My breasts got clamped today, like I'd somehow parked them illegally and would need to pay a fine to get them back. Almost as odd is the idea that anyone would happily let a stranger stick her breasts between two metal plates and then just stand there while the plates move closer and closer and closer together. And when she's told not to breathe, does she try to run? No, she doesn't breathe! When your breast is clamped I suspect you'd hop on one foot and tell bad jokes if you were instructed.
This was my first mammogram and I had been imagining vivid scenes of a clamper that malfunctions and squeezes my wee melons into horrifying juice, followed by scenes of lawyers, suffering, and a book deal. I scoured the net for testimonials of other women who had undergone mammograms to allay my fears. Knowledge is power.
Here's what I found out: some women said the pain of a mammogram is worse than childbirth. And, if you have small breasts, it’s unendurable torture. Assorted trusted friends have called the procedure "Draconian," "medieval," and "barbaric," and have vowed never to have another one. Clearly, knowledge is cowardice.
When I called to book my appointment, I expressed concern at having very little breast tissue to work with. The administrator chirped back (yes, chirped), "Oh ha-ha, no need to worry, we can even do mammograms on men!" Of course they can; I've seen many with C and D cup sizes. They can probably do mammograms on grasshoppers too. I was not reassured. The chirpy voice only made me more suspicious of the procedure and more convinced she was wearing pink!
So it was with a heavy foot on the gas pedal that I drove to my appointment today. I said my good-byes to my husband the night before, who had, incidentally, been researching hydraulic metal presses for the past couple of days. He sincerely hoped my appointment went well, anything to shut me up, "How about MEN put their WIENERS in a VISE and see how THEY LIKE IT?!!!" I dressed in head-to-toe thrifted Spirit Armour: psychedelic socks, D&G pony shoes, psychedelic palazzo pants, psychedelic Oriental motif oversized blouse, maxi muppet coat, and the biggest neon lips that my lip-liner would allow.
|They instruct you to wear a loose-fitting top and a "support bra,"|
no deodorant. My Spirit Armour (view from the hanger) sprayed good vibes
indiscriminately all over the clinic, providing relief for many frazzled nerves.
The old, low-rise building that housed the clinic had heavily barred windows all the way around, which of course made me wonder if it was to keep intruders out or to keep us in? Given its skid-row appeal, I would have expected to find GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! painted on its exterior walls instead of "X-rays, Mammography, Ultrasounds." Not hearing any screaming, I went in.
The exam room had just enough space for the torture device, the scientist, me and a chair, and the control area. It was slightly dark, which was restful or simply camouflage for putrefaction on the floor. Hm? My technician wore a crisp cotton uniform, not leather dominatrix gear, and in her hand was a clipboard, not a whip. I confessed to her that I was terrified and told her about my juice nightmare. Then she cleverly lulled me into a state of relaxation with her patience, kindness, and professionalism, as she expertly positioned my tah-tahs on the plate, which she had fitted with a plastic adaptor for my size. The machine rotated and tilted quietly as she guided it into optimal positioning.
She took four images, two on each side, one set with boobs squished top to bottom, and one set squished side to side. The maximum pressure exertion lasted less than 3 seconds, during which time you're not to breathe, but then the pressure is quickly released. The entire process took about 10 minutes, including a few wasted on my juice nightmare.
No bad jokes were told, except in the waiting room. No hopping on one foot was demanded. No screams, no tears, no hideous bruising, which I'd read about online as well. In fact, the pain was not much worse than what I'd feel smushing myself into shapewear one size too small. The whole experience reminded me of threading my serger for the first time. I became so terrified of doing it after reading the online tribulations of other women that I didn't touch my machine for a few months. When I finally tried it I wondered what the fuss was about.
So, if you've had fears about having a mammogram, especially if you're small-chested, this has been my experience for what it's worth. At the clinic I chatted with a few women who've had lots of mammograms and in their opinion the new machines make the process much more comfortable. Frankly, I was shocked by how smoothly everything went.
Now I shall go have pancakes to celebrate health care, which reminds me of Connie, her dog, and Coco Chanel, here. I'm glad I can get free yearly breast screening in Canada if I want it, well, if paying half your income in taxes qualifies as "free." But that's another blog post. Have you ever had such a positive mammogram experience?
PS I put an edit on my last post.
PS I put an edit on my last post.