Monday, June 14, 2010

Rite of Passage

It's a rite of passage that women don't often talk about. Ask a woman about the first time she shaved her legs, the day she bought her first bra or the day she "became a woman" and she could probably give you every detail. Walk into a room of women, like at a baby shower, and you'll hear birth story after birth story with details that will make you cringe (episiotimies! scar tissue! excess bodily fluids!). Ask a woman about her first mammogram and ever asks about those, at least not women my age. Why is that? Don't you think it's kind of an important topic? And it's a lot less messy than childbirth, that's for sure.

* Fair warning for my male readers - stop reading now if talk of boobs from a completely clinical perspective weirds you out.

So I found a lump. After nursing three kids, I'd felt weird things before, but since my breast-feeding days ended well over a year ago, I knew this was a not a normal thing. The thing is, it popped up over a weekend: not there on a Friday, but there on a Sunday morning. It was so big it was visible.

When it hadn't gone down by Tuesday, I called Dr. OBGYN, even though I'd just seen him a few weeks ago for my annual checkup and he didn't notice a lump then. The nurse immediately fit me into that day's schedule and long story short, he recommended a mammogram.

Okay, so I knew it was coming eventually. Thirty five is the magic age for having a "baseline" mammogram so I knew I'd have to have one next year (yes, I'm 34 - yikes!). But now I really needed it. Dr. OBYGYN didn't seem to be too worried, since the lump literally just popped up and cancer is usually very slow in growing, but still, y'all, a mammogram. Something only old women have to have done. Well, only old or sick women.

So there I was, sitting in a small waiting room wearing this pastel-colored half poncho thing with one measly snap at the neck. Luckily, I'm petite, so although I had to cross my arms over my chest to retain a bit of dignity, at least the poncho extended the length of my torso. Several of the other women in the room were not as lucky and had to decide whether to cross their arms (which revealed a good portion of their abdomen) or to put their arms down by their sides (which made the poncho open up in the front). Decisions, decisions.

Despite our discomfort, we all tried to make the best of the situation. I'd been told that "diagnostic" or "there's possibly something wrong with you" mammograms were only done on certain days at certain times, therefore, all of us were there for similar reasons and facing the unknown. Some looked more worried than others. Of course, I can't imagine that women who are there for their "routine" or "annual squish job" mammograms are too thrilled to be there, either, but there was a certain level of anxiety in the room.

I was finally called in for my turn and while the (thankfully female) technician was as nice as could be, it still wasn't much fun. It wasn't as bad as a root canal, but it was no trip to the beach, either. After I'd been squished eight different ways, I was sent back to the little waiting room for more waiting. Apparently, my scans weren't thorough enough, so I got the added pleasure of having an ultrasound done, too. To heighten my anxiety, the ultrasound tech seemed puzzled by what she saw so she called in Dr. Radiologist to see what he could make of the images on the screen. He didn't seem too worried about what he saw so I was released and allowed to put my clothes back on. I was never so happy to see a bra in my life.

Overall, it wasn't a terrible experience. It was uncomfortable, but not painful. Actually, the most painful part was having to lock up all of my possessions (including the book I'd brought) and being forced to watch "The View" in the tiny waiting room. there anything worse than four shrill, B-list celebrity women, each of whom think they know everything, arguing over dumb topics and "interviewing" completely irrelevant people for an entire hour?

The lump is gone now. No one has any idea what it was or if it will come back. I'm supposed to "keep an eye on it" and promise to go back in if it shows up again. I hope it won't. But if it does, at least I'll know what to expect.


  1. I'm so glad that your lump went away! Boobs can do weird things, that's for darn sure.

  2. Glad there was a less than scary resolution for you!! You are right about no one really talking about this. Boobs are strange little things sometimes....

  3. Ah, nothing like random bodily issues that could be nothing or could be VERY SERIOUS. Having been there recently with the placenta issue, I join you in a fist pump of relief! We cheated the odds!
    And thanks for the mammogram info. It is, in fact, something I always think of as being SO far away, but yeah, you never know when something might, uh, pop up.

  4. Tien said...

    That is good that the lump went away. The same thing happened to me once. I had a lump before that seemed to arrive overnight and then went away. I had an ultrasound done, and it turned out to be a lymph node. I was getting over a cold.

    I agree more people should talk about mammograms more. Most women don't realize they should have a baseline mammogram done at 35.

    By the way, I discovered one of the best places for a mammogram is St. Lukes 10th Floor in the med center. (Of course, the med center has its own issues like distance and parking.) But, you do not have to wait in a full room wearing only a tissue for a top. You get a private room to yourself, even though it is small. Plus, they are nice and on time.