So I had that appointment today. That doctor appointment. You know the one. That yucky girl doctor appointment. No, not that one, the squishy one.
I admit, this appointment was overdue. I am 41 now and there is a history of breast cancer in my family so I really didn’t have an excuse. Except that is sounded icky. And painful. I had heard more than one story about how horribly painful a mammogram is so I decided to just pretend I was 22 and not yet old enough for one. I do this with a lot of things. 22 was a nice age with very little responsibility, so whenever I’m faced with a grown up choice that I don’t want to deal with, I just pretend I’m 22 and not responsible enough to make that decision. It’s been working out pretty well for me. Except that sooner or later something happens to remind me that I am not 22 anymore. It comes as kind of a shock.
The latest shock happened yesterday. I went into the doctor because I’ve been so terribly tired lately. Tired as in 12 hours of sleep every night isn’t possibly enough. Now I’m 22 so it’s probably just that I’m lazy. Or I have mono. Except I haven’t been kissing anyone other than The Pastor for the last 20 years so it’s probably not mono. I went into the doctor just to be sure. She was a little concerned until I pointed out that I’M 22 YEARS OLD! Then she pointed out that it hasn’t been 1995 for a really long time. I glared at her. It could still be 1995, in my world. She then gave me a very thorough examination. It was during this examination that she found an “abnormality”. In my breast. Suddenly I aged 20 years in a half of a second. I was very much 41 years old.
The doctor was very reassuring that there was nothing to worry about, but I did need to have a mammogram to check things out. Um, mammogram? No thank you. I have heard all about those and no one has ever had anything very pleasant to say. She insisted. I told her that I was pretty booked up for the next few weeks but I might be able to work it in two months from now. She handed me a slip of paper that said my appointment was at one in the afternoon the next day.
I woke up today and took a shower. I did not put on deodorant or lotion because they tell you not to. I drove to the hospital and arrived about an hour early because I was so nervous. I knew it was going to hurt. I was terrified of the hurting. I do not like pain, but also I think focusing on the future pain helped me to not focus on the terrifying, very grown up fact that there was an actual reason I was doing this.
I checked in and was a little disappointed to hear that they could actually get me in early. I then asked what types of anesthesia was available because I would really like to be unconscious for this, if at all possible. They said it was not at all possible. They lead me back to a room that looked like someone’s granny had decorated it. There were pretty chairs, a table, and a very obvious large box of Kleenex. Also a big bowl of nail files with pink ribbons on them. The nail files confused me a little. The lady who was in charge of me asked me a bunch of questions about my family. Most of those questions I didn’t know the answer to. Then she had me change into a gown and led me to the mammogram room.
The thing that shocked me most about the mammogram room was how small the actual mammogram machine is. I always expected a large metal machine with a huge hydraulic press and steam shooting out of it. It basically looked like two small pieces of plexiglass connected to something the size of a payphone on a pole. The pole made it adjustable, which was good because the last lady was apparently much shorter than I am. She then put little pink band-aids on my nipples. Yes I just said nipples. Grow up. These band-aids apparently contain something that will leave a mark on the picture so they can have a reference. If you have a sore or lump that is causing suspicion they will also mark that with a pink band-aid. My “abnormality” was large enough that they didn’t need to mark it.
You then basically have to hug the payphone while the lady puts your breast between the two pieces of plexiglass. She won’t buy you a drink first. Also they don’t like it when you point that out. Just a little FYI. Then she tells you to hug the machine tighter because you are not close enough to it. The next part was the part I was dreading. The part where they squish. I squeezed my eyes shut and held my breath, hoping I wouldn’t scream too loud. Here’s the thing. It wasn’t that bad. They don’t squish you as flat as a piece of paper. They don’t even squish you as flat as a pancake. It wasn’t even painful. Just annoying. Also it was over in less than five seconds.
“Wait, that was it?” I asked
“Yep.” she said. Now we’ll do the other side.
“But,” I stammered “everyone says it’s so horrible.”
She agreed that, unless you already have something painful going on, it’s not that bad. She also said that it was frustrating to her that a fear of pain was preventing so many women who needed mammograms from having them. It was especially sad because it’s really not painful.
The only truly painful part comes after the squishing. I was then sent back to the dressing room to wait for my results. I sat there trying to distract myself. I tried reading. I wrote most of this blog, not sure how scarey the ending would be. I scrolled facebook on my phone. It was then my turn to visit the grandma room again. The tech then told me that everything was normal. 92-94 percent of the time everything is. And this is when the good part happens. This is when you can go back to being 22. No matter what year it is.