I'm still thinking of reasons to get a mammogram when my name is called not to get a mammogram, but to go into the next waiting room, where I wait some more. I don't know who started this practice of shuffling people into a second waiting room, but it is ridiculous and annoying. Do these health care providers really think we don't realize we're still waiting just because we're looking at different drab white walls and different framed prints of pastel tulips?
I change into the hospital gown, and because I have more time to wait, I think some more.
My mother and grandmother both had breast cancer, but because they were in their seventies, most doctors don't think I'm at any special risk. The attitude of most doctors seems to be, if you live long enough, you will get cancer. And as a former obituary writer and a chronic obituary reader, I'd have to agree. Most people seem to eventually succumb to some form of cancer. It's just a fact of humanity, no matter how much vitamin D you take or broccoli you eat.
When my grandmother was in her mid-seventies, she found a lump on her breast. She went into surgery to have it removed and woke up with a mastectomy. There was no conversation about it, no agonizing decision, no second opinion. The doctor just went in and decided to remove it, even though the cancer hadn't spread, even though there was no reason to do this.
When the doctor informed my mother and grandmother that he had removed my grandmother's breast, my mother gasped. "What," she asked.
"Come on, what does she need breasts for? She's in her seventies!" And then he walked out of the room, leaving a devastated mother and daughter in his wake.
Maybe that's why when my mother found a lump she ignored it for five years. Lucky for her, it was slow growing. After much pressure from her family, she finally had the lump removed. Five years later, she had another growth and had it removed. Now, five years later, she's doing fine.
A smiling technician greets me. For the next ten minutes, we pretend that it's perfectly natural and not completely uncomfortable that a stranger is squeezing and pulling at my breasts.
I know the drill. Four photos. Two of each breast from different angles. If the technician takes more, that could mean something, or it might mean nothing. If the technician is quiet during the procedure, that could mean something, or it could mean nothing. If they ask you to wait some more in the waiting room, that could mean there is a problem...or not. If they say, 'see you in a year,' it's a good indication that you're okay. That's what I've learned. I go through it, but am not convinced it's the right thing to do. When she's done, my technician doesn't say much to indicate whether everything's fine or not.
Regardless of the outcome, I've given myself a dose of radiation I don't need.
Next year, I'll do it different, I decide.