Nothing like a good old fashioned yeast infection to challenge my newfound manliness. Talk about taking the swagger out of my step!? I think the worst part was that I was blindsided by it. Never saw it coming. Similar to what happens when I look in the mirror.
In addition to the yeast infection I have strep throat and a urinary tract infection. A trifecta of torture. I know I burn the proverbial candle at both proverbial ends. Working hard during the day, loving hard with my family after work and playing hard at hockey late into the wee hours of the night. The Jewish Holy Days, especially for those of us in leadership positions, is a 4 week life-affirming, life-enhancing and life-sapping marathon. Working extra hours, leading extra long services and not having days off, it shouldn’t have been surprising that something had to give. In some ways, the challenge to my masculinity was the least of my problems.
I’m not good at being sick. I’m a big fat whiny baby in fact. A paper-cut sends me into paroxysms of complaining and panic that this just might be “the big one Elizabeth”(reference for older readers). All bets are off and gauntlets down when I actually have something even remotely resembling medical. I marvel at people who actually manage some semblance of normalcy in their reaction to their own illness. Emily is amazing. She had cancer (big cancer) and sustained more than a year of grueling treatment and surgeries. And she missed exactly 2 days of work. She rocked the bald as we said in our house. Keep in mind that I am missing the same amount of work time for my strep and yeast infections. Forget about the caterwauling I did over the discomfort of itchy parts and sore throat. Emily wins hands down.
I am deeply grateful that I have Fenway Community Health as my medical provider though. Even though it is a good distance from my home (a solid 30 minutes), and “in the city” (which to me means a parking shit-show) – both of which are exacerbated when you don’t feel well – I cannot imagine how I would have handled this without them. Actually, I can probably all too well imagine how I would have handled it. With a prodigious amount of anxiety, peppered with a paralyzing dose of depression. As it went, I got an afternoon appointment and was seen by a nurse practitioner not on my provider team. I’ll be honest, even though it was Fenway I was nervous. A friendly and kind nurse took my vitals, a strep test and urine sample prior to the NP coming in.
The NP fit right in to my vision of Fenway. She looked more like a hippy yuppie (think big green glasses, half long and half short hair with the long part swooping in front of half of her face, button down oxford shirt, aqua colored skinny jeans tight to the ankle and Tom’s type loafers) than a medical provider. In addition to looking like she was about 13. Anyway, the first thing she said to me was how sorry she was for the mind fuck that is being transgender and having a vaginal infection.
I nearly flew off the exam table to hug her. Except I was in no shape for flying. It was a most unusual, bordering on hypnagogic, medical experience. I’m not even sure what it is that I’m used to, but this was so vastly different than anything I’ve ever known. We actually dialogued. As in I was an integral part of a discussion about what was in my best interests (emotional as well as medical). She offered me options about my own care. She gave me lists of pros and cons for each option. She waited patiently for my answers, talked with me not at me as I contemplated. She offered to do a pelvic exam, but made it clear that it wasn’t necessary and that it was entirely my choice… and that she understood why and that it was so hard for me. There was no indirect bullying or the not-so-subtle judgment that I’ve always experienced as an underlying current in all of my medical care. I’m completely used to not being understood and feeling like that is my own damn fault. This was so liberating (nearly exhilarating).
I opted for several interventions. I didn’t cry when she gave me that giant painful shot of mega-dose penicillin. I didn’t cry when she told me the yeast infection would get worse (because of the antibiotics) before I could take the medication to get rid of it. I did cry when she told me I couldn’t play hockey that night though.