Recently I had my first mammogram.
I had heard all the rumors. My "girls" were going to be sandwiched down to pancake-like proportions and I might pass out from pain.
My anxiety at an all time high, I questioned my cousin Paula, a breast cancer survivor and mammogram pro, for all the gory details.
"Just pop an Advil and you'll be fine," she said.
Convinced she was downplaying it for my benefit, I didn't believe her, but followed her advice and hoped for the best.
Arriving at the hospital I navigated my way to the imaging department. Upon check in they took my license and insurance card. So far, so good, pretty basic stuff. No one was screaming from behind the closed doors, a comforting sign.
I was directed to a room with changing stalls and narrow beige lockers.
"Remove your top and bra as well as any jewelry and put this on," said the smiling woman as handed me a robe-like shirt.
"Make sure you tie it in the front," she said.
Then she cheerfully vanished.
Entering one of the stalls, I pulled the curtain closed. I took off my shirt and unsnapped my bra. It is such an odd feeling standing bare-chested in an unfamiliar environment knowing complete strangers are on the other side of the wall. It always makes me feel REALLY naked.
I pulled on the light blue robe-shirt and tied the strings as tight as they would go, but even then it was loose. Feeling incredibly exposed, not to mention the lack of support; I neatly folded my bra and shirt, placed them into a locker and re-joined the cheery woman at the desk.
The next leg of my journey was the mammogram waiting area. Upon entering the room I felt my face turn red as two other women were also sitting in their tie-up-the-front shirts. The chance of a wardrobe malfunction was highly plausible.
Opting for a seat with no one next to me, that offered ample personal space, I glanced down at the table exploring my magazine options.
The magazine choices were hands down the best I had ever seen. All geared toward women, in good condition, no rips or tears, all up to date according to month. I was thrilled! No GQ or Popular Mechanics here, rather all my favorites.
I happily decided upon one and educated myself on how to organize my underwear drawer using inexpensive dividers to separate my unmentionables.
More women entered the waiting area, all trying to avoid eye contact. No guesswork as to why we were here. Each of us getting the "girls" looked at.
There we sat feeling awkward and uncomfortable in our matching shirts. It was as if I was being included into some secret club, breasts only were inducted. Shockingly I started to feel comfortable.
"Heather and Holly," a nurse called out. I stood as well as another woman.
I let out a giggle.
"Heather and Holly," we sounded like twins, the Boobsy twins.
Holly was led one way, I another. I entered a white sterile room and averted my eyes from what was obviously the mammogram machine.
The technician conducted a brief question and answer session before the procedure began. I immediately felt at ease as she was convincing in explaining the details and how it shouldn't hurt as much as I thought. No one had ever passed out on her watch having a mammogram she said.
Feeling a renewed sense of bravery I was ready, sort of.
I started to sweat. I could feel it dripping down my back and under my breasts and we hadn't even done anything yet. I stood facing the machine that appeared to be constructed of various Tupperware products.
The technician undid my shirt, adjusted my right boob and placed it carefully onto one of the clear plastic Tupperware-looking boxes. I prayed she wasn't grossed out touching my sweaty skin, but she seemed oblivious.
Next she instructed me to hold onto a bar and relax my shoulder. As tense as I was, when reminded to relax, it felt good to breathe and release some of that tension. She went behind the clear plastic screen and starting typing on her computer.
Here we go!
I felt slight pressure then heard the machine snap the photo. That was it? I was embarrassingly dripping with sweat over this? It was nothing! Breastfeeding hurt 10 times more that this! All that practicing smashing my boobs down as far as I could go in preparation of this event hurt more than this!
The tech came over and said she'd have to take three more angles. Oh no, would the new angles cause pain?
We repeated the process of positioning and again I was pleasantly surprised. A little pressure but no major pain. I relaxed completely, even forgetting I was half-naked, swapping stories about my children with a stranger as she manipulated my boobs.
Then it was done. I did it! The best part was the results came back negative. Not only did I overcome my fear of the mammogram, but was lucky enough to receive the happy news of good health.
When questioned about my mammogram I enthusiastically tell anyone who will listen,
"It really isn't that bad!"
I have no problem making this an annual appointment, one I will be sure not to skip.
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