I was so nervous the day I went to get my first mammogram. My mother had died of breast cancer when I was young so this made me even more scared. However, I brought my partner with me for moral support and to attempt to keep me calm. I felt as if we had been in the waiting room of the mammography center for hours when a nurse finally called my name. In reality it was only 20 minutes. My partner and I stood up and walked towards her. The nurse peered over her glasses and asked in a very stern tone, “Which one of you is the patient?” I raised my hand as if I was in grade school again. The nurse looked at my partner, Carol, and told her in a scornful manner she’d have to stay in the waiting room. My partner tried to tell the nurse how scared I was and asked the nurse if she could please go with me. The nurse shook her head no and directed Carol back to the waiting room.
As the nurse was walking me down the hall to the mammography room she began asking me an assortment of questions pertaining to why I at such a young age needed to have a mammogram. Actually, it felt more like an interrogation. When we arrived at the room she finally allowed me to answer. I told her my mom died of breast cancer because it was caught too late. She started to interrupt me but I continued to say I needed the security and peace of mind. She rudely replied,” That doesn’t mean you’ll get it. You are way too young for this.” Angry, I simply replied with a smile,”Then I am so glad you are not my doctor.” Without another word the nurse handed me a garment and told me to undress from the waist up. Then, she left the room. When I unfolded the garment I noticed something strange. There were three arm holes. Are you kidding me? This shouldn’t be so difficult. I felt I had entered an episode of “I love Lucy” or I was going to have Allen Funt from Candid Camera pop out from behind the machinery. Usually, I wouldn’t feel so apprehensive to ask the nurse but instead I put the gown on the best I could.
When the nurse returned to the room she started preparing the mammogram machine. After she cleaned the glass plate, she asked me to step towards her and place my left breast on top of the glass plate which is what I did. Because I was less endowed, I had to stand right up to the machine to get my entire breast on the plate. By doing this it posed one problem with my left arm. It required me to stick it straight up in the air which was incredibly awkward so since the pole which connected the machine was right there, I just held that part of the machine. Would you believe the nurse told me to act natural? A strange woman is fondling my breast and pulling it so hard it feels like it’s going to rip off and she tells me to act natural? No problem. After several pictures taken of my left breast the nurse started grumbling under her breath. After what felt like an eternity of having that breast pulled and prouded she finally told me my left breast was so small she was going to have to really pull it to get it on the plate properly. I thought to myself,” Pull it? What have you already been doing? Doesn’t she know breasts aren’t pull-able?” I was scared. How could my breast possibly stretch that far? The nurse asked me to take a big breath as she pulled it. While the nurse held my breast with all her might, she lowered the vice on top of it at the same time as to keep my breast from recoiling back to my body. I looked down and through the glass vice, my breast was as flat as a pancake. She told me to hold my breath and to stay exactly where I was. Meanwhile, where in the hell does she think I’m going? To the cafeteria for a bite to eat? She had my breast held captive. I couldn’t have moved even if I wanted. The nurse squeezed the vice a little bit tighter as she told me to hold my breath. Then she left the room. I began to feel claustrophobic. What if there was a fire in the building? How would I get out? Would they find me later hanging from my left breast and how would they say I died? I began thinking how my breast hurt from the plates pressing it so flat. I wished Carol could have been with me. As my thoughts were wandering they were interrupted by the vibration and noise of the machine. I looked down. That’s when I saw the two plates (which were holding my left breast captive) start to move in an upward direction. The nurse must have pressed the wrong button. The part of the machine that had my breast started rising to the ceiling. What should I do? I could see what was written in my obituary: MaLea’s life was cut short from a tragic accident during her first mammogram.
I had to keep my mind from wandering and to think quickly. How could I get the nurses attention? She was in another room. At this point I was on my tip toes. I raised my right arm and held the top of the machine. I started to wrap one leg around the bottom of the machine and then I screamed as loud as I could. I can’t imagine what a fly on the wall must have seen that day. It had to have been quite a site and what could have the others have thought by this screaming woman? The nurse heard me scream and she stopped the machine immediately. Would you believe when the nurse came into the room to see if I was OK, she was trying to keep from laughing? The entire time this nurse showed no emotion but this made her smile and even laugh? I’m glad I could entertain her.
After both breasts had their turn in the vice, I was ready for my first mammogram to be over. It had been a memorable experience and one I never wanted to experience again. Once I got dressed, the nurse directed me back to the waiting room. When Carol saw me walking into the waiting room, she rushed to me. She asked,” So, how was your first mammogram experience? Was it as bad as you thought?” I looked at her, hesitated for a moment and then said,” Oh Carol, you have no idea.”