The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Mammography patient (1)

By Bill Branson (Photographer) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Take deep breaths, I console. It’s only once a year and it’s for a good cause, I reassure. I’ll give you chocolate afterward if you behave yourself.

No, I’m not bribing my son to sit still for the annual performance of the Nutcracker. I’m bribing myself to get through round 13 with that stupid machine. You know, the one that was invented by the same sadistic guy who came up with stiletto heels and thong underwear. That’s right, it’s time for my annual pressing engagement with the slammogram.

A perky technician shows me to the dressing room while she goes to prepare the torture chamber. I try not to hate her. She didn’t invent the stupid machine. She’s just doing her job, like a good Nazi.

Yes, I realize this is an x-ray that could actually save my life–as opposed to the two grand it ends up costing me every time I get x-rayed at the dentist–but does it have to smash my breasts into pancakes? And if so, could I please get them Mickey Mouse-shaped? When did the ability to do gymnastics become a requirement of mammary glands? Breast-feeding was hard enough. The girls aren’t that agile any more. They’re not up to the task this year. Can’t we just skip it?

That little voice in my head (my mother’s this time) tells me to carry on. I console myself with a recent article I read that found left handedness to be associated with pre-menopausal breast cancer. Thank God I’m a normal, right-handed person.

Chin up and right hand tingling, I let the tech push me through the door of the x-ray room.

There’s no way on earth that a woman could have invented this torture machine. What female would ever imagine that you could take a 36-B cup and morph it into a 48-long in 47 seconds flat. That’s 47 seconds FLAT, get it? Who knew that the human breast could be stretched, pulled, twisted and squished over a freezing cold piece of plastic machinery, and still pop back into a reasonably satisfactory shape sometime within the next 72 hours (I hope). If guys had to get peckergrams, you know that machine would be velvet lined, and have a cup holder for beer.

“That’s great,” says the torturer. “Can you swing your right arm over the top of your left ear, stand on your tip toes and twist your hips to the right so they’re at 65 degree angle? Okay, now I need you to hold your right breast back with your left pinkie so we don’t get a shadow.”

See what I mean about gymnastics?

“Now hold your breath.” I try my best, but the giggles start to slip out. I remember how excited I was to get my first bra. Who knew that it would someday come to this?

“That’s great, you’re done,” says the tech.

I’m feeling better already. It’s the right thing for my health, and I don’t have to do this for another year. Plus I get chocolate. Yippee.

The tech taps me on my shoulder. I haven’t quite escaped.

“Now put your breasts into this stamped, self-addressed envelope and we’ll send it back to you in two weeks with the results.”

Singing mammograms can be directed to Leslie via email.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on February 28, 2008.

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