In celebration of my 40th birthday, I went and had my very first mammogram on Tuesday. Have you ever had one?
If not, I’m going to tell you exactly what to expect because I truly had no idea what it was going to be like, and if I can help you to overcome your fear of the possible pain and encourage you to save your boobs, then I’m going to.
First of all, you can’t wear deodorant or lotion because the mammogram techs want you to be really stinky when you get a mammogram. Actually, I think they say that deodorant and lotion can cause issues with getting a good reading or something like that. Or maybe they just want you to be smelly. I don’t know.
So I woke up on Tuesday morning, exercised (I rock) and then showered and refrained from putting on deodorant. However, I don’t perspire. I sweat like a gross, nasty man, so even though I had showered following my run, I was still sweating after my shower. Seriously, it was like I had squirt guns attached to my armpits. Sexy, as usual.
All morning long I wiped my underarms with alcohol pads. Guess what? Didn’t work. I finally just accepted the fact that I was going to be grosser than normal and stopped obsessing about underarm odor.
I arrived for the appointment and the lady at the front desk asked me in a very hush-hush tone if I have breast implants. I responded, equally hush-hush, “No, ma’am, these babies are real. And later on when I take off my push-up bra and my boobs drop to my ribs, you’ll see what I’m talking about.”
I was then escorted to a room and was told to undress from the waist up and put on a gown that opens to the front. The tech then said if I had on any deodorant that I should wipe it off with a baby wipe. Had I known that I was going to have the opportunity to wipe off deodorant, I would have put some on instead of spending the morning with alcohol-soaked cotton balls under my armpits. Live and learn.
I came out of the dressing room and was taken into the mammogram room. I very nice lady asked me all kinds of questions about family history (grandma had breast cancer) and whether I was having any problems with the girls.
I told her that ever since I scheduled the appointment, my left boob had been aching but that might be psychosomatic because I tend to be a bit of a hypochondriac. Also, from the day I scheduled the appointment to the day of the appointment, I had done about 7,000 breast exams, so it’s possible that I just irritated my boob to death. Honestly, I spent the entire week before my appointment feeling up my boobs. I’m sure the people in the parking lot at Target appreciated my commitment to breast health.
She then had me open my shirt and she taped two little BBs to my nipples. I think she said they do that to make sure the nipples show up on the exam. Either way, I felt like a hooker in some sci-fi porn film. If I were a hooker in such a film, my name would be “MetalNips” and my superpower would obviously be boobs that shoot bullets.
Then she put some sort of tape around a mole I have on my right boob so that when it showed up on the film, they’d know that it was an external lump rather than an internal lump.
The tech took me to the machine and placed my breast onto a little platform. Then she stretched and pulled and tugged on my breast until it was situated just perfectly on the platform, all the while pushing my other breast out of the way. You cannot have any modesty or shame when you’re getting a mammogram, because as discrete as they try to be, there is no way to get around the fact that you’re going to be felt up by another woman. I’m straight and did not experiment in college, so this was very new to me.
Then came the fun part: the squeeze.
If you haven’t had a mammogram before, you need to go get a vice clamp, tell your significant other to place the clamp as close to your chest as humanly possible. Tell him to clamp it as tight as he possibly can. Once he has it as tight as he can possibly get it with his hands, tell him to jump on the clamp a few times with his feet to make sure your boob is paper thin. You must resist the urge to pull away from the clamp because you will leave your nipple behind. Then, hold your breath while your husband runs to get the camera so he can take a picture of your boob.
Repeat three more times (two pictures per breast) and you’re done.
In all honesty, I thought the mammogram was easier than a gynecological exam. And while the above description is accurate, I wouldn’t actually call it painful. It just felt like a lot of pressure. And in reality, (TMI time, Dad, stop reading.) Virginia Slims Man has squeezed my breasts and caused more pain than the mammogram. So if you don’t want to mess with the vice clamp, you could just tell your significant other to squeeze your boobs as hard as possible and you’ll know that a mammogram is less painful than that.
The tech told me that since it was a baseline mammogram, there was a greater likelihood that they might see something that they want to take a closer look at. This statement must have caused me to show fear and panic because she then said, “And I’m not saying that I see anything. I just don’t want you to worry if you happen to get a phone call. With first-time exams they just don’t have anything to compare it to, so they’ll err on the side of caution and check anything that’s the least bit suspicious.“
She said they’d call within 72 hours if they saw anything questionable, so every time my phone rings I have a panic attack. My breast pain has gone away. However, the past three days have been filled with what I consider to be signs from God that I have breast cancer. I keep getting emails from the Komen Foundation. Kathy Bates had a double mastectomy. (Yes, sometimes God talks to me through People Magazine.) And Bed Bath & Beyond has Breast Cancer Awareness Tervis Tumblers on sale.
I try to remember what my therapist told me years ago, that when we’re worried/obsessed about something, we suddenly see it everywhere. So while we’re not actually seeing it more often, we’re just noticing it more often. Kind of like when you’re thinking of buying a new car and suddenly that’s all you see on the road.
So I’m trying to relax and be grateful for my good health, and say a prayer for those who do get a call saying that there’s something that needs a closer look.
God save the boobies!