Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Tough Titty


I had my yearly mammogram in mid-December and got a letter stating that I needed to return for further screening in the form of an ultrasound and diagnostic mammogram.

When I arrived for my appointment today, I met with a technician who spends her days grabbing other women's tatas and flopping them down on a frozen platform like freshly killed fish, then winching the nasty vice she got on sale at the Marquis de Sade Mart to the tightest notch.

I had been told the suspicious mass was in my left breast, but Amy, the technician, informed me that it was my right one. I said that I was confused as I had been told it was the left. She scanned the report and said she was sure it was the right, and maybe I had been given the wrong information.

I'm usually pretty understanding and let them off the hook, but this is my life we're talking about. "Well, I could have been," I said, "but would you please check again so we know for sure?"

She did. It was the left breast. Apparently those words look too much alike to be readily distinguished. L-E-F-T. R-I-G-H-T. Anybody could make that mistake.

She introduced me to her machine and directed me to remove the left sleeve of my robe. Second base on the first date. I felt so cheap. The machine was icy.

Why do they always ask, "Are you all right" from behind their safety barricade when you gasp involuntarily? And expect you to say you are. There is no way you are all right while your boobs are being squeezed so tight that you expect them to pop.

I think random thoughts at such times, like what do they do with women who have implants? Do they burst open like overripe pumpkins after Halloween?

When I could speak again, I asked Amy, the technician, who has a solid army background, by the way, how they do mammograms on women with fake mammaries.

She stopped tinkering with her equipment and actually looked at me for a second, a quick flick of the eyes, reminiscent of the way a fly swatter kills a fly.

"Do you have implants?" she asked.

"No," I said. "I was just wondering."

Amy sighed in exasperation. I often have that effect on people. "Then we don't need to be concerned with that," she said through her teeth.

Well, no. But I had waited a very long time in my little dressing gown, white waffle-pique, opens in the front, and now she was hurting me. I thought I was entitled to something in return.

"CAN you do mammograms on patients who have them?" I persisted. I was thinking maybe I should look into getting some if they serve as a get home free card. No more mammograms, ever, sounded really good at this point.

There is something fundamentally wrong with voluntarily handing over your body parts to be tortured, knowing in advance that you are walking into an ambush. She ignored me and pretended to be very engrossed in the picture on her screen.

"Can I see, too?" I asked.

She didn't respond so I walked across the room and looked at her monitor. My breast looked huge, which it isn't. The photo was not suitable for hanging in a machine shop, just plain bad lighting, and it was hard to imagine where a pasty would go.

She told me I would have to wait for the doctor. A half hour later, a woman came in and introduced herself as Dr. ----. Doctors rarely have first names, or else "Doctor" IS their first name and they had prescient parents.

The upshot was, she wasn't sure what she was seeing either. My earlier mammogram showed a large mass, but the ultra sound today showed a small one. The repeat mammogram was not discussed as apparently neither Dr. Doctor or Amy was able to read it.

So I have to go in a third time for a needle biopsy whenever the receptionist collects her messages and calls me back. I am not impressed with the quality of care I received today. And there is no decent shopping in that neighborhood for those seeking comfort and obliteration in retail therapy. Also, I have a headache. I think it's because they squeezed my chi chi's so tight my head burst.

As Hemingway said in "The Sun Also Rises," "It was a rotten way to be wounded." He was talking about balls, but it's a fair analogy, as nearly as I can imagine.

I don't think they do things like that to men. "Turn your head. Cough." Men are wimps.

38 comments:

Lisa Joo said...

*sending good wishes to you and "yours"*

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Lisa,

I and mine thank you!

meno said...

I have to go back every year for the ultrasound too. Apparently i have "dense breasts." I didn't think they were any dumber than anyones else's, but i guess i was wrong.
I am sorry about the needle thing. Sadists!

Nicole said...

I have never had one. But that picture frightens me!! Sorry your ta ta's are getting punished!!

thethinker said...

I haven't had one of those yet and I'm not looking forward to one either, after that description. Good luck with the needle biopsy.

urban-urchin said...

ugh- i just had my first mammo recently, and it was about as much fun as asking someone to run over my boobs. i am glad i don't have to do that again for a while. Here's hoping that the biopsy is nothing.

velvet girl said...

I went in for my first one last year and they informed me that mammograms are really inaccurate on women whose breasts are as small as mine. After all that work and pain to get them in there and it's not going to be a good diagnostic tool?! Ugh.

Good luck with the biopsy. I'm sending all my positive energy your way and I hoping my hardest that it turns out to be nothing.

-velvet

Lex said...

I am closing in quickly on my first and I am SO not looking forward to it. You have not lessened the dread at all with this post. Thanks.

I'm not satisfied with the quality of your care either. Had you not insisted that she double check your chart she would have written you off as miraculously healed by the Holy Water or something. Can't you go to someone else for round 3?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Ohh, ladies. We have our own sewing circle going here. Thank you all!

Meno,

Mine were not feeling very sharp after all the abuse. Sadists, indeed. They would never dare do anything like that to men.

Nicole,

Sorry to make you cringe. They've been really good tatas, never did anything wrong. It's not fair.

Thinker,

You're a long way off from this mediaevil torture. I hope by the time you're old enough, they have devised a better way to diagnose breast cancer.

Urchin,

That's exactly what it feels like - being run over by a really big vehicle, like a train.

Velvet,

It seems like they should have told you that first. What is WRONG with people?

Lex,

So sorry I scared you. At least it's over quick, if that helps.

Hey, there's an idea! I'll take some hits of the Holy Water from my previous post and people will see my profile on refrigerators and tree stumps and in oil slicks and pray for miracles. (Santa Susana of the Battered Boobies.)

I have always thought that to be a woman is to conspire in the absurd.

mist1 said...

I haven't had mine yet. With my little boobs, I'm sure that I will have to get completely into the machine.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Mist,

Mine were bigger before all these mammograms.

seventh sister said...

good luck, I'm sure it is nothing. Italmost sounds like they were looking at someone else's mamogram since they did not know if iti was left or right, large or small....

Marie said...

I hate medical staff (and I work in a hospital), they're so condescending.
Your story did nothing to redeem them in my eyes.
Marie

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Sister,

I had the same thought, but my name was on them. Unless they mixed up X-Rays like newborn babies, and I'm really raising the wrong breasts.

Marie,

They do often have an attitude of superiority, don't they? The doctor was talking down to me so I deliberately used a few long words when shorter ones would have done just as well.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Ahem. Sorry about your experience but for men, the prostrate ultrasound probe is probably the equivalent torture. I assure you that I have suffered appendicitis and slipped disc and this probe is much worse. If you haven't figured out yet, it is inserted into the rear and moved around while the doctor looks at a tv screen. I started singing broadway hit musicals at high spped and pitch when it was inserted. Doc asks, "is it painful?"
I think they should be made to paractice on each other during training so that they would already know the answer.

Medicine being so highly specialised nowadays, you can't expect nurses to know left from right. Only nurses specialising in hands will study this.

Here's hoping all will be well.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Squirrel,

I was beginning to think men were boycotting this post.

You've got my attention. Worse than appendicitis or herniated disc? I've had both, too, and I'm impresssed by something worse that doesn't produce a baby.

She wasn't a nurse; she was a mammogram technician who does this all day long. Since women typically have two breasts, it's fair to expect that she know which is which.

I love your idea of doctors practicing on each other. The one time I had a sigmoidoscopy (never again) the auto mechanic running the show asked if it hurt. I said, "Haven't you ever had one?" He said,"No." He looked embarrassed. I would have stomped off if I'd been able.

Thanks for your good wishes.

Pickled Olives said...

Oh Dear Lord, when will womens medicine catch up to mens? This tech sounds hideous and unknowledgable. Scary combo. I hope the biopsy is benign!

Aisby said...

I had to have an ultrasound on mine a couple of months ago. I didn't know that if you were under 40 (or is it 35?) that your breasts are too dense for a mammogram. Do they magically just change once you hit that age? How do they know?
Anyway...I had to techs in there, since a man was doing it, I guess they had to have two...it was a little weird having these two men look at my boobs...like a fraternity party in college, but not as fun; there was no loud music or grain alcohol involved.
Everything turned out fine, and I'll be thinking positive thoughts for you as well.

Bob said...

nope, not boycotting the party - especially when flattened boobs are the topic - just late, as usual.

I love the squirrel's idea - doctors should practice on one another! until I read his comment I WAS going to say that I can't commiserate because they don't use "the finger" to check prostates anymore. (just a blood test.) I haven't heard of the ultrasound doohickey and after thinking that I was going to be inviolate in that region am worried anew.

In the spirit of NOT one-upping your experience, I am definately not having any such procedure on ANY part of my anatomy - inasmuch as I wish to understand your plight I will do so psychically.

I do seriously wish for you a swift procedure and negative result.

Christina_the_wench said...

Here's wishing you a FABULOUS, STRESS-FREE New year, hun!

I will keep you and your tatas in prayer. My mammogram drill sargeant when to the same school of pleasantries as yours. Scary, huh?

furiousBall said...

Listen, we don't need to talk about mushing my nuts. Some mean person invented that thing, not me. I think medical device inventors are actually a bunch of frat boys that used to run hell week that make shit up just to fuck with all of us.

Crankster said...

It's almost like medical technicians have to take an insensitivity test to get hired.

Not to take anything away from your pain, but I have to tell you that it's no fun to have your balls gripped in the arthritic claw of a borderline-senile old homosexual. Let's call this one a narrow victory for the mammogram

Lee said...

Gee I was hoping to find out what they do to girls with implants bc that would be useful info for me! ;) I was supposed to go 2 years ago, but all the horror stories are making it easy to procrastinate! And yes, I'm terrified they'll pop.

Warmest wishes for free and clear boobies and Happy New Year too!

Odat said...

Oh Heart, I hope all it ok...Just for your info..I'm the champ at getting mammos and ultra sounds...every single time I go ...It's a routine now...(I did have a lump removed years ago, but thankfully it was benign) but since that time..they examine me like I was an alien or something!
But I'm grateful for it believe it or not....Let us know how it turns out....
Peace and prayers to you.

Odat said...

Oh Heart, I hope all it ok...Just for your info..I'm the champ at getting mammos and ultra sounds...every single time I go ...It's a routine now...(I did have a lump removed years ago, but thankfully it was benign) but since that time..they examine me like I was an alien or something!
But I'm grateful for it believe it or not....Let us know how it turns out....
Peace and prayers to you.

Thailand Gal said...

Sending good energy to you. That must be rather horrifying. They are always so vague.


Peace,


~Chani

The Law Fairy said...

And now I will spend the day in a fetal position.

What's the age you have to start getting mammograms? 40? Something close?

Whatever it is, I'm going to just stop having birthdays before then. Cold clammy hands feeling me up and scooting down into the stirrups so a complete stranger can probe my hoo-ha is bad enough -- now I've got THIS to look forward to on top of it??

And, personally, I would take an anal probe when I'm old over the yearly vag-spelunking, PLUS boob-smashing. I mean, sorry to get graphic, but at least with the backside you're USED to the occasional, er, rough touch. God, did we women ever get screwed over a nutty one (no pun intended).

My boobs are pretty small too... nice to know medical science hasn't figured out a decent way to check them up, even WITH their medieval torture devices.

The Law Fairy said...

Oh! I just thought of a good one. It's an honest-to-good booby trap.

Oh, I crack myself up.

Slick said...

Yuck...the torture you women go through.

Rude nurses and undereducated doctors? I'm sure you're not looking forward to the next leg of the appointment.

Good luck with that!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Olives,

I believe that far more money is spent researching male cancers than female. I have even been asked to contribute to Prostate Cancer Research at my supermarket check-out. This has never happened with breast or ovarian cancer, etc.

Aisby,

Mine have always been dense and still are. You must have had your procedure done in a teaching facility; otherwise there is no excuse for men to be there. Sheesh!

Bob,

Yeah, I'm considering dropping the whole thing. I do not thrill at the prospect of these people sticking fat needles in me.

Christina,

"Drill sergeant" describes her perfectly. She even had a military walk as she led me briskly from one torture chamber to another several times.

Furiousball,

Your explanation is the best I've heard. Frat boys who never got over Hell Week.

I feel so much better now.

Crankster,

I feel your pain, too. I seriously wonder about those who perform these "services," and if they're all secret sadists. (Well, not so secret.)

Lee,

Sorry, I never found out. My guess is they do not pop, but make it more difficult to read the X-Rays.

Odat,

My mother and her mother both had breast cancer, although neither died of it. I'm hoping for the best for you and me both.

Chani,

Yes, I would prefer to be treated as if I have a brain, and not just breasts.

Law Fairy,

I don't remember the age at which this is supposed to begin in the absence of a family history for ca.

Mine are normal in size. I'm always surprised that they haven't shrunken after the annual squooshing.

Slick,

You've got that right. They haven't called me back to set up an appointment, and I'm considering not calling them either.

Thank you all for your kind wishes and good energy. With all this going for me, I'm sure I'll be fine. You guys are great!

Liz said...

Why wouldn't she tell you what happens with the implants? What a gate-keeper of information! Perhaps she was concentrating too hard on remembering right from left and so her brain couldn't remember and she didn't want to admit it.

In all seriousness though, I hope everything turns out to be ok.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Thanks. Liz. I think she was just intent on doing her job w/o complications in the form of irrelevant questions. If I'd had implants, she would have had to deal with the issue.

An explosive said...

Oh gosh... sending you a (((HUG)))! because I don't know what else to do! Those damn Doctor's all need a kick in the crotch! :) ~M

heartinsanfrancisco said...

My heart,

Yeah, but that's really hard to do when they have your bazongas in the vice from hell.

Thank you for your sweet thoughts.

katrice said...

Dreading my first one. It's number two, right under anything dental.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Katrice,

It's over a lot quicker than dentistry.

I'm sure if men had breasts, they would have come up with a less primitive method of doing this by now.

Tomorrow is my biopsy. I'm not looking forward to it.

PARLANCHEQ said...

Wow, I hope things turn out OK. I'll be thinking of you. But, as usual, you took something mundane and made it interesting because you so eloquently put those feelings we all have into words.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Parlancheq,

Thank you so much! Watching the biopsy on ultrasound reminded me of Pacman as the needle crept up on the bad guy and ate him.

The doctor is almost sure it's benign. I'll have the results tomorrow.

I appreciate your good thoughts.