Mammogram dos and don'ts
An oldie but goodie from the In The Powder Room archives, originally published January 14, 2010, under the title Mammograms and Biopsies.
Don't have a mother who dies shockingly young from breast cancer. The genetic counsellors will get hold of you and you'll have to start having mammograms at 35.
Do buy fabulous new underwear, have a wax and exfoliate before your mammogram. It might be a sexy male nurse who operates the machine and anyway, if the Grim Reaper has his scythe poised, best to go out looking good.
Don't look around the waiting room mulling over half-remembered breast cancer statistics. ‘What is it again, 1 in 10? 1, 2, 3,...8, 9, 10, shit! It's me! I'm number 10!'
Do load a perky, funny comedy show onto your iPod to listen to in the waiting room. For a minute or two you might forget where you are and what you're waiting for.
Don't yelp in alarm when your name is called. It's really embarrassing.
Do have a rough idea of funeral requirements, and prepare some tear-jerking playlists and eulogies in case you are number 10 (see above). Things to consider might be: cremation vs burial, dress theme (fancy dress might be fun), and for the wake; sit down meal or light finger food?
Don't have massive jabonga-like breasts. There's too much for the machine to go at, and it's really going to hurt.
Do have small, shrivelled droopy tits that would not look out of place in a tribal village. They offer much less resistance (see above).
Don't forget that compressing your breasts could result in residual breast milk leaking out. Consider expressing milk before you go; the Yummy Mummy look is so last decade.
Do cross fingers, toes and legs for luck. (Your eyes will cross involuntarily as the pain hits.) If you believe in a higher being, start praying now.
Don't squeal like a piglet as your tender breast tissue is squeezed remorselessly between two cold, hard metal plates.
Do keep your pelvic floor tightly squeezed when told the mammogram is clear; wetting yourself in relief is not dignified. Try not to jibber effusive thanks to the machine operator or laugh hysterically. Jokes about being disappointed because you wanted to lose weight and have always thought being bald might suit you, are not appropriate at this point.
Don't get complacent; the ultrasound is still to come.
Do allow yourself to cry like a girl when the ultrasound highlights an anomaly in your left breast. You are only human after all.
Don't switch off and start planning your funeral immediately. Listen when they say it looks benign but they have to investigate anyway. Trust them to know their fibroadenomas from their ductal carcinomas.
Do refrain from constricting the airways of the (snotty) secretary when she tells you there are no biopsy appointments for another 10 days.
Don't hold back. For the next 10 days indulge in alcohol, chocolate, funeral fantasies and creative obituary-writing exercises.
Do try to remain calm before they start the biopsy. Although crying with big, juddering sobs can be quite cathartic; so blub away if you need to.
Don't watch as the nurse gets a freakishly long needle out of its wrapper. Otherwise, you will feel very queasy.
Do look fixedly at the ceiling during the biopsy and avoid looking at the ultrasound screen. Otherwise you will see the freakishly long needle sliding into your tender breast tissue. Bad image.
Don't forget to kiss everyone in sight when the results come back clear.
Do remember to live life to the full, just in case you're not so lucky next time.
Don't you just love having boobs?