I had two very weird medical experiences this week and they both make me feel old…and oddly itchy.
Warning, the following might contain a little TMI which is really T&A. At least the T part.
I had my first mammogram and all I can say is OW! It’s routine. My doctor recommends having a ‘baseline’ between 35 and 40 and since I don’t know if I’ll have a full-time job next year or insurance, we figured 37 was a good year to start. Walking into the Lacks Cancer Center for a general mammogram must be frightening for normal women. For a woman who’s also a writer, it’s a downright House of Horror…of the things that Might Be. I sat in the waiting room and looked around and thought “Shit. One of us here probably has breast cancer. Which one of us is it? Is it me?” And then I won’t tell you all the horrible things I thought of. It’s enough to say I thought about my kids and how much I love them and I was about in tears when they called me in.
The nurse led me into a weird corridor surrounded by tiny changing rooms. “Undress everything from the waist up and put on this little shirt.” She was awfully friendly about it. So I got nekked and put the scratchy little shirt on and then went to the Top Secret Waiting Room where three women were already waiting. We were all braless and in these awful shirts and I have seen my boobs’ future. Boobs, meet my knees. Hello, knees.
There was a nurse (wearing a brown habit, and they called her Sister), a 90-something women in a walker, and a woman who looked like she probably had college kids. There was awkward conversation that I tried to not listen to. I was too busy thinking about the weight of my boobs and when would they really give up and accept gravity?
Then I got called into the little room. Another nurse was there and she positioned my body up to The Vise. I mean, the mammogram machine. She told me to undo my shirt. I looked around looking for candlelight or at least to hear a little Lionel Richie love music, but no. Nothing. Then the nurse gently lifted my right boob, placed it on a cold table and then told me not to breathe as the Mammogram Vise smooshed my beauty into more of a scone than a pancake.
Ouch. It was disturbing. The whole thing. A) That the nurse just cradled my boob B) That she could actually lift the boob and place it on a table and C) That I could actually think about scones and get hungry as my boob was being pressed into a triangle.
I tried not to look at the image as it appeared on the wall. I don’t know what a healthy mammogram looks like…and I have now spent approximately three hours of my life researching images on google and trying to remember what the Xray image of my breasts looked like compared to what the should look like. It’s worse than trying to remember the names of the people you went to high school with.
The whole squeezing boob thing happened twice on each breast. It was painful. For real. But now I feel like I have crossed the threshold into Middle Age. There’s no denying it. I’m part of the Women’s Club now. I have gone braless with three other women of varying shapes, sizes, and ages. I’ve been fondled by a nurse. And if that doesn’t get me into the Sisterhood, I don’t know what will. And honestly, I hope to not do it again for another five years.
Growing up is okay…but getting old…that bites.
The other experience was in the allergist’s office with my son. At least there my boobs were safely under wraps. Except for that one moment but, sheesh, what can you do?
That story comes later.
(And in case you’re curious, no I didn’t flash anyone. I was just making a joke.)