I thought I'd liveblog my screening mammogram this morning.
I've got my appointment early, so I'm dosing up with a couple Advil. I wish someone had taught me the Advil thing when I started having orthodontic work. I may have been a little stupider than most, but since I had my first "appliance" installed when I was 7, I don't think it's shocking that I didn't know to take something ahead of time. And my parents' response was pretty much, "Stop whining! The orthodontist says it doesn't hurt." Can I just say, anyone who thinks that having your bones moved around in your face doesn't hurt needs to have some bones moved themselves.
I think women would be a lot less hesitant about? inclined against? mammograms if they involved, say, recreational drugs. If I could go in sloshed, maybe I wouldn't find the whole thing so... Or better yet, if I could get good and high, I'd probably even enjoy the experience. I could contemplate my increasing sagginess along with dog tails and the meaning of life. Maybe the mammogram center should provide special brownies instead of offering coffee? It would certainly ease my stress levels.
On the other hand, if I were drunk or high, and the technician weren't, then I'm guessing I'd be really irritating, and I hesitate to irritate someone with a vise on my breast. And if the technician were drunk, I'd be even more hesitant.
The mammogram center. Does there have to be so much effing pink? And flowers! It's "country crap" to the point that I'm going into saccharine shock. How is this supposed to make me comfortable? (Where are the special brownies?) (It would really suck to be a male and have to come here.) Doilies on the arms of the chairs. Doilies.
The waiting women all look at each other with that "does she have cancer" and "I hope I don't have cancer" look. Fear mixed with sympathy mixed with curiousity. No one talks.
I get called in by my real name, which I hate and don't use, and so don't recognize right off because I'm not quite checked in yet even though I arrived 8 minutes early because my insurance changed. And oops, yes, that is me, I guess. Only an idiot doesn't recognize her name. I should really change it to what I use and be done with what I detest.
The changing area's got room for about 12 women to change all at once, and little wood cabinet looking "lockers" that don't actually lock. The technician starts to tell me I should bring my purse with me, but then realizes that I don't have a purse. Already, I am failing the tests.
And so I take off my t-shirt and bra, and put on the stupid half gown thing, with pink pastel tiny flowers. I'm supposed to clean off any deodorant, but I knew that from before and didn't use any after my shower. The other woman in this waiting room has a purse the size of Kansas and looks as nervous as I feel. And then I wait for the technician person to come get me to go to the mammogram room.
She sticks on paste ons, one for each nipple, with a little metal ball on it. Humiliation. I can't help thinking about Gypsy, which is as much as I know about stripping, and as much as I want to know (I was in the pit orchestra in high school). At least there aren't tassles. I have this skin tag, so I get a different paste on for that, too.
The technician's giving me this look. The thing is, I'm a mammal. I have body hair. And unlike some women, I choose not to shave my body hair. So the look, yeah, because in our culture, choosing not to shave means a woman's despicable and dirty. So, yeah, the look, but no comment. I really want this person manhandling my breasts into the vise. Not.
Test your patriarchal reaction: when you read that just now, did you think, "eww"? Did you think "mammal"?
Or did you think, "shaving has nothing to do with the patriarchy. I shave because I like scraping my flesh with a really sharp blade"?
If you're female, and you shave, have you ever thought about not shaving? Because if three people do it, three, can you imagine? They may think it's an organization. And can you, can you imagine 50 people a day, I said 50 people... and friends, they may think it's a movement.
If it weren't for my mammalness, of course, I wouldn't need a mammogram. If I were avian, I wouldn't be here this morning. Even without pot, I wish I were a kestrel and busy flying around and eating bugs this morning. I could devour my time and not languish in his slow-chapt power.
(Pathetically, I considered shaving my pits just for this, as I will consider shaving my legs and pits for my well-woman exam in a couple weeks. I can't escape the patriarchy in my own mind, even.)
At this point, I'm wishing I'd cancelled the appointment or never made it. But, as I'm told, "as we get older blah blah blah" so I'm supposed to do all this preventative stuff.
The "as we get older" thing is hitting hard this morning, because I heard yesterday that Michael Jackson died of a heart attack or something. NPR was on about it over and over this morning. Jackson was just a bit older than I (and a bazillion times more talented in so many ways). Usually I think of heart attacks and all being something that happens to people who are considerably older than I am, but now that's changing. Mortality is on my mind.
The thing is, a heart attack seems like it would be fairly fast, and that seems good, compared to all sorts of things that kill slowly with a lot of pain. I'm really not good at pain. Back to the kestrel again.
Right first, top down squish, hold still with my neck craning, and my feet twisted, and don't breath. I don't think I could breath without pain, must less move for real. Seriously, I'm pinned to the world by my right breast (pinned, but not wriggling on a wall, not sprawling, certainly, and alas, not etherised). Where are the recreational drugs? And why isn't Advil stronger?
Have you ever noticed when you're standing and supposed to not breath or not move, you become super aware of all the tiny movements your leg muscles make just keeping you balanced? Please don't make this blurry because I don't want to be mashed any more.
Meanwhile, the questions about family history and such. Oops, I almost missed one. It can't be as bad as not recognizing my name.
Now we do the left breast. Equally uncomfortable.
Then we get the slant view, right breast first. This is when the whole saggy overweight thing is more of a problem, because really, not pleasant. I get to hold one out of the way. There's something especially awkward about holding my breast in front of someone I'm not intimate with. It's a slab of meat, but culturally, it's not.
Rinse and repeat on the other side. And then wait to see if the images look clear enough. Clear enough doesn't actually mean good or bad, so of course I'm trying to read the technician's face; I guess that anyone with the training to do this can tell a really scary mammogram when she sees it, but of course she isn't allowed to tell. But that doesn't stop me from staring because I'm really scared.
Then she wants another view of my right breast, a different view. I try to think about what that means. What I think of is really bad. Or it's just my fat in the way. Or bad. I want to throw up there in the room. But she doesn't say anything commital.
I'm not sure why I should be scared, but I am. I've felt it in my gut for the past two days, growing, making food taste wrong, making the inside of my nose itch. I didn't sleep last night.
Now there's the joy of taking off the paste ons; it hurts. Why they put industrial adhesive on my nipples, I can't say, but ouch.
She takes me back to the changing room and gives me the call back handout, the flowery thing with the number to call back if I get called back. Logically, I know from the stack that everyone gets one. But after the extra view, I don't feel logical.
Then I get to change again. The mammogram center provides little deodorant thingies, which the technician offers me as if I really, really need one for my disgusting dirtiness. I used one of the thingies once (the year before last, I think), and it smelled like really nasty fabric softener. So I'm not going to use it. I'll just have to stink if I stink.
So now I wait.
The form says that the radiologist will read my mammogram this afternoon, but the technician says maybe Monday, so I should hear next week if I need more views.
I'm lucky, and haven't had any problems with mammograms before, but luck can change.
Our culture does this huge thing about how scary breast cancer is, and how we have to get mammograms every year after a certain age, and then when you worry people say not to worry because it's usually nothing. There's a disconnect there. The level of fear the whole pink ribbon thing works up doesn't go away because someone says it's usually nothing.
It's 8:30 am, and I'm thinking that I could go buy some bourbon at the store and start in. It would ease my anxiety, maybe, for a little while. And then I'd feel crappy. Instead, I call a friend and leave a message, telling her that my bike is inviting her bike out to play.
Besides, I wouldn't be able to type a fake liveblogging thing. Seriously, it seems like that could be pretty irritating to the technician, and I think I've mentioned that it seemed just a tad unwise to irritate someone who's going to put my breasts in a vise a couple times each. So, no, I didn't take my laptop in and type while she pressed my breasts.