Monday, November 29, 2010

Squished Boobs Part 2

Since I don’t have to report that I have boob cancer, I’m ready to report on my mammogram. Or, as D called it, my mammaries exam.

Yes, you heard right. Mammogram. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Raise your hand if you love getting them done. Yeah, I didn’t think so. I wasn’t too pleased when my doctor’s “Happy Birthday!” was followed with “now get a mammogram. You’re 40 and old and probably already cancer-ridden. I hope you’ve written your will.” Okay, so I added that last part, but she still didn’t score any points with me and we are not now BFF’s.

When I told my friends that I had made the dreaded appointment, I got lots of sympathy. Except for a couple of people, I’m the first in my group of friends to experience this monumental Rite of Passage. Those that actually had already done it said it wasn’t so bad. But I didn’t believe them. There’s a reason that women dread getting their boobs squished and I now have firsthand experience of why exactly that is. Remember, you heard it here first.

Before my appointment I turned to my good friend Google, who came up with some interesting facts that it was important to know beforehand. Things like don’t wear lotion or deodorant. Be sure to wear either a skirt or pants because you’ll be topless and you don’t want to also be bottomless. They don’t supply gowns, they supply crop tops. Think of a table cloth versus a napkin, you don’t want your nether regions exposed. And before any of you have some smart-ass comment about what else would you wear, some of us actually do wear dresses on occasion. However, if you do wear overalls or jumpsuits, don’t wear them to your appointment. Actually, just don’t wear them at all. In general. Don’t.

On the morning of my appointment, I stared at my closet for probably 20 minutes, trying to decide which pair of jeans or skirt would give me the smallest mushroom top. What could I stand to be seen in topless? My closet stared back at me and said, “Not much. You’re a giant fat cow and you should be embarrassed to take your top off in front of anyone.” I hate my closet.

After deciding on the most forgiving pair of jeans that I own, along with cute boots to detract from the gut spillage, I tossed my deodorant in my purse and off I went to the radiology office. I hadn’t been there since the ultrasounds I had when I was pregnant. At least they didn’t make me hold my pee until I thought my eyeballs would burst, but I also knew I wouldn’t be taking home an image of tiny, cute little feet pressing against my belly.

When they called me in, I was relieved to find that the technician was not only older than me, but also fatter. How humiliating would it be to get topless in front of some skinny, super-model bitch? The second pleasant surprise was that Google Images lies. You don’t have to get totally topless, they let you poke out just a boob or maybe an arm, but for the most part, you can hide your waistband flaws. Google did not lie about how much you will be handled. If you don’t like strange women touching your breasts and moving them around, just get over it now. I was positioned more than once for each image, sometimes both boobs were manipulated into just the right pose or pushed up onto the shelf-thingy. Luckily the tech stood to the side of me so there wasn’t a chance for awkward eye contact. Really, there’s no need to make a situation more awkward than it already is.

So, once all of your boob is where she wants it to be, down comes the hard, plastic paddle that flattens your poor boob as near pancake-flat as possible. You have to hold your breath and stay absolutely still, so there’s no chance to look down and survey the damage, which is probably just as well. I know what you’re all asking, “Does it hurt?” What do you think? Why don’t you just take your hands and squeeze a boob down to the thickness of a piece of toast? Yes, it hurts. But it’s over really quickly. As soon as she took her little picture, the paddle thing released and I could breathe. Actually, I think the not breathing or moving was the hardest. There was something about having my breast in a vise that made me want to panic and staying still for 5 seconds was almost impossible.

To make myself feel better, I tried to start a conversation with the tech. And what did I come up with? The most juvenile-sounding question ever. Seriously. I sounded like a 12-year-old boy. “Is it weird that it’s your job to look at boobs all day?” Yep. THAT came out of my mouth. For a minute she looked at me like I’d just grown blue and orange-striped boobs with tongues of flame out of the sides of my head, which I thought was a teensy bit of an overreaction. Come on, don’t people say weird things when they’re nervous? And I have never, ever met anyone whose job it is to touch other women’s boobs all day. It’s not like I have any frame of reference.
Finally, she thought of an appropriate answer to my obviously inappropriate question.

She said that when she worked in Salem, students would come through for training and she said that all of the male students exclaimed how lucky she was and how she must have the best job in the world. First of all, unless she was a lesbian, I don’t know why she’d get such a kick out of it. The male species is so retarded sometimes. But her answer to the retards was “Well, sure. Except that most of the boobs I see are the age of your mothers and grandmothers.” Which grossed out the retards but made me feel so much better. In that light, I probably had the best boobs she’d seen all day! Actually, I’m rather fond of my boobs which is why I was so concerned about them being damaged and permanently flattened. They’re actually kinda great, but compared to 60 year old boobs, they’re practically rock stars! And here I was, foolishly comparing them to 21-year-olds.

Anyway, I was in and out of there in a shorter time than it has taken me to write this blog. Or for you to read it, for that matter. I know, I’m a little wordy, but you know you want every detail. I was sent on my merry little way and told that my doctor would get my results and I would get a letter.

Only I didn’t get a letter. I got a call. From my doctor’s office. Telling me I had to go back. They told me it was routine, that they get five or six of these a week. The technician had even told me at the time of my appointment and Google confirmed the “normalness”. Still, there’s that little “what if?” What if it turns out not normal? What if I do have cancer? What makes me so special that I deserve to dodge this bullet? I only had to wait a few days, with Thanksgiving falling in between, so I had plenty of food and friends to keep me occupied.

At the second appointment, the tech showed me the image of the breast and the spot they were “concerned” with. My boob, in black and white, with funny, squiggly lines and a teeny, tiny white spot I never would have seen had it not been pointed out to me. She took two more pictures, one at a different angle than the last time, assured me that I would know something before I left, and had me wait while she ran over to the radiologist’s office. She returned in less than 5 minutes, time I used to Facebook and Twitter, saying that it was probably a lymph node, but he really wanted an ultrasound to be sure.

The ultrasound technician looked like she was about 14 and had a round, perky little butt even in scrubs. This is where it gets to be less fair. Except she had the insecurity of youth that kept her from making any kind of small talk lest she reveal how stupid she thinks everyone else thinks she is. I was starting to wonder though, when it took her approximately 5 minutes to find the spot she was looking for. I wanted to yell out at least three times, “Stop! There it is! Eureka!” But I kept my mouth shut and gloated quietly when she finally found it, knowing that I was right all along. She took several measurements of it and trotted off to show the radiologist.

Again I waited less than 5 minutes, but it was 5 minutes of anxiety, picturing how I would tell my daughter that her mother was sick, wondering how extensive treatment would be, if I could keep working if only from home. The spot looked really tiny, how damaged would I look if they just cut it out? What decisions would I have to face and would I make the right ones?

Perky –Butt Blondie popped back in and informed me that the doctor was “convinced” it’s just a lymph node and I don’t have to do anything else until my next appointment in a year. My anxiety seemed a bit silly after that, but hey, it happens to people. It happens every day. I’m really not special enough for it not to be me. My only saving grace is that I’m not that nice of a person and only really nice people die tragic deaths so that they’re missed desperately and held up as shining examples of how one should live their life. Nobody’s going to hold me up as an example of grace or kindness or overwhelming generosity. So maybe I am safe. At least for now.

All you bitches who have been ordered to get your mammograms are now ordered by me to go get one. I did it first, without tears or an unnecessary amount of whining, which is unusual for me. So now you know.

It’s really not that bad.


L. Ottaviano said...

Thanks for doing this before me and for having the balls/boobs to write about it. I also turned 40 this year and was instructed to get a mammogram. I've never had much of an affinity for my boobs and don't think vise-distortion would bother me except for physically. Still not looking forward to it, but at least you took some of the mystery away.

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