My first mammogram was at Claremore Indian Hospital, administered by a woman who was very stoic, business-like and professional. It was a good first experience and I certainly give the woman kudos for handling my breasts in such a way as to make me go back and do it again, not run screaming for the hills, vowing to never again squish the girls.
But at my well-woman exam at the Indian Clinic back in November, the nurse practitioner who did my exam happily announced that immediately after the first of the year, they would have their very own Mammography Suite in their brand new clinic. She also seriously made issue of my impending 40th birthday and said that mammograms were essential at "this stage" in my life. She all but had me picturing gifts of walkers with tennis balls on the feet for my birthday and the rest of my days watching Wheel of Fortune every evening and enjoying my new-found favorite snack food: prunes. I chuckled and said that I was only turning 40 and that yes, I intended to get a mammogram every year from now until my boobs are all but shriveled up and gone and that I knew the importance of early detection and treatment and please don't send me to the home just yet. She patted my knee and said I was funny. Duh.
It was more like February when I finally got my letter announcing it was time for my now-yearly squishing, along with instructions on how to get my films from the other hospital and all the other pertinent information needed to flatten one's breasts. I immediately called to make my appointment and my call was fielded by a man. He chatted amicably as he got into the computer to start entering my information and as soon as I said my name he said, "Oh hey, you're Verna's daughter. This is Scott." Scott is the son of one of my mom's friends. We chatted, made my appointment for April (apparently mammograms are hot items to schedule) and then you know I had to ask: "Uhm...Scott....you're not going to do the mammogram yourself......are you? " He just laughed and stuttered out, "Ohhh nooooooo....no, we have a girl for that." Whew. That would've been awkward at future social functions.
And so I waited. It seemed like April was forever away, but then I turned around twice and boom, it was there on the calender all staring at me and my boobs like that creepy guy at the bar who doesn't realize you have a face or anything from the chest up every time I walked through the kitchen.
This morning in the shower I shaved every stray stubbly hair from my pit region, plus probably a layer or two of skin because it's embarrassing enough to stand there topless, but to stand there topless with hairy pits? Ohh that's way worse. Then after my shower I forewent the deodorant. That is just weird. I have a system, a routine, an order or things that I do after my shower. Moisturize my face, put on deodorant...etc. I moisturized, then stared longingly at the blue Secret I so badly wanted to apply, (Why yes, I do have OCD, why do you ask?) but managed to carry on without it. My pits felt weird. Just plain weird.
I got to the clinic about 10 minutes early and checked in then was sent to wait. I got to listen to a woman's VERY LOUD cell phone conversation during which she gave away her mother's indian commodities (*gasp* Who would give away their commodities??? Man, those are precious and we don't go givin' that away in our house!) and then talk about how she didn't have to, like, pick her kid up from daycare until 5:30 because hey, even though she's not technically employed anywhere right now, she, like, might be someday and she has to pay for a full day no matter what and yeah, like, she likes hanging out with her kid, but ya know, $25 is $25 and if she's paying it, she's, like, getting every penny out of it. I wanted to hand her a Mother of the Year award right there, but decided I wanted to keep all my teeth. She looked pretty tough. So I just sat there and text my sister about how excited I was about my impending squish.
It wasn't long before I heard my name called and the little gal who greeted me in the hallway wasn't any bigger than a minute. She was happy and cheerful and although I wasn't nervous, she still made me feel very at ease. She led me into the darkened suite and directed me to the little dressing room to set down my purse. She asked me the usual questions: any family history of breast cancer? (No) Ovarian cancer? (No) How old was I when I got my first period? (14. Late bloomer.) Did I have kids? (Yes, would you like one? I'm having a spring fever special.) Did I breastfeed? (Yes. I was never good at it, but I gave it the old college try.) Did I have any concerns with my breasts? (Yes, could you maybe give them a talkin' to about how they aren't as perky as they used to be? They're always so .... down...these days...) (No, I didn't really say that.) (Yes, I wish I had.)
Then she told me to step into the dressing room (or un-dressing room at this juncture) and if I had on any deodorant, to use one of the provided wipes to remove it. I told her that I was sans deo because I'm a rule follower like that. She seemed impressed at my nerdy-ness. While I was in the tiny room, she started chatting happily about Prom and hemming her daughter's dress and how bittersweet it is to see them off and then, I, upon donning the paper gown, I stepped out into the suite once more. We chatted a few more minutes about Prom attire, she affixed two pink bandaids upon my nipples and then I stepped up to the plate. Er...plates.
It's like the hokey pokey...you put your right boob in, you push your right boob up, you put your right boob in and then you watch them squish it flat. I dunno. But now I bet you're humming the tune.
Anyway....she never even stopped talking happily as she slipped my arm out of my paper gown, gently grabbed my right breast and laid it on the plate, like a dadgum porkchop at the dinner table. She pulled my shoulder forward, started screwing down the upper plate, adjusted my arm fat (yeah, I said it) and then battened down the hatches. As she said, "Well, you know, silver shoes go with everything!" she also happily added, "You alright? Everything comfy?" and scampered off to her little shielded hut in the corner. I thought Well, my right breast is sandwiched almost flat in between two plastic plates, but yeah, I'm comfy as anything! but instead just said with a smile, "Yep! All good!"
And then she did a diagonal picture. Kind of like a selfie in your bathroom while making the duck face. But far more intimate.
It was when she started the whole process over with the left breast that I decided to be brave and look.
Yes. I looked.
At my breast.
While it was flattened.
Ever seen a bug smack into your windshield when you're cruisin' down the interstate at 75mph? How it's all flat and junk and totally out of proportion and weird looking?
Imagine that. With a nipple.
I quickly averted my eyes. Ain't nobody got time for that.
It was a look like lasted about .5 seconds, but will forever be embedded in my brain.
The last diagonal picture was the most uncomfortable it got. She had me lean way in and then tilt my head and I swear to you I pulled a muscle. Leave it to me to be injured by a mammogram.
When it was over, she said everything looked good, nothing stood out as alarming to her, she'd send the films off to be read by day's end and I should have a letter by the end of the week. She also reminded me to remove my pretty pink stickers and said if I left them on too long it might take off some skin. Uhm....those puppies were immediately ripped off. I really shouldn't have ripped them off. At the same time. Like a nipple bandaid bandito. Yeah. Ow.
While I re-dressed, we chatted some more about homeschooling, bullying and the fact she tries to contain the pink to her little darkened room so as not to freak out all the other guys in the radiology department. She is good people. We bonded. I mean, as only those who hold your breasts in their hands will.
Anyway, another year, another mammogram. All in all, a not horrible experience. The tech at the clinic was fabulous and sweet and has a wonderful fashion sense. We decided that if the world was left to us, we could solve every problem.
It's not something I want to do every day, but I can totally handle once a year. There's nothing to be afraid of or anxious about, so just go do it.
Just don't look. Trust me on this.