My Doctor Made Me Do It 

I didn’t know what to expect. But I’d heard the horror stories. The inaccessibility. The discomfort.

I was past my doctor’s recommended age to have a mammogram. But my primary care doctor was relentless in her pursuit, so I made an appointment at an imaging center several miles from where I live.

When my appointment was made I confirmed that the machine was accessible from a wheelchair. The person on the other end of the phone said it was. In my head I said, I’ve heard that before.

Upon my arrival, I signed in and my insurance information was confirmed. Then I waited. Nervously. I hate the unknown.

When my name was called by a technician, I was led into a darkened room with a large off-white colored machine. I was given a gown and asked if I needed assistance changing into it. I told her I could do it, but thanked her.

I waited alone in the cool, dark room. When the technician came back into the room, she explained what we would do get the mammogram. As promised, the machine lowered to my level. But it quickly became apparent to me that I’d need another person to help with the leaning forward, turning my head, lifting this arm up and having that arm down, all while keeping my balance as a C6-7 quad.

A second female technician came in to lend a literal hand. Both women assisted in lifting, pulling, pushing and helping me stay balanced. As the American Cancer Society’s website aptly describes the process: “To get a high-quality picture, your breast must be flattened. The technologist places your breast on the machine’s plate. The plastic upper plate is lowered to compress your breast for a few seconds while the technologist takes a picture.”1

I needed to flip back the armrests of my chair while maneuvering it in order to get close enough to the machine. Once my chair was positioned correctly, I contorted my body as directed with the help from one radiologist,while the other ran over to the machine saying, “Don’t breathe,” and pushed a button to get the image. This was repeated several times to get two images of each breast.

Within 15 minutes it was over.

I wasn’t sure if I was several bra sizes larger or smaller after the experience. But I am convinced a man invented this machine. The silver lining: I have no sensation from the chest down, so I experienced little physical discomfort.

In all seriousness, it wasn’t a bad experience. Neither will it ever be the highlight of my week.

Several friends have been diagnosed with breast cancer, caught at an early stage while having a mammogram. It has driven home the importance of having a mammogram.

Even though my doctor still has to make me do it.

WHAT TO EXPECT:

  • Depending on your ability, you may need some assistance. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
  • Be prepared to feel manhandled, all in the name of medicine. I’ve now had three mammograms and the technicians remember me from previous years, which make the process a bit easier. They are professional and caring.
  • Don’t wear deodorant. I didn’t know this and had to use wet wipes to remove my deodorant because it may interfere with the images.
  • As always, talk with your doctor about at what age to begin having mammograms and the frequency of them.

 

Jenny

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References

1.“Mammograms: What to Know Before You Go.” American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/mammograms/mammograms-what-to-know-before-you-go.html.