Posts Tagged ‘smashsmashsmushsmush’

If you don’t know what that is, you are most likely a male of the homo sapiens. It is a sadistic medical procedure women put up with (at least some women do) annually or every other year. I did it twice in my mid to late thirties. That was, um… a while ago. Quite a few grandchildren ago. I mean, I raised my kids, saw them grow up and start their own lives after that last mammogram in the 1900’s. Yes, that is correct: back in the 1900’s. Like a century ago. Last century, anyway.

(I hear my son making some snarky comment about my age and my close relationship to Moses. Damn, I miss that kid’s snark.)

I have dodged every mere suggestion of a repeat of that last Smash-Smash-Smush-Smush because that was *exactly* what it was. The tech was a sadist. I only went in for that second one because the first tech was kind and gentle and didn’t attempt to smash my 32A breasts to nothing. The second tech didn’t care anything about my pain. She screwed the plates down hard and taut and then took her sweet time taking the images while I bit my tongue. I swore I would never – NEVER – endure pain like that again unless I was somehow placed in an internement camp and set up for torture.

I am not unsympathetic to breast cancer survivors. I know a few and have known a few who survived for a few years. But I had tiny little bumps on my chest and they were easy enough to do a routine, monthly, self exam. No cancer history that I know of in my immediate family. And a healthy respect for Erma Bombeck’s description of the procedure. Erma was a breast cancer survivor and knew what she was writing about when she described a mammogram in detail. Do yourself a favor and “google” “Erma Bombeck Breast Cancer.”

Erma was far funnier than I can aspire to be.

I know a group of women in my prayer circle who refuse to do the procedure. They dodge it as skillfully as an athlete in a dodge-ball game. Me, I’m more the kid who gets hit with the ball and leaves the game with a big bruise on my belly from the impact. Still, I managed to dodge that ball for a couple of decades. I just forgot I had a referral.

I had enough other medical issues to deal with that seemed much more important. A bleeding kidney that turned out to be nothing at all and which suddenly ceased bleeding after three years of medical tests and questions and procedures. Some skin cancer that had to be scraped off. A broken foot that revealed I have thin bones and needed to go onto medication to try to rebuild the bone and strengthen my skeleton. A little this, a little that. Always something that turned out to be nothing at all or something highly treatable. Last year’s heart scare (which was probably more about a broken heart than any actual physical issue). High blood pressure which is currently under control. A wounded rotator cuff that just sucked eight weeks of my life into physical therapy.

Okay, the PT wasn’t all that bad. I started with a shoulder so frozen that I couldn’t raise my arm over my head and I graduated eight weeks later with almost full motion restored. I still have a lot of exercising to do, but I reached my personal goals of being able to life and reach and GARDEN (if only the rain gods would relent and allow me to get my fingernails dirty).

My Primary care Giver (PCP) is a wonderful person. She has four children, same as my daughter: three boys, one girl. She sets me up with referrals that I don’t always follow through on and forget about until we meet the following year: “Mammogram? Oh, gee. I didn’t do that.” But she got me this year.

I have to have bone density tests every couple of years in follow up to that painful instep break I managed to do to myself a number of years ago. I fractured two metatarsal bones in my right foot by slamming my foot into a bed post in the dark. I climbed into bed and cried until I fell asleep. Only when I woke up and needed to get up and pee did I know how badly I’d mangled my foot. The pain was not pretty. Let me give birth to a ten pound baby before I have to step on a broken foot again. (For the record, I did give birth to a ten pound plus baby and it really was *not* as painful as trying to put weight on a broken foot.)

Besides, the baby had certain rewards that came with his birth. A broken foot only precludes you from jury duty, driving a car, and running a marathon. The baby came with a certain sense of snark, sticky fingers, and a penchant for making me laugh whenever I was angry at him.

I saw my PCP in January. She ran the usual tests and we talked about the usual things (“have you had a mammogram recently?” “Nope.”) and she sent out some referrals. One was to physical therapy and two were to the local hospital for imaging. I figured I could do the bone density test and sneak away without a mammogram yet again. Score!

It didn’t work out that way. I called the hospital to set up the bone scan, but the bone scan is done in the same department as mammograms and the scheduler had both referrals in front of her. I wasn’t prepared with a good excuse so allowed her to schedule both tests on the same day, just 30 minutes apart. I thought I might buy a bottle of wine in celebration after – or I could hope that the sadist was an anomaly and I’d get a sympathetic tech like my first mammogram tech. Worth a hope, anyway.

The bone scan was easy. I still have a lot of work to do to rebuild bone density.

I have gained a lot of weight during retirement/Covid. My breasts are no longer mere 34A, but are more 36B. Fat has its benefits. Muffin tops are not something to be proud of, but that’s where I am in this stage of life. I even had to hold some of my fat out of the mammogram. Literally. I’m 25 pounds over what I used to be and it’s all settled on my waist and above. It used to settle in my butt. I don’t know which I prefer. Well, I do: I prefer to be 25 pounds lighter than I am now.

Probably too much information, but I am at a stage in life where I really don’t give a flying flip. This is what women go through: body shaming, fat shaming, breast shaming, butt shaming. Age rounds our faces and adds wrinkles. We lose our upper arm strength and musculature. We get thinning hair. Unwanted whiskers grow on our chins and out of our moles. (I understand men go through similar physical changes. I can’t speak to that. I am not unsympathetic.) Sometimes we get benefits: I no longer grow hair under my arms or on my legs. I haven’t needed to shave in a decade. Benefit.

The mammogram tech was very kind and gentle. Everything went painlessly. Then I got the results: asymmetry in one breast. Well, no surprise: my breasts have always been asymmetrical. One larger and the other smaller, and neither one lines up like my eyebrows or my ears. It’s like the angels who worked to create my body didn’t communicate. It’s probably why I make weird sculptures. What is perfect and symmetrical, anyway? Nothing of Nature.

Here’s the kicker: if you don’t have regular mammograms, your old results “disappear” after ten or so years. There’s no “baseline” anymore. The techs don’t know what your mammograms looked like before. It has been a lot more than ten years for me, so – no “baseline” for comparison. I could tell them that dense breasts are my baseline, but they don’t have that data. That data died during Y2K. Just kidding – it was probably still available for a few years after that supposed “crash” of the Interwebs. But it definitely died in the mid 2010’s. They need you to come back in to establish a “baseline” for the results.

Another Smash-Smash-Smush-Smush. And this one was not as nice as the former. I will say that the tech today was not a sadist. She tried very hard to not put me in pain and she hurried to take the images so I wouldn’t scream in pain while she did it. Then she ushered me to the ultrasound tech. My poor bruised breast complained as the tech ran the ultrasound over the smashed and bruised flesh of the breast in question. I practiced breathing techniques and meditation.

The result is a .5 x .5 x .8mm “something” in breast that has never had anything show up on a mammogram. At least not 20 years ago. But it is there now. I have to go back for a biopsy.

I am a little surprised: nothing ever amounts to anything for me, medically speaking. The radiologist said it was probably a very recent growth given the size. I find myself running through “worst case scenarios” and none of them are that bad. But it is certainly a wake up call to myself and my group of friends who are mammogram deniers. Maybe we should test at least every five years and insist that the tech be extra gentle with our tender bosoms.

And a note to mammogram techs: a little empathy goes a long way. I will probably never forgive that —tech— from years ago. She was a sadist.

I am not particularly worried. It’s just another thing the 2020’s has thrown at me. Another irritation as of this writing. If it is something, it is still another irritation. But – perhaps – i should not be so cavalier about mammograms. I owe my breast cancer surviving friends and relatives an apology for poo-poo-ing this sadistic procedure. The medical industry owes us a better way to examine breasts.

End of the story: I have a biopsy on Friday. No results until next week. I have daily plans next week that I will not renege on.

Until I know…

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