Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Big Squeeze

One hour until The Appointment. Been too busy this week to be nervous about it, but I have an event to vend for tonight so I moved it up an hour. Told Mr. T. this morning I had to go. "Uh oh," was his response. Even men know to squirm. If I can breathe later, I'll be happy to share most of the blessed event!


If you've NEVER had a mammogram, allow me to share!

So I got there a little late because I left work a little late. The woman at the desk kept apologizing for her fumbling but she was fine to me. I sat down in the waiting room to fill out a sheet asking who in my family has had breast cancer if anyone. After all these years, I still need my mother to remind me of the kind of illness that claimed her mother and if it was just benign lumps my aunt experienced a long time ago. I called her right quick but she was not home.

There is no mention of the males in my family but men get breast cancer too so I wonder why they don't ask about that. Does that not count for female relatives?

Anyway, I sit and I wait, so glad I was able to move up my appointment so I wouldn't be too late for the vending I had to do that night.

It doesn't take long for Nurse 1 to call me. (For the sake of writing, I'm calling her a nurse but I doubt that's what she is.) She calls a waiting man as well and shows him to this upright coffin - I mean, tiny changing room and then leads me around the corner and down the hall to a small area where I can have a coffin of my own. I took a couple of pictures inside my little room. If I had stood outside of it, I could have gotten the whole thing in one frame.

A plastic-wrapped gown greets me atop a brown padded bench. There is one hook on the wall and practically no room to maneuver. She sweetly tells me to lose the top half of my clothes (not in those words, of course) and put on the gown, then closes the accordion door to await....what? She didn't say. I can only assume someone will come claim me one day. So I wait. And wait. And wait a little more. I look around outside the room where I see signs thanking me for turning off my cell phone. Oops.

Before long, here comes Nurse 2. She looks at me and and ponders the snaps on the shoulder of my gown.

"Is that the gown they gave you. Ohhhh, snaps. I don't know." She thinks. She decides it's OK. Off we go.

"We're going to do the mammogram first," she tells me.

"OK." I point to my things. "Should I leave my stuff here," I ask. I'd like to think they aren't THAT lackadaisical about security.

"Oh, you can bring your pocket ook if you want."

She takes me around the corner to a room that reminds me of the eye doctor's office. Cozy, dim light and ohhhh, yes. There it is. If you haven't seen this contraption yet, I obviously could not take a picture of it but I Googled it and this is what it is:

Not as ominous as I thought but one would expect a person to process film in that thing not press people.

"OK," I tell her. "I need you to know that I have eczema and I have since I was 21. I am 37. I've been using steroids all these years and my skin no longer has the elasticity it once did."

"Well, I'm glad you told me but I'm gentle. At least I've been told I am. Still, it's good you told me so I'll be gentle. Don't worry!"

I can't really describe the woman-handling because it's just too weird. I felt like taffy, I can tell you that. One of the good things about having children is you lose your inhibitions and all the touching these people do just never tops the exposure you feel the day you have that child. So I deal with it. She "arranges me" for the first shot and that plastic piece came down and I'm praying it knows when to stop. It does!

"Hold your breath," Nurse 2 says. Not bad.

"Hey," I tell Nurse 2. "This isn't so horrible! I'll be back!"

She laughs. "Not so fast," she warns me. "We're not done yet."

She switches me up. More arranging and taffy pulling. I roll my eyes at the whole thing.

"Hold your breath," she says.

The first 2 pictures were cake. The next 4? Ah well, that's where the fabled pain comes in. Truly, it's just serious discomfort, lots of twisting, turning, odd angles, - I wish I were exaggerating - me hugging the stupid machine more than I hug my own husband. NOW I see - and feel.

"Oh, OK," I tell Nurse 2. "THIS is not fun. But, I can tolerate it and that's good."

"Good! Hold your breath." Zap. Zap. Zap.

The party is over. I still needed to get my X-rays of my abdomen for my doc to make sure I don't have bone growing where it shouldn't, but the worst is done and now I don't have to go back until I am 40, unless they find something. I can't imagine they will but I suppose you never know.

All I know is I survived The Mangler with only a little residual soreness the next day. So minor I only realize it when I think about it. And I bruise VERY easily but I have no black, blue or purple marks. I guess Nurse 2 was gentle after all.

So if you're new to all this like I was and if you have a low threshold for pain, like I do, and, if you have any skin issues at all, I am here to tell you that it is possible to get through this with your breasts, if not your dignity, intact.

I am happy to have finally added one more preventive medical necessity to my repertoire that is going to keep me healthy and happy and hopefully living a long time. (I am VERY good about seeing all my docs, I am proud to say.)

But if you think I am going back there BEFORE I am 40, well, don't hold your breath.

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