I’m an avid breast examiner, of my own breasts, thank you, but I am sure yours are nice as well. When I found a lump 6 months ago, I was concerned. It was small, like a little, hard, round pea. Then, it seemed to disappear from the radar, only to return . Of course, I then went to my gynecologist, relieved that I wouldn’t have to strip below the waist for once. After a thorough examination, the Doc said she didn’t think it was anything but that we should watch it and give it three months to shrink, get bigger, whatever it was going to do. It remained and I was ordered to get further testing. So, to the hospital I went .
The first examination room was obviously a double for the technicians office because there were cat pictures everywhere. I mean calendars (yes, plural) and postcards. Cats in baskets, cats in pj’s, cats in Barbie sized cars. Accompanying these, were real pictures of cats. At least 20+ real photographs of cats. Now sure, bring a picture of your two cats to work, or three, but hey this lady had like 20 different cats on the wall. So much so, it took up two very large bulletin boards and some wall space. It was…pretty impressive. While I mused at the felines and the cat lady was putting jelly on my breast and rolling around the coldest tool ever, I started thinking of names for the many cats. That one on the far right…hmmm. Lets call him cookie, because he’s black and white and reminds me of oreos. The one in the upper left, no not that one, THAT one, let’s call it Reba. Why Reba? Well, firstly the tech looked like a country lovin lady who just might spin some Reba McEntire at night while stroking and petting all of her cats. Secondly, my Grandma was named Reba and it’s high time the name go into usage again. By the end of it all, I was pretty convinced I knew almost all the cats names, the last cat stumped me. After you go through all the normal cat names, fluffy, snowball, midnight, socks, mittens, etc., you realize you need to be more creative, which by the way, is hard to do when someone is examining your breast with the coldest tools, fingers and jelly on this earth.
Next, the doctor came in, Dr. Herse. Wait, what?! Seriously that’s his name, Herse?? Okay, his name was really Dr. Hurst but what I heard was ‘Herse”, as in, “We’ll be driving your coffin to the cemetery now.” Maybe this is the guy they send in when all hope is lost, my mind was racing. He came in quietly and solemn faced. He asked me to show him where the lump was. So I did, or rather I didn’t. I couldn’t find the lump. Anywhere. I chuckled nervously and said something like, “Well this is absurd, but I can’t find it.” As I feverishly examined my own boob, both the doc and the tech exchanged glances that said, ” Yep, just another hypochondriac.” Then the doctor proceeds to do another ultrasound, maybe to be sure he didn’t miss it, but likely to confirm to himself that I indeed was a nut job. Finally, the little sucker located, Dr. Hurst looks at me and says, “So, you have lumpy breasts.” Thank you Capitan Obvious. What he meant was that the tissue in my breast was naturally lumpy and in his opinion is swelling up and shrinking according to my hormones. Alright, I thought, that’s that. But, No. DR. Hurst started talking again, “I think we’ll do a mammogram just to be sure and to put your mind at ease. There it was, “my mind at ease”. They did think I was imagining it or they just wanted money. Or both, probably both. So the doc thought it best to squish the ladies. Bring. It . On.
At this point so many different nurses and medical staff have seen my boobs that really, I am starting to wonder if I’ll ever put my shirt back on. They give me a small, thin gown that looks like really bad wall paper from the late 70’s and shuffle me down the hall to the “titty twister”. As I leave the room I glance up at all the cats and see that one cat I couldn’t name, a calico. It was smirking at me as if to say, “Haha! You go to titty torture!” Oh yeah, I say inside my head, Oh yeah?! I couldn’t think of a good comeback. I guess the cat will remain nameless.To another room I went.
I am somewhat glad to notice this next room isn’t decorated in cat trinkets and photos. Instead, a nice aqua marine color accents every piece of furniture and the walls were fairly bare. Then I see it. It’s huge. I can see where my boob is going to go and it frightens me. I see the foot peddles on the ground to help the tech lower the clear plastic onto my poor, poor breasts. Maybe, I don’t need to know what this lump really is.
In walks the tech. She is very polite, maybe 10 years my senior, and she proceeds to tell me what is going to happen. Now, what I didn’t know was that the tech would be placing and arranging my boob on the shelf thing. I also didn’t know that some of the positions I was asked to hold were not just kind of awkward, but down right a feat of strength and endurance. I can only think that if I wasn’t in mildly good shape, there is no way in hell I could hold this for longer than a second. But as it turned out, I was able to hold it for about 20 seconds. . Also the tech’s hands were icy, not just cold, but icy. It was like she soaked her hands in ice cubes before she came in. She kept apologizing and I found myself sick of saying it’s okay, but honestly, my boobs were being squished, her hands were colder than a witches tit and I was presently challenging my contortionist abilities, so it wasn’t fine. I smiled anyways. Finally, it was over and the tech excuses herself to go read the images. I wait.
Now, I’m wishing I had cats to name. My mind wanders back to the calico with it’s little smirk, what a bastard.
Cold hand Betty, the tech returns to announce everything is fine. Then, she says, ” I’ll leave the room for a minute to give you some privacy and to get your shirt on. Just knock on this door when you are ready.”
I understand the respect part of allowing me to put my shirt back on in privacy but at this point, you have manipulated my breasts and pressed them flat as pancakes between two thick sheets of plastic, one of which was clear. I may never recover from seeing one of my gals squished like that, my nipple somewhat pointing up as if to say, “Help me!”. At this point you might be more familiar with my boobs than my husband, and he’s an expert.
As I left the building, the worry wort in me couldn’t help but feel that perhaps the doctors were mistaken. Not that I want breast cancer or something equally terrible in my breasts, I guess I expected more suspense. Some kind of conversation where the doctor had great concern and sighed a lot and talked about all the many possibilities that could be happening in my chest as I lay there worried and teary eyed. None of that happened, I was calm, the doctor was removed and not overly personal, and there were pictures of cats on the wall. It was anticlimactic. To which, I am now pleased. But just think of the dramatic story I could have told if there had been less certainty.
Now, please dear reader, don’t think I take the subject of cancer lightly, or that I am making fun of it or other lumpy diseases, I try to find the comedy in the awkward and sometimes scary situations we find ourselves in. As David Sedaris said, “What other people call dark and despairing, I call funny.” You have to find humor. No one gets out of this world alive, you may as well have a laugh in the mean time.