Once a year, like clockwork, I stop and go in for what I lovingly refer to as my annual squeeze and peak, or as you may call it, a mammogram. I do not think twice about it. As I leave that appointment, I schedule the following year and keep that same appointment. It’s a priority. This last session did not go as planned and was a first for me.
Just do it
Something about walking into that building always makes me giggle. No, I do not enjoy having parts squeezed until they feel like they will pop. But, other thoughts always play through my head like a movie.
As you enter, the ladies working in the women’s clinic are always smiling and kind. It is never very many minutes before they call my name, and I go back into that tiny bathroom, take off my top, and put on a nasty old hospital gown backward, so it opens up in the front. The nurse will remind, ‘if you have on deodorant, please remove it’. I have never seen in all my years of this process another female going back to be tested. It’s tranquil and quick.
The room is fairly dark. The machine is about the same size as a normal-sized person. You walk right up, the technician steps beside you and adjusts the machine to be the right height. With her hands like ice, she takes that all-important body part and lays it on a piece of clear plastic in the machine. The next step… she cranks down the top piece of plastic until your boob looks like a pancake. She steps away to hit the photo button, you hold your breath while the machine does its job, and then you are done. Well, with that one angle and that side!
Now, this is not as much fun as it sounds. But, here is what makes me giggle. If a man had to put his business between two pieces of plastic and squeeze it flatter than a flitter, they would come up with a new way for testing! Don’t you think the song, “I am woman!” should be playing on the speaker the entire time.
The best part, after going through that, you get a bonus, a piece of Dove chocolate. Well, at least in Branson, MO, you do.
“I got my boob squeezed”
When I was in elementary school, you got a stamp on your homework if you did well. If you did excellently, you got a gold star sticker! During the 1960s and 1970s, moms across the country saved those examples of excellence like a trophy! When I vote, I get a sticker that says, ‘I voted.’ When we do our annual duty for our body, shouldn’t we get something that says…” I Got my Boob Squeezed?” or “I had my Mammo
Grammed?” A sticker that we can proudly display on our chest as we stroll through Target, attend PTA meetings, or even stop to pump gas. Some way to tell the other women in the world, “Reminder, take care of yourself.” Or a way to show men, “I am woman hear me roar”!
Again, I have been doing this for years and never think anything about it. The truth is, I am fat but still healthy. There is no breast cancer anywhere in my extended blood family, so; I have never been concerned.
This Time Was Different
This last year was different. I went in like always, and did my deal, got my chocolate, complained about no sticker, and went along my merry way. Several days later, a letter came in the mail with the results. I left it with the bills because I knew it was fine. I had missed a call from the doctor’s office, but I figured if they really needed me, they would call back. Ya, I know. Don’t judge me. The point is, I was not worried.
Several days later, the doctor’s office called again. See, I was right! The nurse said they found something and wanted to do another mammogram. Ok. She said it often happens, so I still was not concerned. But, I had to call and schedule the follow-up. The sweet girl on the phone wanted me in asap. My schedule was nuts, and I tried to accommodate all the things I just “had” to do. When the lady said, we need this to happen now. I assured her, “I am fine’. This is just what happens sometimes. They see a spot and need to look closer, or it was something on the machine.” I had looked it up! That’s when the scare happened. She said, ‘there are multiple spots.’
Oh. I could not think for a minute. My brain had never entertained that something might actually be wrong. I took the first open appointment and rearranged my schedule.
This time when I went into the clinic, the hospital gown was replaced with a soft and warm housecoat. Things seemed to be a little slower and a little more serious. When I finished the first test, I kept on the robe and moved to a small lounge with leather chairs and a love seat. There were snacks and magazines, making it feel more like home. It was moments later that another sweet lady, wearing an identical robe, joined me. We exchanged stories about this process. It all happened so fast. The nurse came to get me to show me the two spots in my left breast. I could not decide if I were in denial or if the spirit was speaking to me, but I felt like everything was fine. This could not be me. She said I would need to stay and do an ultrasound next.
The Waiting Game
In between tests and visits with the nurse, more ladies had entered the lounge. Total, there were four of us. One was older, one was the same age and one was in her 30s. I had been the first to start the process so I would share my experiences, and then they would follow with theirs as the process moved forward.
After the ultrasound, they determined that I had cysts, and I would likely be ok. They would see me next year. As I went to say goodbye to my three new friends, the lady that had come in last, the 30-year-old, had been taken aside. Her process would be different. They would skip the ultrasound and take her directly to the biopsy. I wanted to cry right then and there.
1 in 8 Women
I hated leaving that day. My story turned out well, but I never knew for sure about the other three ladies because my appointment was first. There was a bond in that room. We all understood the fear and how that day had the potential to change futures. No one wants to hear the words breast cancer. The fact is that one in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime and that over 42K women die every year from breast cancer.
That day scared me. Not just for me, but for women across the globe. The families that will mourn the loss of a mom, wife, sister, aunt, cousin. The loss of late-night phone calls, long lunches, and road trips with best friends. Today, I do not know the outcome for that 30-year-old girl sitting in the waiting room with three strangers. But, I can assure you, I have prayed for her as if she were mine.
My heart goes out to those women who are fighting the good fight, to the families who love and support them, and to the medical professionals who have dedicated their lives to healing others.
Please, encourage those you love to be tested, get their Dove chocolate, and someday, maybe they will get a sticker that says, “I paid someone to squeeze my boob!”
Squeeze and peaks for everyone!