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Cotton Swab.JPGI knew this day would come…the day I had to once again face the scritchy, gag-gy nightmare that is known to most people as a throat culture. 

When I was a kid, throat cultures were screeching, Mom-bribing-with-candy-rewards, “We need more nurses!” affairs for me.  I know I’m not the only one to feel this way (I heard screaming in other rooms at the pediatrician’s office….).  But I never recovered 100% from it, never emerged as a functional throat-culture accepting adult.  The sight of a nurse or doctor peeling back the plastic seal to expose the cotton swab sends me into a shaky sweat to this day. 

To yester-day, in fact, when I had to have one for the first time in several years. 

My doctor is a kind soul, well aware of my phobia and conservative with the swab.  But two things were different when I went to see her this time.  First, I really should have a throat culture – fever, gross tonsils, we must give strep no sanctuary.  But the second different thing is that instead of letting her talk me out of it, I insisted on having a culture. 

It’s time, I said, to face this fear–coddling my anxieties is not going to help me feel better.  So just like my water aerobics friend when she was facing the deep end of the pool, I asked the doctor to explain in advance where the swab was going, and for how long….and then I had her dive in.

My inner monologue went something like this: I’m sweating and a little shaky, I will probably hate all 15 seconds of this….but that’s ok.  In 15 seconds I can tell anyone who will listen how much I hated it from right here where I sit.  Not on a stretcher on the way to some emergency room, not from the great beyond.  I am not going to choke, I am not going to swallow the long swab stick.  I won’t like it, but I will be fine.

So today, I sit here waiting for the results of the test (probably negative – in a cute little irony, I have never actually had strep throat, not once in my life and dozens of throat culture disasters).  And I didn’t end up telling anyone how much I hated the throat culture.  Instead, I left the doctor’s office with a little “yay, me!” smile on my face because I know that’s one more drop of water on the Wicked Witch of the Fear.

How do you cope with medical phobias? Any advice or stories to share?

(image via: http://www.loscoltrahues.com/)
 

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