Mammogram Hellhole

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Do you dread your annual mammogram?

Read an experience below by Sheila Nevins.

We sit in pink robes with smiley faces on them. My robe has no ties. I say to a lady more elderly than I … “My robe has no ties.”

“You have it on inside out,” she says.

We giggle quickly …

“Oh,” I say.

“I’ll just clutch it.” Cold hands. A dear-life clutch. This is probably my 30th mammo and it never gets easier. Scarier as more friends succumb. Although Annie’s wig is a good one, I shudder. My hair is my best feature. Wigs are hot. Wigs are itchy.

“Why me?” I think. Then, “Why not me?”

The why-not-me prophecy gets worse with each passing year. So far I have escaped being caught. I hate this waiting room – the old magazines, the older women – some better preserved than others. Yet their flesh-and-blood faces are pale. Eyes catching, occasionally, we exchange knowing fake smiles. Birds of a feather with no place to fly. The room has no windows. I guess it’s better this way. No place to jump. It’s cold under this pink-flimsy. A frail woman asks for a blanket. She shivers. The blanket she gets looks like army surplus. Now I’m alone on the Island of Mammo in an air-raid shelter. Silent sirens sound imminent attack. Next to me a loosely tied pink gown opens and a younger woman quickly covers a scarred breastless chest. She stares at me, she knows what I saw. No pretenses in pink gowns.

“I have BRCA 2.”

“Oh,” I say. “Will you be OK?”

“My sister died of it, but my 80-year-old mother is still alive and she had it.”

“You’ll be alright,” I say. “You look terrific.”

We gray smile. She knows I know nothing. My heart pounds. Or is it hers?

They call my name. I enter the chamber and my breasts are squeezed into mammogram silence. The technician indicates nothing.

I want her to like me. If I’m nice to her maybe I can influence the results. “Too nice for cancer,” she’ll say. “I’ll let her go.” I cajole her into a terse relationship.

“Once I had an A cup. Now I’m a C,” I say in an offhanded manner.

“It happens,” she says, revealing nothing. She has been trained by science to keep deadly secrets. Top clearance.

I remember Eddie at 14 and the first tit-squeeze. It was fun, but not worth this waiting room. No tit-ulation here. No lovers, however hot and handy, could pay the price of panic in this Madison Avenue Hellhole.

I have been here for two hours. Pretending to read Vogue. An article on foot padding for flat feet. The same paragraph read again and again. New injectibles can make feet over so anyone can wear stilettos. I’ll get this padding if I live …

Please, Ms. Wintour, I promise just get me out of here. Anna, are you ever scared or are you so insulated you breeze through this agony of discovery? Now you see it. Now you don’t. Now you see it. Where do you go Anna? Probably mammos on the beach in Belize. Sequined designer gowns, I bet.

Oh God, get me outta here. I’ll buy stilettos. Promise. Dr. Mephisto is probably studying my x-ray and counting the few days I have left on earth. She doesn’t have the heart to tell me. That’s why the wait is so long. She’s never seen anything so horrible before.

But suddenly they call my name. They congratulate me on my free and clear breasts. Mephisto shows me two breasts on a screen. I guess they’re mine. Dr. Mephisto says everything looks fine. I love this woman. I must rename her.

I pay $400 for this fun-house ride and make an appointment for next year. Same time, same place, same breasts, I hope.

I’m sick of them really. Bosom buddies who can turn on you ain’t no friends at all. Hands off.

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