Tuesday, August 28, 2012

First Timer: Mammograms

Hi. I'm 40 and I'm a first timer.

It didn't take long for my primary care doctor to call me in for that "you just turned 40" physical. Not knowing what I was really in for, I arrived at her office on Friday, a few minutes before my scheduled appointment and filled out the necessary paperwork. When the nurse took me back to the examining room she rattled off the list of procedures I was going to have. I knew for sure I would have the Pap Smear and breast exam but I was taken by surprise when the nurse told me I needed a mammogram, too. I thought the first mammogram had to happen at 50, not 40. Oh well, I scheduled the mammogram for Monday morning. I was a little nervous, not knowing what to expect.  I'd only heard negative things about mammograms so I was prepared for the worst...

After I checked in at the hospital's front desk and filled out the proper paperwork, this cute radiology tech took me back.  Her name is April.
April introduced me to her new mammography machine... it's digital, just like the bigger hospitals.  She handed me a gown and asked that I put it on with the opening to the front.  (Good thing  I left my dignity at the front door.)  When April came back in she positioned me in front of the machine and took four x-rays, two on each side... one straight on and the other on the side.  I was prepared for some serious squishing but it was nowhere near as bad as I had heard.  Uncomfortable, yes, but not overly painful.  It's not like going to the dentist for a filling or anything, just uncomfortable.  The whole while April kept up pleasant chatter, answered my random questions about silicone implants and listened to my stories.  It was over without  much fanfare.

Two things I will remember for next time...
1)  Shave my underarms.  I had done it just a few days before so I wasn't a hairy gorilla, but I wish I would have remembered that morning.
2)  Don't wear deodorant.  I had asked the lady who helped me schedule my appointment but she said deodorant was fine, but don't wear any lotions or perfumes on the chest area.  April had me wipe off my deodorant before the mammogram.

Really, no one is excited about getting a mammogram.  It's like all those other annual tests we have to have that seem semi-violating.  Suck it up, kiss the frog, whatever you want to say to get you through it, but schedule a mammogram.  It's not that bad, really.  And don't forget to pick your dignity up on your way out.

(This post is dedicated to my three friends who were diagnosed with breast cancer this past spring... SS, age 34, opted to have a double mastectomy;  NW, age 50-something, opted to have a lumpectomy; and Sister Smith, age 60-something, who is still going through chemo.  You are all inspirations of courage and being positive through trials.  Hugs and prayers for you all.)