The Mammogram: A Modern Day Torture Device


I have dreaded my yearly mammogram since I received the prescription from Doogie Howser a few months ago. I look forward to having my boobs squished by a machine about as much as I enjoy going to the gynecologist.

I imagine this same device was used in medieval times. Can’t you see it? You steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family and you end up with your shirt off in the middle of town square while your girly parts are being crushed and people are throwing rotten tomatoes and wilted lettuce at you? Yep. It’s that kind of torture.

For those of you that have never had the pleasure of having a mammogram, please let me explain. (For you men, every time you see the word “boob,” imagine it says “wiener” and you will get the full effect of this story.)

First, I’m told not to wear lotion or deodorant to my appointment. If you are old enough to be getting a yearly mammogram, then you (like me) could also be going through early menopause. So I’m sweating profusely on and off due to stupid hot flashes but I’m not allowed to wear deodorant. I figure I’m going to smell like a New York cab driver on a hot July afternoon by the time my appointment comes around.

This is starting off well.

I check in and the nurses are so sweet that it’s hard to hate them for what they are about to do to me. Maybe they feel empathy for me because they know what’s about to happen.

I put on the pink hospital gown and cover up with the pale pink robe they provide. I look like I’m about to have a spa treatment…but I AM NOT.

Oh GREAT. The technician is a guy. He doesn’t even bother asking me how I’m doing. The sour look on my face explains it all.

I am led into a dimly lit room. Is this ambiance supposed to help me relax?

Hey what about offering me some Valium? Maybe some wine? Maybe both? Together? I can guarantee that would help more than soft lighting.

He looks at my boobs for any visual deformity. He stares at my left boob for a second longer than normal but quickly looks away.

What the heck?

Poor guy, did he forget that he told me not to wear deodorant? I’m sweating like a whore in church and now he’s probably gagging at my B.O. But he’s a professional and if he’s about to pass out at my smell, he isn’t letting on.

The technician walks me over to the boob torture device. He adjusts what he can onto what appears to be a thick piece of glass. Do you remember Silly Putty from when you were younger? Well, he’s literally STRETCHING my boob so it can be as flat as possible in the machine. I kind of expect to see a Sunday comics cartoon imprint of Charlie Brown on the bottom of my breast when this is over.

Then he LOWERS another thick piece of glass on top, smushing the small amount of skin that I have down to about a ¼ inch pancake. Since mine are so little, it’s more like silver dollar pancakes. It’s pathetic.

I imagine that this is what bacteria feel like when scientists put them on microscope slides and cover them with that little square piece of glass.

So I’m standing there, on my tiptoes, leaning over at a very awkward angle, while my boob is being smashed so thin you can see through it. Now I know this is for my own good, but since they are so small, the second-base that my gynecologist got to at my checkup last month could have easily detected a grain of sand, much less a lump. And I’m pretty sure I would have noticed if I had a lump in there. My bra might have actually fit.

(Now of course I know the importance of mammograms so I’m just trying to give it a little humor and would never skip having one!)

Finally, it’s over.

My boobs are extremely sore and now they’re a little swollen. Woot-woot! I realize that I might be able to fill an A cup for about an hour.

I head home and pour myself a glass of wine since they so rudely didn’t offer any to me at the doctor’s office. I jump in the shower.

I scrub off the horrific B.O. that my underarms have produced all afternoon and suddenly I’m feeling better.

I’m clean. I’m done with my appointment. I can relax.

And as I’m toweling off, I see what the technician was staring at.

Nope. Not a deformity.

But a single gigantic nipple hair that was so long it probably reached out and shook his hand.

I AM MORTIFIED.

That’s it. Next time I’m bringing my own Valium. And I’m going to start taking them today to prepare for next year’s appointment.

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My Gynecologist Appointment With Doogie Howser

I went to the gynecologist recently for my yearly checkup. I’m usually a procrastinator in general, but making this appointment is rarely high on my list of priorities. I know that going to the gynecologist is for preventative maintenance, just like making sure you change the oil in your car every 3,000 miles but don’t most people try to make it to 5,000 miles before changing the oil?

Everyone knows it needs to be done, but nobody I know ever wakes up and goes “Yayyyyy! It’s gynecologist appointment day!”

I get to the doctor’s office and sign in, then head over to the waiting room that is currently hosting several pregnant women and now me. I feel like the new kid in school that everyone stares at because she’s different.

After 40 minutes or so (who’s counting?) the nurse calls me back.

We go through the typical steps. She checks my blood pressure. Normal. Pulse? Normal. Then I get on the scales. I drop my purse, jacket, and take off my shoes. I even remove my Pandora bracelet in fear that it will add another few ounces. I let out all the air in my lungs and lightly step on the scales, like it will take a pound or two off the final result.

“Oh, you’ve gained a few pounds since you were here last year.”

Seriously? Does she not realize that I don’t know my pants are tighter this year than last? Do I need the nurse at my gynecologist’s office bringing that to my attention? This appointment is getting off to a bad start.

I’m already in a bad mood lady just because I have to be here. Don’t push it.

I am led into a little room with all kinds of posters on the walls with pictures of vaginas, birth control, babies in the womb, etc. Wow. This is not helping.

The nurse lays out a gown and sheet and I’m told I’m supposed to strip down to my birthday suit and put on the gown.

After a while, my doctor and his nurse come into the room. He’s new to the practice so I have never met him before. He looks like he just graduated from middle school. And he’s so cheerful that it makes me want to slap him. I’m thinking, “Please don’t be this happy while you are looking up my vajayjay because it will make this experience even more uncomfortable.”

He asks me tons of questions.

How many children have I had? Am I married? What do I do for a living?

Sounds like I’m being picked up at a bar. I squeeze my eyes shut. Please stop the small talk and get this show on the road.

He checks my tiny boobies out to make sure there aren’t any lumps in there. My chest is flatter than the table I’m lying on, and all the while he asks me if I have dogs, isn’t the weather nice today, and whether or not I watch football.

What?

I lay back and he does the “other” part of the exam. My knees are like magnets. They instinctively keep closing back together. It is clear that I am not enjoying this experience.

Then he does an ultrasound to see what my baby makers look like. They are 44 years old so they are probably starting to look like shriveled up raisins, but he says that everything looks good.

“Just please don’t see a heartbeat in there”, I say.

“Oh, nothing to worry about. You’re getting up there in age so unless you are trying to get pregnant, you probably won’t.”

W.T.H???

The humiliating part of the exam is over. I can only compare a gynecologist exam to prostate exam. In theory of course, since I don’t have a prostate. You just had someone poking around in your no-no spots and he hasn’t even bought you dinner.

I sit up on the exam table and he asks me more questions.

“How old are you?’

“Just turned 44.”

“Ahh. Are you experiencing hot flashes? Weight gain? Mood swings?”

“Yes. Oh my God, am I dying? What do I have?”

“Oh it’s nothing. You’re probably just experiencing early menopause.”

Early menopause? Seriously? I’m 44! Not 104! Didn’t my grandmother just go through menopause? She’s 93. I’m too young to be going through menopause. Here I was worried he was going to tell me I’m pregnant, and instead he tells me my girly parts are antiquated.

I sit there, stunned, as he goes over other symptoms. These are just some of the fun features of menopause: Hair loss, loss of libido, brittle nails, anxiety, paranoia.

“Oh great”, I think. I’m going to turn into a bitchy, bald, edgy, sweaty, freaked out sex-hater. Sounds like my husband is just going to LOVE the new me.

He asks if I have any more questions. I mumble “no” as I’m still trying to process the fact that he not only insinuated that I’m getting old, but he also just had his hand up my hoo-ha. I sort of feel used.
I could use some chocolate.

And as I’m leaving, Doogie Howser hands me a slip of paper, smiles at me and tells me to have a nice day.

I leave the office and go sit in my car. I look down at the piece of paper.

That little bastard. It’s a prescription for my annual mammogram.