I checked into the radiology department bright and early at 8:30 am. I was instructed to fill out some paperwork, sign my rights away on a carbon form and wait a long time in the crowded lobby. Then I was called to a cubicle where my demographic information was reviewed before being dismissed back to the crowded lobby to wait for another long time. After a total of at least an hour and a half of waiting, two of us from the crowded lobby were called to accompany the medical assistant through the big door where we were introduced to a small waiting area where there was a secret society of three other women already waiting and dressed in hospital gowns, their civilian clothes showing from about the knee down. The assistant acknowledged to me that she knew this was my first time, and then she issued me specific instructions on what to do next. All the other women somberly exchanged knowing glances with one another, and I began to wonder what I was getting myself into. I was instructed to enter the little privacy booth and disrobe from the waist up, wipe off any deodorant and perfume, and put on the hospital gown, and I was issued a locker with a key to store my belongings.
I had no idea what to expect at my first mammogram appointment, but I don't think it was this.
I stood in the privacy stall feeling a little nervous, and having flashbacks about that late winter night almost three years ago when I entered Labor and Delivery Triage in a state of hard labor and was sent to the bathroom with a hospital gown and a plastic shopping bag in which to store my clothing. I wasn't sure how I was supposed to accomplish this in my condition, but I had to move quickly in between contractions as when those contractions came, I could barely stand.
This time the hospital garb was an odd shaped garment with three arm holes. I began wondering if there was something else no one had told me about what happens to women when they turn 40. I put this mysterious garment on the wrong way four times before I finally figured out how to wrap one of the arm holes around me twice.
I re-entered the secret area where the four other women sat, and searched their somber faces for reassurance of some sort. I perched on my chair, thinking this was like joining the society of the Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Boobie-hood. I thought about addressing the group with, "So...come here often?" but I instead I offered, "Boy, I feel like I'm in the 'club' now!" Mercifully, the others giggled. I added, "So this becomes a once per year thing, huh? I thought the other yearly exam was enough." The others giggled again, knowingly. I was "in," I thought to myself. "I'm a 'boobie sister'!" I was assured by the others that there was still much more to come with this induction party.
Next I found myself in a dim room exposing myself to two radiology techs and allowing one of them to attach some super duper adhesive pasties to my nipples. Yanking those things off later was no party either. Then my breasts took turns at being yanked, stretched, and smashed in ways that I didn't think were humane, let alone possible. I was told to stand on my tip toes, stick my butt out and tilt my head while draping my arm casually across some big machine and allowing my breast to be smashed in a vice grip. Then I was supposed to talk casually about the weather during all this perverse activity. Dear God, when I was sure that they couldn't smash my breasts any tighter, they clamped that vice down a couple more notches. Finally, I was told to hold my breath (I didn't need any coaching on that one). The best part of all is when the tech was smashing my breast in her machine and warning me not to be surprised if I get called back in for a repeat because this is a baseline and the radiologists won't know what to compare it to.
I met up with one of my new boobie sisters in the lounge of the secret society on the way to get dressed again. She asked how it was, and I responded that it was quite the induction experience, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to be a boobie sister any more. She added that there has only been once so far that she has not been called back in for a re-do on her x-rays as there is always some problem with how the techs did this or that or because they couldn't see clearly enough.
When I exited the building, with my breasts burning and aching, I immediately called my dear mother to question why she had not given me a better warning of what I was about to go through, and thanks a lot for not making sure to warn me to bring some deoderant along. I then phoned my husband and said, "Don't EVER EVER complain to me about turning and coughing. Just sayin'." Then I drove to the closest Stuff Mart to buy more deoderant. I still had a 10 hour work day in front of me. I didn't want to deal with burning, aching breasts AND stinky body odor.
It also turns out that I'm not very good at the "secret" part of being a boobie sister.
The only good news in all of this is that I hopefully will not have to be re-inducted annually for another four years. That, and hopefully the results will be negative. The experience surely was.