Musings on My Annual Mammogram

“Whoever thought up the word “Mammogram”? Every time I hear it, I think I’m supposed to put my breast in an envelope and send it to someone. ”
– Jan King

I went for my annual mammogram yesterday. It’s been 8 years since the mammogram that showed it was extremely likely that I had breast cancer. Since then all of the follow up mammograms have shown dense breasts and tissue affected by surgery and radiation but no cancer. For me, like many of you, the mammogram is just the appetizer for the breast MRI that I will have 6 months from now.  As time progresses it’s no longer cause for panic but still … the shadow lingers.

Over the years I have had call backs and more photos taken of “suspicious areas” and yet I admit to feeling vaguely mistrustful of the accuracy of my annual mammography experience.  Like today, I go into a very pretty breast center and the young woman in the dressing room is shoving some food down her throat and talking on the phone with her back to me … she’s doesn’t seem too concerned about any anxiety I might be feeling. Then when I put my robe on I notice a little stain on the sleeve … a couple of tomato seeds … bleach. Oh well, I think, we’re not here for  group therapy or a fashion show but I kind of wish the robe was clean and the young attendant was a bit more interested in me than in the sandwich she was gobbling.

I was quickly called in by the technician who was pleasant enough but, again, a bit disinterested. Of course, I can’t expect everyone to laugh at my little jokes when I get dyslexic around which hand to put on the machine while I’m struggling to breathe. She’s efficient and dismisses me promptly with the standard “thanks for coming” card.  Your welcome, I guess, but there weren’t even any snacks served much less any tasty drinks. They’ll be in touch … another wait.

Did the technician pay enough attention to the photo shoot of my breasts? I hope so but I’m really not that sure. Will the phone ring? I hope not. Can I totally believe the form letter I hope to receive saying “all clear”? I don’t know.

What are your thoughts and feelings about the experience of your mammogram? Do you still feel fearful?  Are you embarrassed to still be concerned?  Feel free to comment, I’d love to hear.

In closing I offer a section of a piece that Marlo Thomas wrote for the Huffington Post which offered suggestions of preparing for a mammogram. In my opinion, it’s pretty much always good to have a laugh!

Many women are afraid of their first mammogram, and even if they have had them before, there is fear. But there is no need to worry. By taking a few minutes each day for a week preceding the exam and doing the following practice exercises, you will be totally prepared for the test, and best of all, you can do these simple practice exercises right in your home.

EXERCISE 1: Open your refrigerator door, and insert one breast between the door and the main box. Have one of your strongest friends slam the door shut as hard as possible and lean on the door for good measure. Hold that position for five seconds. Repeat (just in case the first time wasn’t effective).

EXERCISE 2: Visit your garage at 3 a.m. when the temperature of the cement floor is just perfect. Take off all your clothes and lie comfortably on the floor sideways with one breast wedged under the rear tire of the car. Ask a friend to slowly back the car up until your breast is sufficiently flattened and chilled. Switch sides, and repeat for the other breast.

EXERCISE 3: Freeze two metal bookends overnight. Strip to the waist. Invite a stranger into the room. Have the stranger press the bookends against either side of one of your breasts and smash the bookends together as hard as he/she can. Set an appointment with the stranger to meet next year to do it again. You are now properly prepared!