Wednesday, January 23, 2013

the mammo

If you are unaware, this is not me.  My hair isn't that long.  Oh and I wasn't smiling.
And I had on a salmon colored smock that hung like a tarp.  And I weigh just a teensy more than her.  Teensy means mucho.  I also was not hugging this machine, clearly designed by men with mother issues.

Before I write this post about my first mammo experience, let me first jump to the end and say I am fine.  This post will be about what led up to me getting checked out, and how that visit went.  So many women receive a different conclusion to their story and while I have always been empathetic to others receiving such terrible news as that, I feel a keener sadness for that moment in a woman's life.  Of course, as a mother, I think that moment is even more full of fear, as all I thought about were my children.  How will they handle the illness, how will I parent while sick, and God forbid, what if the treatments don't work?  Along with a million other questions and fears.   For those women, I say I am so sorry.  If any woman comes across this blog post and is undergoing treatment for breast cancer or the like, please, please know I wish you well.  I wish you health, love and joy.  This is just my experience and I mean no disrespect.  I am writing this post as a memory, and perhaps a bit of laughing at myself.

Also - I don't think this post is geared towards the male reader.  But really, what post of mine ever is.  Like I even have a male reader.

Back in November I noticed a problem with one of my breasts.  This is an area of the female body where you don't want problems.  It's just that simple.  But I knew it may be nothing, and I wanted it to be nothing, and to be honest, I just didn't want one-more-thing to deal with so I pushed off going to the doctor until December.  My mother had been staying with us for 5 weeks - first because she broke her leg and then because Hurricane Sandy paid her house an unpleasant visit.  Earlier in the year I had my miscarriage and truthfully that is still hard for me, and we had a family issue that sucked the wind out of my sails.  So when this breast problem arose I thought, "REALLY?"  That's what I thought.  Really.

So in December I put on my big girl panties (that's not a figure of speech, I put on big girl panties everyday.  They cover the top of my navel down to the bottom of my cheeks.   One of my best girlfriends keeps preaching the benefits of a thong to me, but she is skinny and doesn't understand that I don't want to have to perform surgery on myself to fish that piece of cotton back out).  I digress.  What I mean to say is, I went to the gynecologist.  I was so proud of myself that I went, because there was not one place I could think of that I wanted to visit less, than my gynecologist.  I know myself, and I feared it would hurt me a lot to be back there following my miscarriage.  And it did - but I loved the doctor I saw, and she examined me and decided to order a mammogram to see what was going on.  I told her that I wanted her to say it was nothing, and she said it could be due to a few different things, but let's see anyway.  Yes, let's.  I thought I had years before my first mammo, I didn't want to go.

I thought about it, and I did not want to make the appointment for before Christmas, because what if something was wrong.  How could I watch my children celebrate all of the joy of Christmas as I wondered what our future would hold.  I would be a mess!  So I waited until they were back in school and made the call.  I figured I'd have to wait - the sweet receptionist that didn't seem surprised at all that I was crying - got me in the following morning.  I was so relieved - since November I had this weight on my shoulders, this what is it and what if and I just wanted to know at this point.  Also, I had kept this to myself, save for Kevin and a few friends, because why bring it up unless it was something.  But in the meantime, it was a hard burden to carry, and I felt fake saying I was doing fine when someone asked.  I felt like 2012 was enough of a downer, I couldn't talk about one more thing!!  But it is unlike me not to be honest, not to share with my friends (or as in this case, possibly strangers) and that weighed on me even more.

So on Friday January 4, I went to get my first mammo.  I had called my mom the night before and finally told her, and she insisted on coming.  I didn't know how I felt about that but I ended up appreciating her presence.  We waited in the first waiting room for maybe 45 minutes...which felt like 4 hours.  Kevin stopped by, which was so sweet of him, but actually made me more nervous bc I could feel he was nervous.  He left after a few minutes and Mom and I were brought back to the second waiting room, where I was given a smock shirt, opening in the front, to change into, and had to confirm in front of the other women waiting that no, I did not wear deodorant or use any kind of talc powder that day.  I sat in a chair, careful to make sure that Bertha and Betsy weren't playing peekaboo with any of the other women waiting.

The other women.  There was a loud, gum-smacking (a huge pet peeve) skinny woman, who was dressed to the nines - well, from the waist down.  She stood a few times to get a new magazine and didn't mind that Perk and Perkier under her smock could be seen from the side.  I wondered how they do mammos with breasts that are barely there.  I mean, I knew that the machine was like a vice, and you lay your breast on the tray of some sort, and the top comes down to smush it and take a picture.  But what if there's nothing to lay on the tray, or only a little?  I suddenly felt so bad for her, for her nipples namely, for I knew they'd receive the brunt of the trauma.  My own nipples would be safely ensconced within my pillowy pancakes, at least that was my vision. There was an older woman who complained a few times about the wait, and I wondered if it hurts more as you age.  Do your breasts get arthritic?  It just seemed even more unpleasant.  There were a few other nondescript women waiting, save for my mother who would try hard not to look at me, but when she did, I saw the anxiety, fear, empathy.

I got called back finally, and had the nicest technician.  We talked about breastfeeding randomly - although I guess not so random, since she was the only one besides my husband, doctor and children to get such a birds eye view of Bertha and Betsy.  She explained what would happen, and did the mammo.  IT WAS NOT SO BAD!!  I took 3 Advil, no joke, in anticipation of having to pick my squeezed-to-an-inch-of-their-lives breasts up off the floor following the test, but really it wasn't that bad!   And it was a plastic vice, unlike the metal torture chamber I had conjured in my head.  I was feeling better already.

She asked me to go back to the waiting area until I was told I could go.   I waited.  And waited.  My mother tried not to look at me.  Then, a different technician told me I needed to have an ultrasound done and to sit tight.   I knew my doctor had included an ultrasound on my referral "just in case they need one" and so I assumed they needed to clarify what they were seeing on the mammogram.  I tried hard not to cry as I waited.  After maybe a half hour, another technician told me I would be seen as soon as a room opened up.  My emotions shifted from fear to anger - I was so distraught that they would make me wait this long with the information that I took as "Yes something's wrong, we need to look at it closer."  I went into the bathroom and paced around for a few minutes because steam could practically be seen coming out of my head.  It was perhaps an hour that I waited, and as soon as I was called back the floodgates opened (one with a tendency towards the over-emotional can only hold them closed so long) and I started crying.  I stated to the tech that I thought it was in poor taste to give someone news like that and then have them wait.  She was very nice and apologized, and said it was protocol when someone has a problem to have them get both tests done.  I was so relieved!!!  She did the ultrasound and didn't understand why I was still crying, but I had been so scared I just couldn't calm right away.  Not to mention that I couldn't help but think about the last time I was getting an ultrasound done, back in April with a stone faced technician whose eyes read what I already knew, "your baby is dead, no more heartbeat."  I was overcome.

She did the test, and I asked if she could tell me anything or would I have to wait even longer for a doctor.  She said the doctor would come talk to me if he thought it was necessary, but she couldn't see anything that would be concerning.  PRAISE GOD!!  I was so grateful!  I got dressed and waited in that room as she had instructed, waiting this time only a few minutes before a technician came and told me I could go, my tests appeared normal.

I still have not shaken, nor do I want to, that feeling of gratitude over my test showing a pair of healthy breasts.  There are times when my breasts annoy me - I want to fit into that lacy, sexy bra that they don't make in my size, or they jiggle when I jog (at least the last time I jogged they did, it's been awhile), or they try to free themselves from my bathing suit as I swim.  But they have fed 2 babies, pleasured my husband (what!  It's Biblical!), and brought me pleasure as well.  I like having them, and I wanted to keep them.  Also, the thought of being sick, really sick, took my breath away and I felt deep, deep empathy for women who are ill.

Several days later I received a letter stating that my tests were normal and to follow up with my doctor and for repeat testing as he prescribes.  I go back in February.

What I do know now, that I didn't before, is that getting a mammo isn't so bad.  I will pester any friend I have to get one, if she is due and hasn't already.

2012 sucked.  2013 is already so much better.  This is going to be a great year, I can feel it.  And I am so, so grateful Bertha and Betsy will be along for the ride.

1 comment:

  1. are back! you are such a terrific writer. i'm glad everything turned out fine with your mammo....i am NOT looking forward to that, as i do not have bertha & betsy, lmao!!! i will be that poor girl with hardly any boobs that you feel bad for!
    so, when are you going to be in toms river? we need to meet up for a catch up and coffee!! :)