Monday, January 28, 2013

Terrified!! UPDATED Mama's First Mammogram

I'm in the waiting room, waiting for my first mammogram...yes, I realize that at age 41 I've been slightly derelict in keeping up with women's healthcare protocol. I've heard so many horror stories, and that's just the here and now. That "1 in 7 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer" stat is playing over and over in my head. Anyway...I'll keep you posted.

p.s. on the bright side, I DID find free on-street parking, which is no small feat in Lincoln Park.


Dear LORD. So maybe someday this will be no big deal, but for today it was all very sobering. Like the technician and her pink ribbon pen. I kept having to remind myself that this is a positive thing, being proactive about your health is the best thing you can do for yourself. Those thoughts were meted out in between the following "flight" response signals emanating from my brain: "It's not too late to leave" (while sitting in my robe, about to be called in. "I feel sick, maybe I should re-schedule." "ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod!!!!"

Overall, there were some amusing things too. Here's the play-by-play for those interested:

I arrived 20 minutes early as directed, with no deodorant or perfume on, and having taken some ibuprofen about 30 minutes earlier to take the edge off of any pain headed my way. Filled out the above paperwork for my file. Then I went to an intake clerk who asked me a few questions. I was nervously chatty and she was...well...NOT chatty. :( Finally another chick called me to the back, motioned to some lockers and a changing room and informed me to undress from the waist up and lock my belongings up. Instant thought: SWEEEET, just the top up? Already 100 times nicer than a regular annual exam when ALL the goods are out.

So the technician calls me in to the room, asks me about deodorant and perfume. Explains she will take 4 to 6 images. Then she says "I need to place these on you:"
wth?! break out the tassles, why don't you? If you look closely, they say "n spots." And she had numerous designs. Why did I get this pattern instead of the plaid ones? Only she knows, I suppose. So there's a market for these? Does someone sit and design these? Do they come in characters like Hello Kitty or Betty Boop? Can I have some extras to take home? So many irrelevant questions. And let me warn you, these things stick like duck/duct tape.

And then I watched her put this thing that sorta looked like a 12-inch by 12-inch square of contact paper on the machine. This is where the boobage squeezage would soon take place. It was floral and pretty, the complete opposite of this barbaric machine. You know how when you get dental x-rays and they say "Oh, everything's fine" as they protect your chest with a 15-pound vest and quickly duck out the room whenever the machine is on? It was like THAT kinda machine, but bigger. More ominous.

So she's ready to get started and positioning me just so...ok right here...ok, i need you to hold the other one so it doesn't get in the way. OK..SMMMMMMMMAAAAAAAAASH goes the machine slowly. Like the pressure of a blood pressure cuff squeezing harder and harder, but embedded within the plates of a panini maker instead of a nylon sleeve.
Then as if it weren't enough, she cranks and cranks it down further by hand, like some kind of abu ghraib prison torture move. Then she goes behind the control board and says "Ready? HOLD YOUR BREATH." (Each time I thought to myself "my lung capacity is not very good.")

So she takes 4 pictures, going one-by-one with the re-positioning, squeezing by machine, then by crank. Finally she studies the screen for what seemed an eternity. Then she says, I want to get one more of the right, with a different angle. Because I'm paranoid, this sets off all kinds of bells and whistles in my head. I'm reading her for any inkling of what she sees. She's done this enough, I wonder if she can spot cancer right away? OH NO. I bet she can. Is she suddenly being distant with me? Is she disassociating herself from me because she just can't bear to connect with patients? I'm doomed! I'M DOOMED!!!!! Do she and the nurses keep a running tally each week? So she took another picture of my right one, and that was it. 1-2 days before results are sent to my doctor, after reviewed by the people there...and there's always a possibility I could be called back for more pictures if the "panini maker" machine didn't take good enough pictures. I asked to see them, and couldn't diagnose a thing, what with my zero years and zero months of mammography/digital imaging training. It just looked like...a boob. An x-ray of one, anyway.

So why am I telling you all this? Well, because maybe documenting this little mammory gland soiree will help someone else be less anxious. Or maybe because I'm proud that I made the leap from SAYING I support women's health issues into taking active steps to actually maintain my own health. There's a big difference between donating $25 to some breast cancer 5K, and actually being accountable for and to yourself. These days, with the above stats, it's truly a rite of passage for we ladies in our late 30's/early 40's. All in all, that's pretty cool.

That being said, I'm sure these machines were designed by a man. And if they ever had their BALLS smashed like that, I wouldn't be writing about the smashage that took place today.

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