Surviving the Squeeze
It’s a taboo subject, off-limits on a multitude of counts. We have heard them called tits, boobies, knockers, bosoms, jugs and many more, unprintable.
Breasts are often a child’s first connection with the world. Mothers feel guilt here, no matter which way the wind blows. They didn’t breast feed their children. They didn’t nurse them for long enough. They kept them attached to their breasts for their own needs long after it was healthy for the child. They don’t want to admit that they are still nursing their six-year-old as well as the baby.
It’s all about the breasts.
It’s about little girls in bikinis covering up nothing at all, but yet it is the modest way to dress a girl child. It’s a cultural thing, and while attitudes are different throughout the world, we still judge and are judged.
As teenagers, we either flaunt them or cover them in heavy clothing.
And we worry about them. No wonder we grow up with mixed feelings that range from shame to pride.
If we were on Family Feud and asked to fill in a word that goes after breast, the majority of women would say cancer. And we would win. Well, not really.
Last week, I went for my mammogram.
I am fortunate that I am not shy. I can’t imagine that there is much in this body of interest to any technician.
So there I was, the next victim, I mean, person, deodorant off, phone off, panic on.
Eventually, I am guided to a cubicle among cubicles with other women and told to remove everything above the waist. I can do that, but I can’t tie up the gown behind my neck, so I sit, waiting to hear my name, johnnie half on and mostly off, with a distinct breeze where my cleavage usually is. My maracas shiver when a lady calls what I think is my name. As we are all of a certain age, many of us don’t hear well, so we all run out of the changing rooms, bumping into one another. Perhaps we should all go out for coffee if the fates allow.
In yet another frigid room, I am asked to remove my hospital gown, which is, by the way, already three-quarters off.
I am wondering what she wants to say about the necklace I have worn for forty years. Is she admiring it? I stare.
As in off with my head?
She touches my necklace, and I get it.
As previously mentioned, about my inability to tie the gown around my own neck, I am the first to admit that I am not dextrous; keys and zippers are not my friends. Evidently, neither is the clasp of the chain. I feel like I am wearing sheepskin gloves as I struggle to turn the fastener around. Ten minutes later, I guess the technician can’t stand it any longer, so she gives me a hand.
I am thrilled to be able to say no. Or rather not yet.
Then her hands are all over me, adjusting me and placing little sticky post-it notes all over my bazookas. In the two years between mammograms, I had forgotten the part about being treated like a bulletin board.
She guides me to the machines where she manhandles (a funny but apt word) my breast unto a contraption three sizes too small for what is about to be inserted. Yes, I am in an awkward position, but it is necessary.
Then comes the part that I hate the most, the bit that I hadn’t forgotten. And it is an unpleasant moment for someone with claustrophobia. There you stand, open to God and humanity, attached to a contrivance that is squishing your breast like a French Crepe. It’s a trifle uncomfortable, but that isn’t the problem. The technician leaves to go into another room to actually take the x-ray and you are stuck, not existentially or metaphorically, but actually. If that lady has a heart attack in the next room, or if there is a terrorist attack or a fire, I will be the one who shall be found dead, attached by a nipple. Of course, it lasts a second, and I am released into the land of the living before we have to do it three more times.
Eventually, I am sent back to my cubicle to wait until I am dismissed, which does not mean that I am healthy but rather that the films have been taken correctly. I hear my neighbours worrying on either side of me. We do not go out for coffee. I do not even attempt to put my necklace back on but throw it in my purse.
It’s later in the evening, and I am about to take a shower. I glance into the bathroom mirror and freak out. A large rash has appeared across my chest, and panic sets in as I notice my breasts covered in huge white dots.
I have never even heard of white spots. Rashes are red, aren’t they? Or they present with purple splotches? Something other than white circles.
I often do not listen when I talk to myself, but I try to. Most things can be explained easily, so my brain goes to the most obvious answer: the apparatus I was caught in gave off such large amounts of radiation that I was scalded. I picture victims of nuclear bombs.
Nope, I had just forgotten to remove all of those little stickers.
I hope I get my results soon.