Monday, June 30, 2014

My First Mammogram

Recently I went to have my first mammogram. Although I'm not yet 40, two of my maternal aunts were diagnosed with breast cancer in the past ten years. They are survivors, praise the Lord, but a little preventative check-up just made good sense.

When I arrived at the Women's Center, a lovely woman named Penny checked me in. She was warm and inviting, much like the waiting room, and I was instantly at ease. I filled out some basic information about why I was having the exam and was soon called to the back room to change. Though I'd been instructed to shower and not lotion, I forgot not to use deodorant and needed to wash it off.

Why is this relevant? Because I did something in that bathroom I've always feared I'd do.

Not take a selfie, though I did do that.

No, in true Denise fashion, I inadvertently set off the wall-mounted "patient needs assistance" alarm.

Over my shoulder sits the alarm, just waiting to be tripped.
This was my umbrella's fault. No one told it to slide down the wall and into the alarm, causing bells to ring and my brown face to redden as after a few moments I overheard the following exchange through the door:

"What happened?" someone casually asked.

"She pulled the alarm in the bathroom," came the cross reply.

(Good thing I wasn't really injured. Where was the sense of urgency?)

In their defense, I had been in there a while posing for the above picture instead of scrubbing my pits, so my tripping the alarm didn't help matters. They accepted my sheepish apologies and turned off the alarm, and I prayed they wouldn't take out their annoyance on my boobies.

For once I finished in the bathroom, it was time to face the breast-press.

Side view.  And yes, the black tray is where all the pressin' happens.

Not the most welcoming instrument, but after anesthesia-free childbirth and some bad dates with the stirrups, the breast-press is a ride on the carousel. (I was going to say "on the Ferris wheel," but they're terrifying.) Nurse Mary could not have been nicer, and though I promised to describe her as younger and thinner, her natural loveliness needs no alteration.

After Mary adjusted the machine for my height, I stood as close to it as possible. My breast rested on the black tray as it pressed into my rib cage, and she lowered the upper plate, flattening my breast to the point of bearable discomfort. Once properly positioned, I was told to hold my breath and not move while the picture was taken.

Again, a carriage ride compared to the stirrups.

Three more photos--a repeat with the other breast and side views of both--and I was done.

Mary warned that the first mammogram may require a second look because there are no previous exams with which to compare the images. "So don't be alarmed if your doctor requests one." I much appreciated the heads-up and advice and told her so. Could you imagine my initial reaction without it?

*I'd use a GIF, but even the serious ones are unintentionally funny.*

But no second look was needed. My results came back normal, and my next recommended screening is at age 40. Though I wasn't worried about the possibility of breast cancer, I am relieved. Not only by the outcome but by how quick and simple the exam was. If not for the alarm debacle and the time I spent trying to tie the robe in the most fashionable way possible, the entire appointment would have taken less than ten minutes.

Ten minutes for an exam that could save my life.

A better bargain there could not be.

So if you are older than 40 or have other known risk factors, do yourself and your girls a favor and get a mammogram. Controversy aside, I think it is well worth your time.

And it still beats the stirrups.

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