Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Squishing of the Boobs.

I'd dreaded my 40th birthday for as long as I can remember, and not for the typical reasons.  See the closer I approached 40, the more nagging I heard from my mother to get a mammogram.  And I understand why.  With both of my parents being adopted (I truly only know one biological grandparent), we have no family medical history.  I can't mark "no" on the form when being asked about my family's breast cancer history.  I simply don't know.

I've always been pulled toward Breast Cancer Awareness--I've been doing the Race for the Cure for eight years--this October will be the 9th.  I've seen a close friend lose their best friend to breast cancer at a very young age.  I babysat my friend's kids when he went to the hospital, for the last time, to see his mother who died from breast cancer.  My mom has friends with breast cancer--some who died, some who are survivors.  It's a scary thing.

When I turned 40, I didn't get a mammogram.  I was terrified.  My mother told me how painful it is--literally squishing the boobs until they are like pancakes.  She mentioned I'd have to hold my breath--another thing I suck at, which is why I can't swim to save my life (unless it's the doggie paddle--I rock at that).

When I turned 41, I didn't get a mammogram.  I was terrified.  My mother once again told me I needed to go, but then added her terrifying stories to the mix.  Yeah, right.  That's going to get me in there.  By this time my sister had also gone.  Her stories weren't as dramatic, but still it didn't sound like a pleasant experience.  I was too scared to go, so I didn't.

This year I turned 42 and said, "Screw it, I'm going."  I made the appointment on Monday, and have been terrified ever since.  I named the day "The Squishing of the Boobs" and started the countdown right away.  The appointment was scheduled for this morning at 8:10--I had to be there at 8:00.  Yesterday, the panic started setting in.  As I was taking my shower, I tried squishing my boobs--how bad could this hurt?  UMM, HELLO!  It hurt!  Screw this.  Ten minutes after I got out of the shower my boob was still sore.  This was not going to go well.  Every time I looked at the clock I would think, "By this time tomorrow The Squishing of the Boobs will be over" or "Only 10 more hours until The Squishing of the Boobs."  I've been dreading it.

Around 3:00 yesterday afternoon, Kaiser called me to reaffirmed my appointment time and to remind me not to wear any lotion or deodorant.  I guess those things can skew the test results.  "Hey this is my first mammogram and I'm terrified," I told the lady on the phone.  "Don't worry, Meredith," she assured me, "It's really not that bad.  There are some amazing ladies working tomorrow and I'll let them know it's your first mammogram.  It's going to be just fine."  Yeah, right.

I woke up this morning, jumped in the shower, and headed over toward Kaiser.  "You okay?" my husband asked me.  "Yes, just scared," was my reply trying to focus on anything but The Squishing of the Boobs.  My daughter sent me an email (she's at her dad's) wishing me luck at The Squishing.  When we arrived, we headed over toward Radiology.  "Is this your first mammogram?" the lady behind the desk asked.  "Yes," I told her.  "I can tell by the terrified look on your face," she said.  "Try to relax, it's really not that bad."

There were two other ladies in the waiting area, and Kent, and me.  I couldn't believe these women could be here without any support.  Much braver than I.  When the radiologist came into the waiting area and called my name, Kent asked if I wanted him to go.  "No, I think I can do this," gave him a kiss and headed toward the galley.  I swear I took a deep breath as the woman showed me the changing room.  "I'll be right back, and don't worry, it's not that bad."

She came to get me and we headed into the room where The Squishing of the Boobs would commence.  There was this big machine with this metal square for the boob to rest.  Then there was a square plastic contraption that would press down on the boob.  "Hey, you look nervous.  Let me go through everything with you before we start, so you know exactly what to expect."  This lady was so kind, so nice--I can't even begin to tell you the patience she extended toward me.  She had me put my hand on the metal square, then lowered the plastic square.  I could feel the pressure.  She told me I'd hold my breath because it helps keep everything still.  She told me she wasn't going to squish it pancake style and that she preferred mammograms to paps.  And I've been handling the yearly pap forever.  "Okay, I'm ready," I told her.

She put these bandaid like things on me--this was so they could see where the center was on the pictures.  And then The Squishing of the Boobs began.  And it wasn't so bad.  It wasn't that painful--honestly, my squishing in the shower was way worse than the machine was.  What I didn't know was they'd also have to so sideways pictures--the only difference was in my positioning.  I literally had to side hug the machine, which I was okay with since the machine did not inflict the pain I was expecting it to.

And then it was over.  And my years of worrying were put to rest.  I thanked the lady profusely.  And I let her know how her kindness really relaxed me and helped put my fears to the wayside.  I'm no longer afraid of the mammogram machine.  I can insure good breast health for myself because the fears have been destroyed.

One day when my daughter is approaching the 40s, I'll let her know getting a mammogram is not painful, it's necessary, and it's nothing to fear.  Until then, I'll be going and getting them once a year--except this time there will be no countdown and my husband won't have to be in the waiting room...


  1. I'm so glad you got through that. I'm so sorry you approached it with such dread. That fear of the unknown always gets us, huh?
    Had I known, I would have pointed you to the following joke:
    I bet now that you've lived through your first, you can actually laugh at the humor!!

  2. Yes, now I can laugh! Funny site--although if I would've read it yesterday, I would've been too scared to go! haha =)