Normally I don’t curse in my blog. I save that for the verbal spewing from my sailor-like mouth. But this is my blog and while I don’t plan to let stream a swath of imprecations, I do reserve the right to drop an aptly placed Fbomb or other acutely necessary idiom.
Two days ago, I had my mammogram.
I call this experience a “boob smooshing” or a moment with the “cosmic toaster” because of two reasons: 1) you see stars and 2) your breast is held in a fashion that resembles a piece of Texas toast. Don’t know what Texas toast is? It’s larger and thicker slices of toast. Texas toast slices are one-inch thick slices of toast. I guess everything is bigger in Texas. Probably even the boobs.
I am healthy. I have boobs. I don’t care if the guys leave or not now or even if they call their buddies in to “lissen to this shit! Molly’s talking about her ta-tas!”
I don’t care if I have to look a man in the face who reads this post and says, “Can I buy you a drink? You know, uh, I read that post you wrote about your mammogram…it was pretty hot…” because this is a fact of life for women in 21st Century America. It should be a procedure for women everywhere no matter where they live or their economic or demographic status, but I am about to sound political so I will stop.
Frankly you’d have to be an asshat who lives in a bloody cave to have never heard about breast cancer, mammograms and all the rest. So dudes, deal.
That’s right, I said “breast.” How’s this: VAGINA. Are we done? Man up.
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I’m a 36-C which means I must be pretty average because when I go bra shopping I can only find ugly bras in my size.
“Why do you bother wearing a pretty one… it’s just gonna come off… heh heh heh … high-five, c’mon, who’s gonna high-five me?”
Crickets. They’ll high five you.
The visit to the cosmic toaster requires nothing special other than no underarm deodorant or antiperspirant or powders. No perfume either – they want you as fresh as the day you born after the nurses cleaned all that vernix caseosa off your slimy, squirmy, and screaming body.
Men: vernix caseosa is the your baby mama’s homemade chapstick that keeps the baby’s skin from gettin’ messed up in the amniotic sac.
They also welcome you with a mint should you so desire. They ask you to not bother signing in on the form beside the sign that says “PLEASE SIGN IN AND WAIT TO BE CALLED.”
They ask you for your ID, your insurance card and your patience while they look up your records. BRACING SMILE.
After you’re done with your administrative stuff, you go sit in the waiting area. I won’t say “room” because it’s not. It’s all part of one big space.
They call your name. You go up to the lady. She gets you a gown that opens in the back or the front depending on if you’re listening and give a crap, and she directs you to a little room no bigger than a bathhouse changing stall with a curtain in front. “Can I get you anything while you wait?” she asked. “How about a martini,” I answered. She laughs, “I keep tellin’ ’em to get a martini bar and …” Shut up lady, I don’t care. You asked, I answered. Your answer wasn’t an answer, it was another sentence followed by a laugh at my answer.
I didn’t do either, so I totally missed what she asked me to do and apparently I put it on backwards.
When you’re done not putting the gown on backwards like I did Saturday, you open your not-a-bathhouse curtain and wait again. The ladies waiting for these procedures are not particularly happy or sociable. A lot of eyes look at the carpet or water cooler. I hope many of them were there for the same reasons I was: the annual scan. But I know in my gut that some were there because they are being referred for a 3D image or a secondary referral because an anomaly was found. An “anomaly.” Most of the time, those anomalies are benign. Sometimes they are not. Other women are there for scans to confirm they are clear after treatment. I am lucky.
Eventually, my name was called.
I get up, smile at the lady who laughed at my martini request and go with my technician into a darker room with a GIANT MACHINE that resembles a smaller non-insect version of that thing that burst through Vincent D’Onofrio’s body in “Men in Black.” It’s got plates and glass and black trays with smoothed indentations where my breast was supposed to go.
The tech (it’s always been a woman for me) removed my gown and treated my right breast like a flank steak that’d been marinating in a ziploc bag in my fridge for two days. She walked me over to the non-insect machine and firmly assisted (read: shoved) my body against its cold, plastic frame. She moved my shoulders and firmly (again) positioned my body so that my breast is now resting on the tray. Like an uncooked egg, it was just sitting there saying, “Hi…”
I’m not a particularly very heavy person either, you can feel my ribs under my skin, so my ribs were getting the brunt of this pressure until … until she took my arm and positioned it in a way that pulled on the skin covering my breast and then turned a knob which lowered a clear shield on top of my poor breast and pressed it to something that was so depressing and unrecognizable… it looked like a cake dish.
“That was my boob,” I whimpered.
“Don’t look, eyes up,” she said.
So then she ran behind a shield of her own while I was on my tippy toes. I was on my tippy toes because she had this tray so high to ensure that she got the best possible view of all the tissue. Whatever. Just let me out.
And then she says, get this: “Hold still. Don’t breathe.”
Um, lady, you’ve got my melon in a plexiglas vise. There ain’t no way I’m going anywhere, and the discomfort is so intense, my ribs hurt and my skin is stretched and my breast looks like something that I don’t wanna know, that you don’t need to worry about me taking a breath here. Breathing is sort of … you know, an option?
The machine said, “Mmmmmmm zzzzing MMMM zzzing -ping” and released me.
“Breathe.” She said.
No need to tell me that either, hon. I’m already there.
She did this to the other breast. Same pain. Same order to not move or breathe.
I’ve been down this path before; I knew she had to do one more set.
The next one is at an angle.
Many men might think of this as the “Mae West Come On Up and See Me Sometime” angle.
For me, it’s the “Holy Fuck, Someone Start My Car and Get Me the Fuck Out of This Machine Right Now” angle.
Like Jeff Leone in eighth grade, The Machine was still staring at my boobs but its trays of pain were positioned at a 45˚ angle. The tech moved my body like a robot and I was afraid. I leaned into the machine that looked like that insect. My arm was positioned above my shoulder and my hand was holding a handle that those kind people at GE or Boeing or MGM of whoever it was considerately included in their design of the boob vise. I pulled in on the handle because if I didn’t I feared my breast woulda come off my body. Just tear right off: “Oops, sorry about that, let me clean that up here, I saw it fall off and roll under the door… If you could just hand me that … thank you…”
She took my move closer in as a cue to get more of my flesh in the money shot. So she moved me in a way that actually made me whimper, “Sweet mother of Abraham Lincoln…” Now anyone of you who knows me personally knows that I reserve that phrase for truly special moments. Moments when I’d rather say, “Good God, holy shit let me be this fucking sucks. I wanna fucking cry.” But we’re not friends, that lady and I, and I didn’t feel comfortable letting that spew.
She did the opposite to the other boob. Then, while looking at the image she said, “Uh, come here.”
My stomach dropped.
“It’s nothing bad, but do you see how this image has more of your muscle and lower flesh beneath the breast?” She asked.
“Uh, yeah.” I said because that good image is the one where I moved in to relieve pain and the one when she stole a day of my life by giving me more pain.
“I’d like to get another one like that. Let’s do that.”
I’m such an overachiever, overperformer and people pleaser that I said, “Sure.” And I meant it. It’s my breast health we’re talking about, so I closed my eyes and pretended to have made eye contact with the machine that I then pretended looked like Gene Kelly (why didn’t I do THAT sooner?) and let the woman go to second base with me for the fifth time.
In about 10 minutes –from start to finish– we were done; less time than dinner and a movie! I was back in my car and on my way home twenty minutes after I didn’t sign in.
I have wanted to write a blog post about this for years. I couldn’t a few years ago because I didn’t have a blog. I didn’t last year because I wanted to respect some people I knew who were having their own breast health challenges. I’m glad to say that I know of no one who is having those challenges themselves. NEWS: those gals are making me laugh and rocking it out still today thanks to that mammogram. I also wanted to write about this because it’s VERY important to do. Women are afraid of this procedure and well, yeah, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s totally survivable. I know when I make this appointment that I have to have a sense of humor, that it’s gonna be uncomfortable and that it will possibly save my life. Or your life. Or your sister’s, neighbor’s, mother’s, librarian’s, grandmother’s, aunt’s, waitress’s, cousin’s even your foe’s life. All I can say is that if you think a mammogram is uncomfortable, try never knowing or finding out the hard way…
You say you’re afraid? Fuck that. Get it done. Don’t wait. Go. Don’t walk. Run. You have kids? Fly. Your fear can kill you. And I don’t mean just the fear in your head.
Get your boobs smooshed ladies. Go to the Cosmic Toaster and let me know how it went. It’s just ten minutes in the closet. Imagine it as ten minutes in the closet with your favorite movie star. Please.
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