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THE FULL MONTY

23 August 2002

I've heard Dr. G give the recommendation a hundred times. "If you don't mind going in to Sacramento, Mammographia is the absolute best place to have mammograms. They just do it 'nicer' than most other places."

Yeah right. What's nice about having your boob smashed flat as a pancake?

I remember my last mammogram, which I had at Kaiser. I was taken to a linoleum floored hallway and sat on a folding chair. When my turn was called, I went into a booth that was smaller than a changing room in a cheap clothing store. They handed me this drab prison-grey "thing" to put on. It didn't fit.

Then I went into the mammogram room. It was cold.

The tech, who was warm as Joan Crawford in the middle of a PMS attack, took my boob and plopped it on this ice-cold tray. Then she lowered the vice and tightened it as tight as it could possibly go. (I could have sworn she cackled.) This was done four times--two views per breast. My breasts ached for two days afterwards.

I went back to the hall and the folding chair and sat there while they waited to see if the shots came out all right (did I smile?) and then I got to get my clothes on and leave, tossing my gown in the big garbage vat that sat in the hall next to the folding chairs.

But the more Dr. G talked about Mammographia, the more intrigued I became. I wanted to find out how they could improve upon Kaiser's mammogram process. So I suggested that he arrange a free mammogram for me so I could back him up from personal experience when women were deciding where to go to have their boobs smashed.

I spoke with the Mammographia's office manager, Suzanne, who was very professional and pleasant and said that when I came in, she'd give me a tour of the facilities.

Today was the day.

The office is located in a busy part of Sacramento, where parking is scarce and all the spaces near the office have parking meters. Since I'd arrived early, I wasn't sure I had enough change to get me through the full exam. But then I realized I'm a jock now and I could actually park at a distance and walk to the office. Whoda thunk. I managed to find a space about four blocks away, with no meters, and had a lovely walk in the cooling summer air.

I walked through the door into an elegant office. Plush carpet, fuzzy wallpaper, rich looking furniture and a blonde with the shortest skirt, longest legs, and hoop-iest earrings sitting at a computer at the front desk. This turned out to be Suzanne, so I introduced myself.

She gave me forms to fill out and asked how I'd be paying. Uh..... I mentioned our little "professional courtesy" arrangement and she said she guessed she could do that. She was quite pleasant about it.

Though I was early, they took me to the mammogram room right away. It was lit by dim lights, had wooden living-room type chairs. The first thing I noticed was the warming pad on the metal tray of the mammogram machine. There would be no cold plate in this place. I was given a nice, well fitting navy blue colored top to wear.

The tech came in and had me remove the top, then she fiddled with my breasts (I had the mental image of myself in the years when I used to make bread dough). Oddly enough, even when she lowered the plate to cinch me tightly to expose the film , it wasn't uncomfortable. I couldn't believe it when she told me she was finished. Where was the pain?

While the films were being read, I was taken to another small, plush, well-decorated room to watch a videotape on self breast exam.

The film was only half over when the tech came back again to tell me that there had been some smudge on the film and she would have to take another two shots. Again the non-painful squeeze and two more films were made. She went off with them, leaving me in the room to read my book.

In a short time, she was back. "The doctor would like to do an ultrasound. He found something."

"Found something?" What did that mean?

So I sat there in the next room, looking at an updated version of the ultrasound machine that we have at the office. The tech went off to warm the contrast gel in the microwave. That was another nice little touch--no icy cold gel to worry about. She asked if I would be OK seeing the doctor without a chaperon. I assured her I would be fine.

Pretty soon Captain Kangaroo walked in. That's what he looked like. A short Captain Kangaroo. He had me sit on the exam table and open my gown so he could palpate my breasts. He had bad breath.

There I was sitting topless in front of Captain Kangaroo, who was poking and prodding at my breasts. I expected Mr. Moose to drop ping pong balls at any moment, but he didn't.

The Captain then had me lie on the table and turn on my left side. For a minute I couldn't remember which was my left side. He wedged my back in with a big foam pillow and fired up the ultrasound machine. I've gotten very used to ultrasound machines and I can find a uterus and ovaries without much problem now-a-days. I can show a patient where her endometrial stripe is, point out material moving through the bowels and show a patient the blood pumping.

But I'd never seen a breast ultrasound before. Quite different.

Captain Kangaroo smeared some of the warm goo on my breast and began moving the sensor around. He took several pictures of different spots on my breast and then began palpating some more. At this point I was actually missing Dr. G, who explains what he's seeing and doing step by step when he does vaginal ultrasounds.

Finally The Captain turned off the machine and sat me up. "What I think I'm seeing is a fibroadenoma," he said (fortunately I knew that was a benign breast lump). But, since it's not most common to find new lumps in post-menopausal women, he wants to compare the films with my last mammogram and wants me to return in 6 months for another ultrasound.

His mustache bristled as he reinforced the necessity of regular self breast exams. "You're the one most likely to notice a change," he said, raising one eyebrow. He told me again that it looked perfectly harmless, but then said that he was going on vacation in two weeks and would be gone for a month, so I should try to get the Kaiser films to him right away. I didn't like the sound of that.

Suzanne made a return appointment for me (I somehow doubt that I'll be extended professional courtesy twice. I'm wondering how expensive this is going to be...) and I walked back to the car, so I could rush off to Kaiser to order the mammogram report sent to Captain Kangaroo ASAP.

Well, if nothing else, he sure knows how to make certain that I do regular breast exams between now and February 6.

And I certainly can back up Dr. G's recommendation about having one's mammogram at "the cadillac of mammograms."  It's going to be really difficult to go back to Kaiser's cold waiting hall and icy breast tray the next time I have to get a mammogram.


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Thank you for nominating my entry, Moving On for a DiaristNet award!

Quote of the Day

Whoever thought up the word "Mammogram"?   Every time I hear it, I think I'm supposed to put my breast in an envelope and send it to someone.

-Jan King

Picture of the Day

MAMMOGRAM.jpg (34740 bytes)

One Year Ago
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Electric candles? Are they serious? Where is the warmth from the flames? Where is the smoke gently rising to the heavens? Where is the smell of melting wax? What will impressionable children remember when they are adults?


Two Years Ago
Patients
I remembered the woman at the Health Fair I attended recently, who told me she would help babies with AIDS, but nobody else because she "didn’t believe in that stuff." I’m not sure what "stuff" she didn’t believe in (oh, I could hazard a guess...).


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