over the next few issues of The Trail, I will include some of my most relevant cautionary tales.
Over the summer, I noticed my tooth was starting to hurt. It was a molar that I had gotten a root canal on five years ago. I ignored it diligently for a few weeks, chewing all of my food on the left side of my mouth and avoiding gum- and ice-chewing almost completely. A friend came to visit Tacoma for a few days and I started complaining about it. She told me to see a dentist, but I said I would just wait until I went home to go see my regular one. I had no real plans to do this; I just wanted her to get off my back. That was until about 4 a.m. on her second-to-last day here. I woke up in tears, the throbbing in my gum too painful to ignore. Once I’d calmed down, I used my computer to look up the earliest-opening dentist that accepted my insurance. I found one that opened at 7 a.m. and did not sleep for the next three hours. I called in advance, and they offered an emergency number for existing clients only. It turned out that my root canal had gotten an infection, which had abcessed to a point where it could not be numbed. After four days of heavy medication and immense pain, I learned that the abscess was too big to be numbed completely. I bawled through the entire procedure, dizzy with pain, for something that could have been solved by some cheap antibiotics if I’d seen the dentist weeks or even days earlier.
After a week or so on the antibiotics for my dental fiasco, I was driving back from a camping trip when I noticed some itching in my vulva. I just put a sleeping bag on my lap and scratched away. The itching remained for a few days, and was coupled with an odor that prompted my boyfriend to ask if I’d eaten something funky after I’d peed. I was indignant, until I noticed discharge that resembled white pencil-eraser shavings inside my vagina. I consulted a friend and Web MD and self-diagnosed a yeast infection, which I decided to try to flush out on my own. A few nights later, I was at work when I was smacked by a UTI that kept me in the bathroom for at least 30 percent of my five-hour shift. I was about to fly home for my baby brother’s first birthday party, so I took a cranberry pill and refused to let it get me down. However, I ended up leaving the party early to go to Urgent Care when I found some blood in my pee. It turns out that in addition to the UTI and yeast infection, I had bacterial vaginosis, which probably explained the smell. At least my brother isn’t old enough to form lasting memories. Probably the most scarring part of this whole disaster was my mother lecturing me about peeing after sex and masturbation on the drive home from the airport. I could live a full and happy life without ever hearing her tell me about all the bacteria and sweat on penises.
Here’s what I learned: 1) find a dentist in Tacoma that accepts your insurance and has hours that work with your schedule before it becomes an emergency. 2) If you go on antibiotics, ask your doctor to go ahead and prescribe you a yeast infection pill at the same time, so you can limit your overall discomfort. I would have saved a lot of time, money, tears and worry on the part of my friends and parents if I had just sucked it up and listened to my body.