I’ve finally recovered enough from the trauma of my mammogram experience on Friday to share it with you. Months ago, I felt a lump and, being a registered hypochondriac, I had Biggy confirm it. Then, because I’m an even worse procrastinator, and because—as I’ve said countless times--I’m the kind of person who truly believes if I were tested for prostate cancer it would come back positive, I chose not to go to the doctor for many weeks.
When I finally did go, on September 25, the doctor, of course, wanted the mammo set up immediately, so the lady responsible for scheduling it asked me when would be convenient. I told her any day but Tuesday, which was the day of my Tech reading. When she left the message later, telling me when to report, it was no surprise that Tuesday was precisely the day she’d put me down for. I had to cancel it. And I took my sweet time rescheduling, eventually getting around to last Friday.
When a hypochondriac procrastinator goes for a mammogram, she’s pretty sure she’s going to have a tumor. First off, she’s convinced every possible illness is lurking inside her, as latent as Lance Bass, and second, she knows she deserves to be punished for procrastinating. Such was the case with me, except, thanks to the Celexa, I obsessed about my impending doom much less than I would have ordinarily. I was able to stick that doom-bit in the same place I keep the little remnants of anger and mistrust now.
I showed up ten minutes late, because Kennestone Hospital is harder to get into than Gidget’s pants. I had to produce seven pieces of alternate documentation proving I was indeed Tania Rochelle-Catoe, as stated on my insurance card, because I never managed to get my driver’s license changed to reflect my hyphenated status. Once all the faxing was finished, I was directed to the changing room and instructed to hang my shirt and my (quietly) “undergarment” in the closet. Odd, I thought, that she couldn’t say the word ‘bra’ in the BREAST CENTER.
After that, I got to sit in the icy TV room with five other women, who actually had breasts, clearly visible beneath the wrap-around napkins we were wearing. The channel was turned to All My Children, and I was shocked to see Brooke and Erica-- characters I hadn’t seen in over a decade-- both looked as ancient as Palmer Courtlandt, who by my calculations, should have died before Rocky IV. Suddenly, I was feeling old and, in relation to everyone around me—real and virtual--robbed of boobage. I was feeling good and sorry for myself when they called me back to the machine.
The petite and perky technician tried to make the procedure as comfortable as possible, but the petite and perky part was already working against her. I wanted Aunt Bea, or, like Georgia says, someone who looked like her name should be Helga. Not the University of Florida cheerleader I got. She asked me to slip my arms out of the robe and taped those things that look like blue-jeans rivets to my nipples. Next, she motioned to where I should place my feet and asked me to lean way into the small platform they gram your mams on.
This was not comfortable, ladies and gentlemen. The position I had to assume was bad enough: feet spread, head far to one side, breast-arm reaching around the sharp corner of the platform to grab the handle above, shoulders relaxed—no MORE relaxed (huh?)…Then begins the cranking noise that precedes the big cold plexi-glass squeeze, and then further poking and pulling, to get “this little flap of skin…this wrinkled piece out…to get back just a little further into the muscle…” crank, crank, squeeze, squeeze…”don’t move…don’t breathe.” Now for the other breast.
Perky left the room, suggesting I just take it easy for a few minutes while the doctor had a look. Since I’d felt a lump, they wanted to review it right away. She returned several minutes later to inform me that we needed to get a few more good shots—at a different angle. I couldn’t imagine what variety of contortions were left to try. But try them we did, after which she said I could wait in the TV room. By now, one of the women was crying softly into a Kleenex, which I thought might bode well for me—you know, that whole one-in-four thing.
Too quickly, though, I was called back in for another round: “We don’t see any lumps, but there are a couple of specks we want to examine more closely. See—these tiny dots I’ve marked here with a pen? I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about, though.”
Right. And so she squeezed me a few more times—only the left one, and I was allowed to stay put to wait for the bad news—the news that would change my work schedule, keep my dogs from getting their wet food in the mornings, and orphan my children.
But when she came back in, she was smiling. “You can get dressed,” she said. “They’re benign-looking calcium deposits; we’ll want to keep an eye on them to see how they grow. Come back in six months. Have a great day.”