For the 22 years I've walked the earth with breasts, 4 years they were employed strictly for the nourishment of my children. I was big into breast feeding; I had them tugged on, sucked on, and bit so that I'd give my kids a healthy start to their life and really didn't mind it a bit because to counter all the tugging and sucking, was the steady flow of feel good endorphins, just like running, except you're sitting on your butt on a couch. It doesn't get any better than that. In fact, I was pretty sure a few of the women at La Leche meetings kept having kids to continue the the breast-feeding experience. I was smarter than this, however, and stopped after two kids. It was a memorable time in my breast's life of active duty. My kids don't remember it at all, but I sure will.
So, that leaves 18 years that my breasts have functioned for the visual and tactile pleasure of me and my partners and my own pleasure sporting proportionate size B breasts under clothes. I like my boobs; I'd be devastated at the prospect of breast cancer and mastectomy, but mysteriously, I've been putting off my baseline mammogram, scared silly by the stories of unrelenting pain delivered by modern mammography. My own mother had me quaking in my shoes. My gynecologist gave me an order nearly 4 years ago, but the order stayed in my wallet, ignored, and in time, frayed from rattling around my purse with my checkbook, coupons, and combs. Eventually, it became a paper blight--I finally threw it away with a stab of guilt that I wasn't doing this simple thing to screen for breast cancer for the breasts that give me so much pleasure
So, finally, I made the appointment. I decided to approach my mammogram like the fearless Blogger I am. I will clear my mind of all preconceived notions, clear the stories from my head, sharpen my sense of observation, and take it in so I can describe it to you later.
My appointment was 7:15 at Akron City Hospital that has recently converted to all digital breast imaging. The nice lady on the phone instructed me to not wear deodorant; it can cause confusing shadows on the images. The waiting room had good magazines like Cooking Light and O Magazine. I scanned a good recipe for Tilapia Fish Tacos that I'll try sometime. I didn't wait long at all. I was led back to the dressing room by my technician, a smart looking lady with heavy plastic frames, about my age that told me to undress and put on a pink wrap-around smock thing. Then she led me to THE ROOM with the machine. The machine was smaller than the metal monster emblazoned in my mind, but equipped with the thick sinister plastic boobie smasher shelves. The technician took my gynecological history; age of first menses, number of live births, medications, etc. I thought I read something about digital mammography being more comfortable, so I asked if that's true. She said it's still compression--the machine compresses the breasts in two different views, top to bottom smashing, and a vertical view smashing which illuminates part of the pectoral muscle. She asked me if I ever nursed and I told her yes, I nursed both my kids for quite awhile. She said that women that nurse tend to do better with this. I thought maybe it's because women that nurse might have less dense breast tissue and she said, "No, women that nursed are used to having their breasts mangled." Hmm..she had a point about this. The technician herself had sensible B boobs, so this made me more comfortable for some reason.
I must say, my technician was very very good. I think the key to successful mammography is proper positioning. She was very good at positioning. She put these little sticky pastie things on my nipples. I have no idea what they're supposed to do, but it made me feel sexy for some reason. My big puffy hair was frustrating the technician--we spent more time trying to get my hair out of the way then messing with my boobs on the plate. I'll wear a ponytail next time. Then the moment of truth--holding still while the technician pushed the boob smasher button down for the top to bottom view. I felt nothing, but a little compression. There was no pain. I can't even say it was even remotely uncomfortable. The technician marveled at the shots she got--she said, "Beautiful!"
"Really?" I said, "Are they beautiful? Let me see.."
"Yes, these are just very beautiful shots!" You could tell she looked at her work as part art as well as science. She said she'd like to use my shots as examples to send to some accrediting body as examples of the kind of work they do. She said, "Don't worry--we won't use your name or anything." I said, "You could use my name--heck--I took a look at the shots. They were beautiful!! She said the good images had much to do with me following her directions for positioning. It was a very very pleasant experience. No big deal at all. For a second I was flaming pissed at all the horror stories I heard about women in tears which led me to put this off for 4 years. I'm sure their pain was real, but it just emphasized that every experience is different. I think it boils down to a women's tolerance for having their boobs handled, your breast tissue (lumpy bumpy breasts may fare worse), the expertise of the technician, and your ability as a patient to follow the technician's instructions for positioning and relaxing through the process.
Really, I think men have it much much worse with the indignity of the "prostate exam." I giggle myself silly when I hear men recount tales of the gloved finger, KY, and the bend over and cough scenario, but this is important too.
I should have the results relayed to my Dr. in two weeks. All in all, a very benign experience, as I hope are the results! So, if you don't like to have your boobs handled, I highly recommend that you put them through a desensitization process before your mammogram--have your boyfriend, husband or significant other giggle them and gently squeeze them for about for 30 minutes every day and you'll be fine.