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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Another Year Older…Dang It.

My 44th birthday is coming up this month. When I was in my 20’s, being in my 40’s seemed to be SO FAR OFF. Holy cow. When the heck did this happen?

On my mother’s last birthday, my 93 year old grandmother asked how old she was. My mother, who we call “Ninny” replied, “Well how old do you THINK I am?” My grandmother thought for a few moments and said “42?” My mother told her she was CORRECT. (Ninny later told me that she doesn’t want my grandmother to really know how old my mother is because then my grandmother will realize that she is 93!)

Birthdays have always been so much fun for me. I’ve always loved them – no matter whose birthday it is. And now that I’m older, when I look back it seems like something crazy always happens on my birthday.

On the day I turned 18, I was a fun loving college student at Mississippi State University. I was so excited because back in 1986 if you were 18, you were of legal drinking age. Unfortunately for me the VERY NEXT DAY – October 1st, the drinking age changed to 21. And there was no grandfathering. So I was legal for 24 hours and then I couldn’t drink legally for another THREE years. Talk about a buzz kill.

On my 25th birthday I was married and six months pregnant. On my 30th birthday I was going through a very bitter, two-year divorce and custody battle.

I spent my 35th birthday at the hospital with Ninny while my father was having surgery for Melanoma. Halfway during the day, mom looked over at me and said “Oh! It’s your birthday!” Then she smirked and sing-said “Ha-ha-ha You’re 35 years old!!!” I just smiled at her and said “Well, at least I can say that I don’t have a 35 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER.” SCORE for the smart ass daughter.

On my 40th birthday I went to dinner with a nice fellow but found out a few days later that he was interested in pursuing someone else. Apparently my competition was not another girl.

My birthdays are starting to get better though. On my 41st birthday, I was on day 4 of my honeymoon. How awesome is that? Wedding cake + birthday cake = heaven.

Birthdays 42 & 43 were both spent with my sweet hubby at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. For my 44th? I’ve been told it’s a surprise, but it better involve cake!

I still have 49 more years to go until I make it to my grandmother’s age.

And as much craziness as I’ve had over my last 44 birthdays, I will be thrilled if the next 44 are just as fun…because at least that will mean I have lived until at least age 88.

Dang it. I just realized I’m already halfway there.

I just opened a birthday card & a dollar fell out. Oh how I love birthdays!