My name is Belinda and I will be 45 years old soon. Although I am usually a very positive, bubbly person, a recent experience with a mammogram left me flattened – literally.
You will understand why on further reading of this account.
In March of this year I had a hysterectomy (that’s a story within itself and one for another day), but my ovaries were not removed. I recovered well after +- 2 months of bleeding and discharges and wearing very unflattering stockings.
The stocking prevented blood clots, but, they did cause my toes to swell up to resemble cocktail pork sausages.
This, however, was soon remedied after being informed that the “oh so very capable and caring” nursing staff had put them on incorrectly. The same, I might add, that gave me an enema without a lick of lubricant, leaving my bottom raw and sore and causing my hemorrhoids to flare up.
Anyway, I digress……
I was informed by my gynecologist that it would not be necessary for any hormonal treatment at first. So, my ovaries, still intact and happily continuing their part in the scheme of things, were producing estrogen and they will until they eventually shrivel up and dry out, like raisins. Sies tog!
Approximately 6 weeks into recovery, I started suffering from sore boobs. First the right and then the left – just to balance things out you know. But it progressively got worse. So bad, that they woke me up at night and I could not fit into my biggest size 36DD brassier.
Heaven help me! I decided to consult with my gynecologist, but not before contemplating wrapping the ladies in heated cabbage leaves, like the old people used to, for relief.
It seems that the estrogen levels in my body were too high, seeing as the ovaries, at no fault of theirs, continued doing what they were created to do. Sadly without a uterus, it was playing havoc with my body. My gynecologist prescribed medication (Danazol) and referred me for a routine mammogram – my first.
Read more: What it’s like to go to the gynaecologist for the very first time
I scheduled the mammogram and in the interim started with my 10 day course of medication. Now, being the way I am – inquisitive (my Chinese star sign is the monkey) I had to read the pamphlet that comes in the box the medication does. Well, let’s just say that it conjured up all sorts of images in my mind, such as growing chest hairs, standing taking a wee and speaking in a very deep baritone!
And then the day of THE MAMMOGRAM arrived. Let me just add at this point, that I was not afraid of the procedure nor the results. It was just routine. I just did not know what to expect, even after speaking to some lady friends who had had a mammogram. They weren’t very helpful.
(First of all, they could have informed me not to wear any perfumes, talcum or body lotion on the day, as it shows up on the x-ray.) I was called through to the back and given a cubicle, a hospital gown and told to remove all upper body clothing and put the gown on, but to wash all lotions etc . from my chest and under arm areas.
So, here I am, walking along the corridor to the powder room, with nothing on but an ill-fitting, unflattering hospital gown to conceal my buxom bosom which acted seemingly happy, albeit not perky, to see everyone I encounter along the way. It’s winter and cold for goodness sakes.
Now before we continue I have to ask: Have you ever tried getting two painfully sore DD boobs into one of those basins they, as an after thought, squashed into the guest loo and prevents you from opening the door all the way? It kind of bounces back ricocheting off the basin and flattens your nose in the process.
But, finally I conquered and made my way back to my designated cubicle and started counting the spots and cracks in the walls that surrounded me, waiting to be summoned, which I was about 20 minutes later.
Down the passage again and into a room with a machine in the centre that resembled something out of a Star Wars movie. I snuck a peek around the room to see if Mr. Spock or Darth Vader was about! Was told to sit on the chair in the corner, which I promptly did like an obedient puppy.
The radiologist, (a young girl really) then proceeded with a question and answer tirade. Once satisfied, she told me to take off my gown and move over to the machine. I still was not nervous or afraid at this time.
I was instructed to stand in front of the machine, aiming my right boob at a centre line she pointed out to me and to lift my right arm at the same time.
This is when things began to fall apart, as all of a sudden I did not know my right from my left. After being spoken to in a loud not very friendly tone of voice, she looked at me as if to say, “What planet are you from?”, and me not knowing if it was Venus or Mars what with the medication!
After a lot of tugging, pulling, shoving and instructions barked at me to turn my hips this way and that way, to lift my chin, hold back my left breast and pull in my tummy, ending up on tiptoe, (I am rather short), I was told to hold that position whilst a gadget came down on my boob and promptly pressed it flat and the x-ray was taken.
OUCH! I felt like a very awkward ballerina or amateur contortionist! If it had not been for the boob being clamped down and holding me captive I am sure I would have fallen over!
After being freed, it was the left breast’s turn. By now I knew better and was terrified. I had to repeat the entire scenario again, but it was the pain that was my biggest concern, as lefty was by far the more sensitive of the twins.
But, I gritted, not grinned, and bared it. There was a whole lot more twisting and turning, tugs and pulls this time round. The left boob seemingly had a life of its own and failed to follow procedure much to the chagrin of my radiologist who by now was far from impressed and complained about me having been so much better on the right side.
Understandably so, I am right handed you know! Eventually she was satisfied and with my chin up left her to take her pictures and then freedom. Double D OUCH!
Hospital gown back on, feelings of humiliation rife, I was told to report back to my cubicle and wait to be called for my sonar.
About 10 minutes later I was summoned, but not for sonar, back to that dreadful Star Wars contraption for a magnified x-ray of the very eina left boob. By now I was petrified. Did they find cancer? This was not routine anymore. Why would nobody speak to me? Tell me something! At least this time I had an older, more patient radiologist. I found the experience less humiliating, but not less painful.
After a short period and less cracks to count in my cubicle, I went through for my sonar. It was not too much of a painful or humiliating experience, but could have been more of a friendlier, caring environment.
I was then permitted to dress and wait for my results.
All sorts of things were going through my mind, such as would the medical aid pay for reconstructive surgery or would they classify it as cosmetic if my boobs had to be removed due to cancer?
Eventually, results in hand I hightailed it out of there like a bat out of hell. Completely humiliated, in pain, afraid and saddened by the total lack of care and compassion by the sisterhood, I promptly forgot my take-away I had ordered from the coffee shop earlier, when I was still blissfully unaware of what horrors awaited me!
I am happy to report that my DD’s bounced back to their natural roundness, but still not perky, selves and that there is no cancer. The twins have multiple cysts and lefty has a mass called fibroadenoma. These will all clear up with the continuous take of my medication prescribed as will the discomfort. As for growing chest hairs and other male identifiers, it’s improbable. Unless I overdose daily for the next century!
I close off with my mother’s wise words of wisdom, after reporting back that my days of playing squash were officially over: “The things that us women have to go through! Why can’t men get cysts and fibro something or other in their balls and have to get them squashed in a ballogram?!”
Make your appointments! Because the WORST enemy is Breast Cancer.