Saturday, February 4


So I was diagnosed this past week as having, to quote the doctor, "an illness - no, I mean a disease - no, let's say, a condition" called endometriosis. Why should you care? Well, because apparently 10% of women or so suffer from it, yet it's usually mis - or not at all - diagnosed. I should know. I think I've been suffering from it for ages, ever since I was in my teens, but all the doctors I've seen over the years have dismissed my list of symptoms offhand and treated me like I was a hypochondriac, or exaggerating the pain. And I started to believe it, figured I was just a lazy wimp (the symptoms include fatigue, really really bad cramps, nausea, and so on) compared to ‘normal’ people, and did my best to ignore and dismiss the symptoms, and keep them to myself. But this past week at work I suffered a bout of cramps so bad that I confided in the girls there, who were all so so wonderful I can't thank them enough. They all told me to see a gynaecologist RIGHT AWAY, so one girl made the necessary phone calls to her gynaecologist (saving me the always stressful procedure of making myself understood in Greek) and another insisted on accompanying me to the hospital to do the rest of the translating. The two of us snuck out of work, feeling like two high-school students playing hooky, and headed for the IASO hospital. This hospital is mainly a maternity hospital, apparently one of the best in Athens, and I have to say it had nothing of the dingy, third-world atmosphere I've come to expect from Greek hospitals; if you have any gynaecological stuff to deal with GO THERE. And the gynaecologist my friend had recommended was, to my surprise, wonderful. Miracle of miracles, he took one look at me and knew exactly what I had. Then he sat me down, and to my amusement started explaining everything to me FROM THE BEGINNING. And by FROM THE BEGINNING I mean, like, a complete survey of gynaecology from the time of genesis - i.e. a woman is born with all her eggs, whereas men create their sperm every 30 days, and you have a period because your brain releases certain hormones blah blah blah. So I had to stop him and tell him that in Canada we all learn that stuff in sex-ed class at the age of about ten, and could he please skip it and get to the 'what was wrong with me' part. (Yet another shocking reminder, however, of how ignorant most young Greek women are about these things and how necessary sex-ed class really is - it's about time they got it in this country but with the church and all... we'll see.) Anyway, there we are, pictures of my insides from the ultrasound spread across the table, with his cellphone going off every two seconds, but between the cellphone calls he patiently and clearly explained EVERYTHING to me, drawing cute little sketches to illustrate each point. Now, I'm a "why" kind of person. I like to know, for example, WHY a certain Greek verb is not conjugated like the rest, not just how to conjugate it, and, similarly, WHY, or rather WHAT EXACTLY is going on when there's something wrong with me, so I just loved all this. (I'm actually rather doctor-phobic, I think because in Canada the medicare system makes doctors see as many patients as possible, so they never bother to explain the WHY to you - or maybe they just figure we're too stupid to get it.) Anyway, in short, this doctor is now my new hero. If I didn't think it would break a zillion doctor/patient ethics rules, I'd throw my arms around him and give him a big hug. Instead, I'll send a thank you out to him out into the cosmos by means of this post!
Anyway, to wrap this up cause as usual I'm being excessively verbose, if you suffer from really bad cramps or any of the other symptoms, or in fact if you feel you're not well but have had your complaint dismissed by doctors, INSIST they listen, or go to another doctor - as many as it takes till you find one you feel is taking you seriously. I can't say how much I wish I'd done this earlier. It REALLY REALLY PISSES ME OFF that all these years I was suffering unnecessarily. In fact I'd like to go and give all the doctors who smiled at me condescendingly, and suggested I take stronger pain killers or drink herbal tea, a GOOD SCOLDING. From what I’ve read, knowledge and understanding of gynaecological problems is REALLY POOR since, in this male-centred world, until the late 80’s most of women’s problems were simply shrugged off. So don't let it happen to you!


D. said...

Sex Ed in Greek schools?......let me see.... IIRC we had a 2 hour seminar on the topic in the whole of six years of high school.I don't think the Church is to blame though.I've never heard the Ministry of Education attempting the introduction of Sex Ed at schools and the Church opposing to that.Politicians have simply neglected the issue.
And as to Canada and the excellent "Ausbildung" which it provides on the subject one can watch the following film
mwahahhaahha :P

kassandra said...

Hee hee it's been years since I saw the film so all I can remember really is that one lady was blown away by being chained to a radiator... I don't know if that's supposed to be an example of good training or what, but anyway OK I'm not sure who's to blame for no sex ed in Greece. I do know that my aunt, who is headmistress of a school in Thessaloniki, did a survey with her statistics class (she's also a math teacher) about what the students of the school knew about sex and where they had learnt it from - and it was basically nil and from no where. So she started a campaign to get it started at her school - so far unsuccessful. But I have a feeling the government is choosing to ignore the issue, knowing the fuss it is likely to cause. I mean, I've lived in a village and, outside of the bigger cities perhaps, a lot of people are still very traditional.

buruburu said...

Well, i'm glad you have your peace of mind now and score one for Greece vs Canada! Even though you had to go to a private clinic to find out.

adfjkaj said...

Everyone always tells me I'm a hypochondriac, but I say, "How can I be a hypochondriac when I'm sick all the time".

D. said...

A famous french playwright wrote "Le Malade imaginaire".This may give you a clue :P.

kassandra said...

scruffy: ha ha well if you look like...well, your blog pic, I'd believe you're SERIOUSLY ill!
d: a clue to...? you've lost me... are you trying to suggest that my current doctor is just playing along with my "hypochondria"??? cause nuh-uh!!!

toomanytribbles said...

my mom worked as a nurse in public hospitals and private clinics. because of her experience, she absolutely insists, when something's wrong, that we go to a private one. always.

regarding sex ed, i've taken it upon myself to teach my daughter all about it. i have no trust in letting her private, but still greek, school do it. this is a great book for kids, translated into greek:

good luck dealing with the endometriosis.