“Remove everything from the waist up and put on a robe, opening in the front. Place your belongings in a locker and make sure to take the key with you.”
Securing my faded grey robe, I walked out into the pleasantly decorated waiting room. There were comfortable chairs, tables with magazines, and a coffee maker with a variety of coffee, tea and a tin of cookies. Four other women were waiting their turn, flipping through magazines or simply resting, arms folded protectively across their breasts. One woman wore a distraught look, hear eyes terrified and pleading “Please, not again!”
I made myself a cup of decaf, choosing a delicate butter cookie as well. I sat and reflected on the number of times I’ve waited in this room. Once a year for the past 17 years I’ve made this dreaded trek, making outlandish promises and bargains with God which always proved to be superfluous … so far.
After about ten minutes, a perky brunette in carnation pink scrubs and matching Crocs came in the room and called out “Mrs. Thompson?” I rose from my seat and the brunette continued, “Hi. I’m Kelly, your radiology technician. I’ll be doing your mammogram today. Just follow me and we’ll be done in no time.”
We entered the brightly-lit exam room, coming face to face with Darth Vader … my nickname for the massive mammogram machine … a sleek black, chrome and glass monolith standing like a sentinel in the middle of the room. Now here’s where two women who are complete strangers instantly become bosom buddies, so to speak.
Kelly instructs me to slip my right arm out of my robe and reach up to grab the handle on Darth Vader’s side. “Now step in as close as you can,” Kelly says while lifting my right boob onto the flat glass plate emerging from Darth’s chest. Pulling and kneading my breast into the perfect position, she then pushes a button which slowly lowers another flat glass plate on top of my breast. I watch in morbid fascination as my once round and ample breast slowly flattens, spreading out and taking on the appearance of a water balloon about to burst. Satisfied with the positioning, Kelly ducks into a tiny protective glass booth on the other side of the room.
“Take a deep breath and don’t move, Mrs. Thompson. Hold it, hold it, keep holding … now breath.” Kelly emerges from her protective booth and we repeat the process on the left side.
“Ok, we’re all done. Just have a seat while the doctor looks over your images. Hopefully the wait won’t be too long.”
Finally Kelly returns and says the doctor will see me now. More girl-on-girl time as the doctor manually examines my breasts with impossibly cold hands.
“Everything looks perfect, Mrs. Thompson. Keep doing your self-exams.” I thank her, refraining from saying my husband enjoys examining me regularly.
Dressing, I frown at the red bruises on my chest, then quickly smile and say a little prayer of thanks knowing the “girls” are ok.
I pass the front desk with a cheerful “Ta-ta, ladies. See you next year!”
NAR © 2023