Thursday, August 17, 2006

Flattened Like A Pancake

Warning: Men, and some squeamish women, this post will be about the dreaded mammogram. I had my first one, and if I can’t talk about it here, then where can I? So, if ya don’t like the personal stuff, you have been forewarned!

So, I get this call at 10 ‘til 8 in the morning last week. “This is (whoever) from the base hospital. We’ve been reviewing your records and see that it’s time for a mammogram. Please call radiology and set up your appointment.” Well, good friggin’ morning to you, too, sunshine. Could you be a little less chipper when you call a newly 40-year-old woman to remind her that she’s turned 40?

I wasn’t nervous because really, I didn’t expect them to find anything. I do breast exams (not as often as I should, but I do do them), and I’ve always teased Al that it’s just as much his responsibility as mine to know if something isn’t right. Besides, he knows them better than I do, anyway.

So, let me tell you how this happens. The nice tech (female, thank God) tells you everything off from the waist up, gown opens in the front, and there are wipes to clean off any deodorant or perfumes or anything. I don’t know why, either, I just did what I was told.

The machine is smaller than I thought it would be. I guess I was expecting giant metal plates like a big shop tool, like a drill press or one of those things that crush cars. But it’s small and not so scary looking. But then, the tech tells you she has to put the nipple guards on and you realize that any modesty you have has just flown out the window.

So, then it begins. Step up to the machine, one half of the gown off, the tech moving you where you need to be then unceremoniously slapping your breast up on the table that has these little lines as a guide for the tech. Now, she wasn’t being insensitive, she had to get it all up there. And I’m, well, I’m a healthy girl. No need for a Wonder Bra here; they are a wonder all their own. After the bottom part was in place, she smoothed out as much of the tissue as possible, meaning that she pre-flattens before the acrylic paddle comes down to finish the job. One hand was on my waist, pulling my shoulder back out of the way and the other hand was holding back the opposite breast. My chin was resting on the machine, the tech was behind a protective clear screen, telling me not to breathe. Not a problem, actually. Luckily, it only lasted a few seconds, then onto the next pose.

I had to ask the tech what they do if someone has implants. She said it was more painful and harder because at one point, she has to push the implants back and pull the tissue forward. Ew. So, maybe carting these boulders around wasn’t so bad after all. But I’d still consider a breast reduction. I told Al that if they fall enough that I have to move them to fasten my pants, they’re out of here!

Four pictures, two each breast, so I figured I would be out of there soon. Oh, how wrong I was. Luckily, I brought a book, just in case. I had to wait for the developing, to make sure the pictures were clear. Then wait for the radiologist to look at it, which was good because that meant I would know before I left that everything was OK. I was pretty relaxed, just reading my book.

Then the tech came back and said the radiologist wanted a couple of more pictures of my right breast. Guess I had the deer-in-headlights look because the tech quickly followed that with “This is common with first mammograms. There’s nothing to compare to, so sometimes they want to see other views.”

So, we started over again. Different poses this time, including a happy little number where she twisted the tissue (they say tissue but it’s pretty much twisting the whole thing). And more waiting.

Then the radiologist came in. Oh, this day just gets better and better! He didn’t see a tumor or anything that worried him that it could be cancer, but there was an a-symmetrical spot on the right side of the breast that he just couldn’t get a good look at, so he wanted to do an ultrasound. He said they were going to try to do it today but if they couldn’t it was ok to wait. Worse case, they might want to do a biopsy, but he would expect it to be benign. But he’ll still want me to come back in 6 months for another mammogram on that breast so he could compare and make sure there was no change. He didn’t want me to worry. He kept repeating that, but really, I wasn’t worried. I told him I wasn’t going to worry until someone told me it was time to worry. I was more upset that I hadn’t brought my knitting because even though my book is good (Booked to Death by John Dunning), I wanted something to do with my hands, not my brain.

So, more waiting, sitting in the hallway, in a gown that could wrap around me a few times, trying to keep my head down, reading my book. If I don’t see them, I could be invisible, right? Quite a while later, “You ready, ma’am?” Well crap. Tell me, why do ultrasound techs have to be good looking young men who just stepped out of their fraternity house?

Lots of small talk, while I lie with my right arm above my head and the gown covering the left half of the body. Luckily, the gel had been warmed, but it’s still just weird. I studied the poster on the wall beside me, trying not to chuckle at the idea that under other circumstances this might actually be enjoyable. Pretty soon, he draped a towel over me, and he and the chaperone took the results to the radiologist, who by the way is also a good looking young guy who just walked out of the fraternity house. And of course, he wanted another scan. But he wanted it to do it himself this time.

OK, now, I’m annoyed and ready to go home. Enough is enough! He decided that it was just breast tissue and benign. I suspected he was starting to us me as a teaching tool for the tech as he described this ridge and where it was, pointing it out on my breast. Well, at least I know where it is now.

Another clean towel draped over me, and I’m done. Everyone leaves, and I’m left to get all this goo off. I still have to come back in 6 months, but no one’s expecting it to be anything, so I shouldn’t worry. I'm not worried! Really, I've been through worse tests, and honestly, I have other health issues keeping me preoccupied. But it is nice to have this little experience over.

My breasts had been handled more in the last 2 hours than they had all week. And more than they will be for a couple of days because now I’m sore. But, everything is OK, so that’s good. I’m taking care of myself, and that’s good. It’s all good.


Tink said...

My hope is that someday when I go in to get a mammogram they take one look at me, laugh, and say, "Go home. We can see there's no room for problems in there." LOL. Somehow I got gypped in the boob department and blessed in the ass one.

((HUGS)) Great job on having your fist visit OVER with. I'm sure the results will come back fine!

Betty said...

Ahem, about that gown that would wrap around you several times, do you think you could sneak one into your purse next time you go? It would be nice to have next time I have to have tests. The ones they have around here leave nothing to the imagination.

Glad everything's ok.

Newt said...

Thanks for your blog. My time is coming soon and I have been so fearful of the thing. I've only heard stuff like "It hurts so much I cry" So it's nice to hear someone with a more positive experience.

How's the John Dunning book going? I have a friend who is finishing the second book and he likes it more than the first one. My dad said the same thing. He's also enjoyed books 3 and 4. I have yet to read them. (I'm currently bogged down in an epic story about good and evil in the 14th century.)

saz said...

Yep - that sounds about right. Good description. Here they ask if we want pads on the metal plates for $5 more which is donated to the Breast Cancer group - not so cold that way. For the rest of you young never hurt me - not comfortable but no longer embarrassing.

Susan said...

I had my first one last year. The first part is pretty much how I remember it, then they just sent me home and told me they might need a retest if it wasn't clear so I didn't get the handsome frat boys!

Kell said...

Tink--LOL! I have a friend who says she so small that she doesn't bother with a breast exam, she just looks in the mirror for any lumps!

Mom--Hmmmm, encouraging me to steal something from a military hospital. Shame on you!

Newt--I'm really liking the book. Mom read it and liked it, too. I'm sure I'll move onto the next ones in the series. Oh, and really, the mammogram isn't that bad. You survived a 2-hour tattoo--the mammogram is nothing!

Saz and Susan--another club? Maybe the Successfull Squisher or the Mighty Mammers?

saz said...

I'm usual. I like Mighty Mammers Club.

F&W said...

Great account of what to expect. I'm curious what my first will look / feel like considering I've already had a breast reduction (D down to a B).

Thanks for taking care of yourself! We want to keep you around.