Checking That Off The List

As a single adult who is spoiled and often gets her own way, I’ve always maintained that the best way to spend a Saturday is by going to Rock Island or to the State Fair with friends. Lounging on the beach or in my marshmallow bed with a book and a movie while a storm rages outside also rank high on my list of amusing things to do. Never once have I ever claimed that spending a Saturday morning getting your hoots smashed between two glass plates sounded like fun. That never sounds like fun for any day, actually. However, two years ago I made an appointment for the breast smash and last Saturday I finally showed up for that appointment.

I had made a few plans for Saturday and had the faint notion in the back of my head that if those plans stayed intact, I’d just reschedule that mammogram. (See above: spoiled, gets her own way.) I’ve done that for two years, what is one more week, right? Well. My calendar had other thoughts and all the fun plans I’d made disappeared, leaving me with the lone option of finally, finally visiting an imaging center to fulfill my “I-turned-40” medical obligations. Sigh.

Armed with my paperwork and some vague directions, I arrived early for my appointment. Accompanying my sweaty, nervous self was my other personality, the raging snatch I carry with me for every cookie doctor appointment and for any scheduled time which involves me removing my clothing and donning a paper gown, open in the back, please. She was sitting on “go”, just waiting to make her appearance the precise moment my wait in the lobby clicked over from five minutes to six.

The receptionist who did not ensure that the building was marked well enough so that I could see from the street that it was the location I needed would be the first to encounter that heifer. The billing specialist who’d give me the total and the arm band for the procedure would be next because he was leisurely drinking his coffee and filing his nails. And the imaging specialist? Oh, she was in for a treat. I’d been gunning for her since the day I made the appointment, two years ago. She was to receive every tear, every curse, every single insult I could hurl at her without getting arrested, simply because she was the reason for my humiliation, for the fact that I have breasts at all, and because the screening process was surely designed by a man who had never had his testicles smashed between two plates in an attempt to screen him for cancer.

I was prepared.

So was the receptionist.

Turns out, the building was marked just fine and the receptionist was pleasantly chirpy in the face of my snarkiness when she indicated that I was in the right spot. Huh.

Also, the billing specialist said to me as I sat down, “I’m so sorry you had to wait. I was to be here at 7:30 this morning and I got here at 7:35 so that wait you had is on me. Let’s get you squared away so that we can get you back there and out on time, okay?” What the . . . I hadn’t even gotten my lecture about his insouciance fully prepared in my head and here he was preempting me. I was stunned into silence. This was not the normal state of things.

I still had my shot at the imaging specialist but I was feeling a little off about that. I hadn’t had a chance to work myself up into a proper lather what with the receptionist and the billing guy being fantastic, so when that poor, sweet woman called me to the back, I could only muster up the tears from my arsenal. My other ammunition had disappeared and I was adrift.

Still, tears. I blubbered, “Look, I’m not the best patient when it comes to this stuff. I’m the nicest person in the world when I get to keep my clothes on in front of strangers, but here, today, I’m awful. I’m sorry in advance. It’s just that you are going to give me a gown that is too small and is made of paper and I’m going to desperately try to cover both sides of my chest with it but that won’t work, and then you’ll have me traipse up and down the halls in a paper towel and then you’ll make me wait and I’m not good at that. This is humiliating and you get to keep all your clothes and I don’t and I hate this!” And then I said, “See?! I’m trying really hard to be nice and I just can’t!”

And bless her heart, she handed me a real gown, a fabric one, and said, “It’s not too small. I promise.” And it wasn’t. In fact, it swallowed me whole, like a muu muu, and it was the best thing I ever wore in my whole life. Plus, it was purple.

We were halfway through the procedure (and let me say here as an aside that I’ve never been manhandled in such a fashion before – I believe she is more familiar with my funbags than I am) before I stopped crying. I’m surprised it took me that long because while I’m a dreadful patient when naked, I’m also quite curious.

“Can I see what you are looking at over there,” I asked as she took another picture.

“Sure,” she said, “come on back.”

I wrapped my purple muu muu around me after every shot and trotted over to her screen to have a gander at myself. I knew she couldn’t/wouldn’t tell me anything so I didn’t ask but I was just a regular chatty Cathy over there. “Would you lookit that! I had no idea it would show up all white. Lookit how round they are! Is that normal? Is it easier to take pictures of big boobs or small boobs? Do you think if we could smash testicles in those plates we’d get a new screening method? I bet we would. I bet it would only take two weeks.”

Y’all, the procedure was totally painless. I mean, it wasn’t pleasant but it also wasn’t awful. There was a tinkly waterfall in the background, the lighting was set on “mood” and also “dim” and the muu muu smelled faintly of laundry detergent. I exited the building exactly one minute after my scheduled departure time and was never more shocked in all my life, both that I was done and that we all had survived the apocalypse that is “Jimmie, Naked at the Doctor’s Office.”

I drove to my next event which was my four mile Greenway walk with Daisy. I had partly planned that walk to calm myself down from the state of hysteria I was certain to be in, yet my non-hysteria flummoxed both of us a bit. Daisy wasn’t sure what to do with her offer of all the ice cream and all the chocolate she was sure I would need to ease my bruised feelings, and I wasn’t sure what to do with all the Kleenex I had stuffed in my car. I’m not going to say it was my favorite day, it’s not Rock Island after all, but I lived. And until next year when we do this all over again, I’ll maintain this: “Mammograms – Not That Bad.”

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