Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thanks for the Mammaries (sorry!)

Women are notorious for being able to bond in almost any circumstance - my husband is constantly amazed at the conversations I strike up with other women in check-out lines, airports, doctors' offices, any place where having to wait in one place creates an opportunity for temporary kinship, and we can talk about children, trying to lose weight, the cute earrings someone has on, or any number of subjects (whereas men seem limited to 'how about those Lakers!'). So it didn't surprise me when I began chatting with a group of strangers in a waiting room, as we all sat around in our plush yellow robes listening to subtle contemporary jazz.

Only we weren't waiting for exfoliation treatments or pedicures, we were all there to get mammograms or related services at the oh-so-subtly named Women's Breast Center. (The name, prominently displayed on the wall, makes it hard to pretend we were there for any other reason, although it also made me wonder what the waiting room would look like in a Men's Breast Center . . . . ) At first we all stuck to our magazines and Blackberries, but eventually the long wait broke down our isolation and we began chatting. (There's something about the prospect of having your breast mashed between two metal plates and being told, Relax!, that breaks down barriers real quick.) We learned about each other's previous mammogram horror stories (technicians with cold hands!), we compared notes on whether it was more unpleasant for smaller or larger breasts (the jury is out, we all think it hurts!), and we wondered how weird it would be to do a mammogram for Dolly Parton or Pamela Anderson. And of course we cracked the inevitable jokes about men having to undergo a similar procedure for their prized appendages.

We also got into family history (many of us had relatives who'd had cancer) and one woman told us her bone cancer was detected by what she'd thought was an overly picky radiologist whom she now credited for saving her life. (Which made us all ashamed of the times we'd griped about those other 'overly picky radiologists' who wanted to take just one more image.) And of course, we all agreed that the whole experience would be more pleasant if the facility also offered the body wraps and massages that the robes & music seemed to indicate.

In my case, my wait was longer because my family history and cystic tissue merited an ultrasound (which is just like the ones for pregnancies, with the blue goo and the fuzzy black & white computer image - god, did that bring back memories!, but nowadays they warm up the goo and give you lots of towels, as opposed to back in my pregnant days when I felt cold & greasy for hours afterwards). But eventually I was told I was done - until next year, of course. I have that wonderful sense of accomplishment, of ticking off, and being free from, one of those unpleasant maintenance duties for a year or so (dental exams, blood tests, cleaning out the stuff that leaked in the freezer). (Okay, I don't clean out the freezer every year, but I know I should and I just did it so it counts!)

Meanwhile, I can rejoice in being part of a gender that bonds so easily, and if the Women's Breast Center takes the suggestions we all promised to send in, maybe next year I will be able to get that post-mammogram massage!

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