I’m not sure what made me look up my medical record. Maybe because it was the dog days of August and I found myself dreaming of a terrycloth brassiere. I had enough personal humidity to host a salamander. But I did look it up, and sure enough, I was due for my annual mammocram. When might I like to come in? the website said. Here is grid of available times and dates:
Today. In an hour.
No no, I didn’t mean today actually, but soon, maybe tomorrow? Tomorrow it was. I was more or less on time for my annual, and yet still feeling as if I had some control over my own life.
Not that anything about a mammocram upsets me. It’s been a snap every year since I was 35, when I first started getting them, on account of a strong family history of death and stuff. It was no worse than uncomfortable back then, when everything on me had a bit more spring to it, and it got less and less uncomfortable over time.
I’m not a heavy user of medical expertise. I used to have an annual pelvic, but I haven’t had a pelvic thrust at me for years now. Evidently nobody is interested in whatever’s up there anymore, including my medical professionals. “Been there, reamed that,” they say, and nudge me down the hall to the colonoscopy department. Or the bionic joint replacement center. I don’t need either of those. My joints are just fine. Nothing hurts on me unless I fall down or smack into a wall, and although both of those things happen to me more often than they do to more solemn people, those pains don’t last long.
And as far as the colonoscopy goes, they’re just having me mail it in now. Apparently Mussolini’s ghost is in charge of making my digestive train run on time, and a car leaves the station every morning just about as soon as I’m upright.
There are probably other operating systems besides my breasts that I should have checked out, but this is the only pressing one.
So anyway I never had much trouble with the mammocram. I’m not interested in lingering in there but it’s no ordeal. Less so now that my affected tissues have, let’s say, “thinned.” What happens with breast tissue is at a certain point, the point that coincides with you no longer giving a fuck, all that internal architecture designed to feed babies and (coincidentally) to attract contributors to a working embryo—all of that yawns and leaves the building, and is unceremoniously replaced by fat. Yes, fat. Right up front where you can keep an eye on it. That’s where I like to keep most of my fat anyway, although I can’t say I couldn’t benefit from the occasional back flossing.
Which means I’m pretty jolly during my mammocram. I like to put the technician at ease.
“Okay, I’m just going to crank this down a little at first—how’re you doing?” she said.
“Just fine,” I said. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”
“Oh!” she said. “I guess I need to use a bigger paddle!”
Paddle? I inquired. After all, I didn’t mean my comment as a challenge.
Turns out “paddle” is the term for the plastic platform that is responsible for turning your secondary sexual characteristics into crèpes.
“Make sure to get it all in,” I said helpfully, and she laughed. “No problem,” she said. “I read a hack online. All you need to do is start at the bottom end and roll the breast up onto a rolling pin and center it and unroll it again, and you get a perfect crust every time.”
I always consult Dermatology when I get a perfect crust.
But all is well, again, I assume. This is excellent and time-proven technology, after all. Seems to me it would be valuable for early detection of testicular cancer. Evidently, the investment in soundproofing the room proved to be prohibitive.
I concluded long ago that women are much tougher than men. Using a similar method to detect testicular cancer would be uncomfortable. If the choice was death vs. examination I would not be sure which one to choose. Nothing vs. constant searing pain. Hmmm….
My sister says the worst thing for her is she always imagines the fire alarm will go off at *just* the wrong time and everyone would leave the building…
I’m partial to Eastern Medicine rather than Western, which seems motivated by profit. Recently read a very interesting book: Less Medicine, More Health by Dr. H. Gilbert Welch. All these tests themselves are not only very profitable, but lead to treatments that mostly are not needed. He makes an analogy, comparing cancer to various animals. Most are turtles — they are VERY slow growing and don’t need to be treated. The fact that doctors remove them drives up the numbers on the “cancer rate” and the cancer that was “cured.” Some are like rabbits, and yes, these need to be treated, but there is no real hurry. Some are like birds. They metastasize SO quickly that by the time you find it, it’s too late. Chemo typically extends their life by a few months, and those are spent sick and in bed. Then there are the dodos. They are here one moment, and in the next test they are gone. These sorts typically happen in children rather than adults. Anyway, I found it a riveting read, as I love me a good analogy!
Oh! And also… a rolling pin??? Goddam… mine would only need a small spatula. Since we’re going with the food prep items analogy. (Told you I LOVE ’em!)
And that makes it easier to flip ’em!
Very glad all went well Murr (and I learned something about breast tissue in the process). I know that contraption looks positively medieval, and probably not very fun, but my God I had to resist falling to the floor and cupping my privates while in a fetal position!
Kinky! So you get off on Medieval breast contraptions, do you? Well, whatever works! 😉
Why would one want to resist that? It sounds cozy.
With the new 3D mammograms, the last 2 years it has been so much easier and much less painful. I used to dread them as it always was so painful. They always would do ultrasounds afterwards due to difficulty getting good image due to fibroid cysts. Now they are a breeze!
I don’t think my Kaiser has those. Huh.
Of course, three-D is getting less and less necessary for my personal equipment as time goes on.
“got less uncomfortable over time”
Lucky you. My last one still hurt just like they always do. The technician or nurse or whatever she is, positions the breast on the lower plate, the lowers the top plate to squish it but that also has the effect of pulling all the skin from the collar bone downwards. It feels like those “chinese burns” kids used to give each other in the school yard. It HURTS! We only have them every two years although you can opt for every year if you have a family history of breast cancer. I don’t, so every two years is enough for me.
I don’t know if this will help, but the first one I got (age 35) I was very tender and expressed anxiety to the doctor, and she told me to quit drinking coffee, so I did that for a few days before the mammogram. It was quite bearable. I quit drinking coffee for several years because the whole pain issue had gone away. Then Starbucks came to town.
Jebus. Because I’ve always grown me a big crop of cysts I’ve always had to have mammoscreams every damnable year since I turned 35, which was a while ago. They hurt like hell. Worse, I always got called back for a second look. Last year I got called back for my usual second look, and then the guy did (=:o) a needle biopsy. In the one year interval between mammoscreams I’d grown an aggressive second-stage cancer. Though the tumour was the size of the head of a *pin*, it had already spread. So one of the twins is now half her former size. I glowed in the dark for a good while and the drugs really do feel a lot like you miscalculated your dose for an attempted suicide it went horribly *horribly* wrong.
But I’m still here (YAY!), and being in Canada, all it cost me was half my boob and the cost of the gas to get to my appts. Oh and parking. We do like to bitch that we have to pay for hospital parking. Damned effing gummint, nickel and dime you to death! Get your mammocrams ladies. Can’t bear to think of the alternative. The sweet feller I’ve been married to for 58 years has dementia. I can’t go. I can’t bear to think of him cared for by strangers.
Yeah, here’s the thing. If you don’t die of heart disease, there is cancer. And if not cancer, there is dementia. Dementia is the absolute WORST way to go. I took care of my mom for several years before she died. A few days before she actually did, I was thinking “Okay, ONE of us has to go, and I don’t much care at this point which one of us it is.” There is no easy way to die. So I don’t test for anything, but I take care of myself. And if I do come down with something, I’m not gonna treat it. We’re all doomed at this point, and I try to live in the present. I’m just glad that I’m old and never had kids.
Jeez, Deb. Big hugs from here. You’re damn right to be glad you weren’t an American on top of all that.