I have lumpy breasts. Always have. Well, since they made their appearance anyway. Granted when I was 13 and they were mere nubbins – barely capable of getting a sideways glance from hormonal boys – I didn’t know it. Then they could be described more as a single lump in your oatmeal. If your oatmeal was otherwise very very flat.
But once I got to breast exam age – the truth emerged. My breasts are really fibrous. And therefore it makes it very difficult to do a self breast exam to check for unusual masses. For that matter, my GYN can’t tell either. So I’ve been having mammograms for several years now.
Well, today I had another. And….Ow. It hurt.
It’s almost inhuman what they do. They take my little breastlings and tug and pull and mash them down between two plastic plates. And they crank that thing so it smashes them down like a vice. .. I see them do that sort of thing all the time on How It’s Made. But usually they’re just squishing two pieces of wood together to make an oar. Not a sweet little innocent breast that never did anything to anybody! Certainly nothing to deserve this kind of pain.
Look, my breasts have been through a lot. Snarky comments like “You’re flat as a pancake,” from 7th grade girls (Dee Dee, you know who you are!) who were several sizes bigger than me. Boyfriends who behaved more like they were trying to tune in Radio Moscow than turn me on. Breastfeeding! Oh yeah. You moms know how bad that one can be. How can such a tiny jaw have such a vice-like grip?!
But that mammo. I look down and see my little boobie. Literally smashed as flat as a pancake. And I think to myself, Dee Dee didn’t know the meaning of “flat as a pancake”. If she could see me now.
The mammo tech, a nice woman with really cold hands (I mean really, you’re a woman, you should know better) always apologizes and says she’s not trying to hurt me. And I know she doesn’t get pleasure doing this to other women. Although if she really cared she’d put those hands on a heating pad before putting them on my breasts!
Today while she was “positioning” me for the x-rays – she complained that my nipple wouldn’t point the right way. She wanted a profile shot. My breast apparently felt it looked better if it was photographed from its right side. Who knew boobies were so vain?
Anyway, no amount of kneading and mashing would make that nipple point in the required direction. I told the tech that years of gravity had taken its toll. She politely countered that it was because I was FULLER on the right side. AWWWWW. No one’s ever used that word before when describing my breasts. It almost of made up for all the hurtful insults Dee Dee had hurled at my chest in my youth… and for the cold hands. Almost.
As the tech clamped me in as soundly as she could, she told me to hold my breath. Fortunately that wasn’t a problem since I hadn’t taken a breath since the whole breast contortions had begun. Pain’ll do that to you.
And then, SUDDENLY, it was all over. She released the clamp. My breasts quickly recoiled and resumed their positions on my upper torso. And as they did I swore I heard a little “whimper” coming from one of them. Until I realized the whimper was coming from me.
As the pain slowly left my body, I actually thought that I might have licked my wounds if I had the talents of a Cirque du Soleil contortionist. Then again, probably not as that would have been REALLY WEIRD.
Instead I quickly swaddled my little ones in their tiny cradles (aka my bra) and I crossed my arms in a super protective mode. You know the position. It’s the same one we women use when it’s really, really cold in the office and we wore a really, really thin shirt.
I hobbled overly dramatically out into the waiting room and toward the exit. Feeling a little battle weary and very relieved that that was done for another year.
And as I left, I passed many concerned-looking women. And I knew that some of them were there because they actually HAD serious issues. And I realized that although a mammogram hurts, I’m sure it hurts a lot less than breast cancer.
I quickly stopped my whining and felt very grateful. Grateful to have had the mammomgram. Grateful to have insurance to pay for the mammogram. And grateful that I live in a time where they have such a wonderful screening process that helps with early detection and saves so many lives every year.
Because of mammograms, breast cancer has become one of the most treatable forms of women’s cancers. And since mammograms came into being, the death rate from breast cancer has gone down 44%.
So if you’re over 40 or have a history of breast cancer in your family, suck up a little pain for your long term health. Go get your mammogram.
And if you can’t afford it, click on the link below to find a place that offers free screening mammograms.
You know the saying “beauty is pain?” Well, sometimes good health is too.