The Girls and I want to share a few thoughts about mammograms
The friendly reminder from my doctor’s office came by email: Time to schedule your mammogram!
You know the belief that women are biologically programmed to forget the pain of childbirth so they’ll reproduce again? I think the same rule applies to mammograms. Thanks to this week’s appointment, the memories all came rushing back.
First, there’s the gown. For obvious reasons, it has to open in the front. My faded green smock had multiple pairs of strings, all of which I diligently tied in order to get from the changing room to the mammography room without flashing anyone. I succeeded, but barely. Let us pause to acknowledge the feat of engineering behind a thigh-length gown with numerous ties that covers, essentially, nothing.
Once in the room, a friendly technologist I’ll call Tina pointed to the chair where I could stash my purse and my clothes. Naturally, as I leaned over to put down my things, the gown opened wide. Hello, world!, announced my friendly girls. We’re here!
Tina led me to a tall X-ray machine with an arm that extended straight out from the middle. At the end of the arm were two trays, one directly above the other. Tina pushed a button and the trays separated. “Get right up against the machine,” she said. “I should warn you,” she added, “everything in here is freezing.”
She wasn’t kidding. As I cozied up to the metal ice block, I pondered another conundrum: Everything that happens in the mammography room involves half-naked women pressing themselves against an apparatus that flattens their knockers into pancakes. Who decided the perfect temperature for this procedure is that of a walk-in refrigerator?
As I bravely squared off against the machine, Tina placed my right bazoomba on the lower tray. She prepped it like a raw chicken cutlet, scooping, lifting and nudging to get my melon ready for its big photo op. Tina lowered the upper tray and closed it tight, like a malevolent waffle maker, on my muchacha.
“Lean back,” she told me, brushing my hair out the way. “Tilt your head. Chin up. And arch your back.” I felt like a celebrity getting ready for her cover shot, if that shot involved extended titty-torture.
Before she took the X-ray, Tina instructed me to hold my breath. Just as well, since I wasn’t really in the mood to say “Cheese!”
Tina repeated this delightful process three more times. “You don’t even see breasts anymore, do you?” I asked as Tina compressed my lady bubble once again. “All you see is globs of flesh.”
She concurred, and fair enough, too. I imagine one can only get up close and personal with so many mammary glands before they lose their individual identity, let alone their sensual or erotic powers. Then Tina told me what a recent patient had called her: Boob Angel.
A few minutes later, getting dressed, I thought about what I’d just gone through. It struck me that if men had to have their testicles manipulated by a stranger before being squeezed mercilessly between two freezing metal plates, they simply wouldn’t. Ever. By now, someone — perhaps the same dude who designed the never-close gown or the always-icy X-ray machine — would have figured out how to combine checking for cancer with watching a sporting event while drinking a cold beverage.
Indignity and discomfort aside, I’m deeply grateful to have access to this important health screening, one that long ago saved my beloved aunt’s life and has saved many other friends since. In that sense, I think Tina and her colleagues really are Boob Angels.
As for me, I’ve got roughly 18 months to forget everything I now vividly remember about mammograms before I show up with my twins, jugs, cans and hooters, and we do it all over again.