You are led into a small room by a stranger.
The woman hands you a paper top and says,
“Take everything off from waist up, make sure the opening in the front.”
This is a hospital so you do as you are told without asking why
or what is about to happen?
You think you know as you are scheduled for a mammogram.
You were told not to wear perfume or deodorant.
The woman steps out the room and you undress and put on the paper blouse as instructed.
The woman knocks before reentering the room and directs you to move in front of the machine.
She guides your body so you are slightly angled facing the machine.
She then opens your top and takes one breast into her hand and pulls and places it on the cold metal top of the machine, like you would a book to xeroz a page.
Although you want to ask and be assured that she wiped and sterilized the area after the last woman, you don’t.
I mean really, a stranger is pulling your breast like it is a piece of meat she is getting ready to marinate.
She presses your breast down on the machine, then release a plastic lever on top of your breast and squeezes, clamp like.
You are hurting. You want to scream at her that this is uncomfortable and painful. But you are a woman and everything
to do with checking for your health is uncomfortable and painful.(Coming next a Pap Smear)
She steps around you and says, “Hold your breath. Don’t breathe and don’t move.”
Through clenched teeth you want to say, you must be kidding, but you don’t.
This is torture and you want it to be over. You are not even thinking now about lumps. You fear this procedure could really hurt you.
So you hold your breath, and hope this ends quickly, and hope the woman gets it right and don’t have to repeat the procedure.
“You can breathe now, “ the woman says.
You let out your breath, and prepare for the next breast to be photographed.
She comes back around, turns you to the side, pulls your arms over the metal box, and tells you to hold your hand firmly there. The rectangular metal is digging into your underarm, scraping you. She then comes and grasps your breast again, pulling it more, placing it again on the slab, and acts as if she can flatten it.
You want to say to her, this is a breast, remember, it doesn’t flatten out like a pancake.
Hello you scream inside. These are breasts, like your breasts. They hurt. This is more than uncomfortable.
She acknowledges, “I know this is uncomfortable, but I need you to stand still and not move.” She moves away and commands, “Hold your breath and don’t move.”
If I were to move the machine would rip off my breast, you want to cry, but you are brave, and you want this to be over as soon as possible so you suck it in, hold your breath and keep holding it until the buzz of the machine stops and she says,
“You can breathe now.”
You want to collapse, you want to be comforted, but there is still the other breast that must be subjected to this abuse for its ultimate good.
So the same above procedure takes places.
Finally! It’s over.
The woman checks the x-rays to make sure they are good.
“They are good,” she says. “You can get dressed. Your doctor will contact you about the results.”
“Thank you, “ you say, minding your manners. And you mean it as the ordeal is over.
You pray that once again your breasts are healthy and you won’t have to suffer this exam until next year.
You are dressed.
You take a hard look at the sturdy, masculine machine. Tall, cold, impersonal.
You don’t know Patrick Panetta and Jack Wennet, who invented this machine in 1984 or before and were approved in 1986.
You know mammogram testing has saved the lives of many women as a result of early detection, so you thank them. You are truly grateful.
Three of your maternal great grand aunts (between the ages of 70-85) all died from breast cancer in rural Jamaica. None of them, had a mammogram before being diagnosed
But you wonder, where are the women inventors to upgrade this machine and design a more breast friendly device?
It is way past time that women physicians and designers make testing easier so when my daughters reach the age when testing is required for them they will not be subjected to such a fate.
But even more importantly, let’s work to eliminate breast and all other types of cancers for good.