Mammogram Madness

By: Shannon Shull

Ladies and Gentlemen, I recently had to endure my first ever Mammogram.  And yes, it was brutal!  Let me just go ahead and clarify that I did not enjoy it…not one bit!  The awkwardness, coupled with humiliation, and then topped with excruciating pain is just flat out ridiculous. The pain is a kind of pain that I can only best describe as “stupid pain,” because a woman is in such an absurd position as she is experiencing the incredible discomfort.  Pain in itself is bad enough, but add that element of embarrassment and it becomes just flat out stupid!

I’ve heard stories about the unpleasantness of mammograms and I realize that the experience is different for each woman. The level of pain and discomfort depends on factors ranging from breast size, breast age, modesty levels and the ability, attention and sympathy of the technician carrying out the brutality.  I fortunately had a lovely nurse technician. I say lovely not because she was necessarily gentle with my bare, innocent breasts, but because she smiled and laughed at my constant joking and silly comments. I’m one of those that nervously runs my mouth constantly, in an attempt to distract myself from pain in an uncomfortable situation. So when I asked her how she felt about being able to say that she got to literally squish boobs all day, she certainly laughed. When I told her how perky my boobs used to be before giving birth to two children deflated them, she laughed. When I started asking detailed questions about all the different breast sizes she’s seen in her profession, she giggled uncomfortably and conveniently avoided the question as she lifted one of my boobs onto the torture platform.

Nervously waiting before the mammogram

There were no giggles however when she realized I was up on my tip toes –- my boob was being flattened like a pressed leaf in a large book, I was holding onto part of the torture device for dear life as she told me to relax of all things, I was told to hold my breath until she realized that my long hair was in the way, so on top of the incredibly uncomfortable position I was already in, she had to make me hold my head at a VERY awkward angle so that my hair wouldn’t drape into the image, and as if that wasn’t enough…just as she told me to hold my breath again and got into position to zap a picture of my pancaked boob, she noticed I was on my tip-toes and promptly told me to flatten my feet. This resulted in a ratta-tat-tat back and forth between the two of us…

  • Technician: Flatten your feet, please.

    The Mammogram “Torture” Device

  • Me: uh-uh
  • Technician: Flatten your feet.
  • Me: uh-uh
  • Technician: Please, flatten your feet.
  • Me: uh-uh
  • Technician: You have to flatten your feet.
  • Me: Not happening.

I was quite sure that if I flattened my feet, my boob would surely slice right off and be left pressed there on the platform like a Panini sandwich.  We had to compromise – I would flatten my feet if she would lower the torture device! All I could think is, women of today come in all shapes and sizes and I know every mammogram victim is not 5’5” tall!

We worked through it and I continued to chatter away nervously as she proceeded with the brutality as quickly as she could. When we had to switch the torture to my other breast, that’s when the joking subsided and the painful moaning and whimpering began. It was the sore breast… my reason for being there in the first place. You see, I am not of the age yet in which I would normally have to endure this insane female requirement of health consciousness. I unfortunately though have a very painful lump that once my doctor felt, I was immediately rushed to imaging with orders to have an ultrasound and mammogram. My doctor’s urgency certainly scared me and sent my mind into a worried tailspin. I just kept assuring and reminding myself that my doc is proactive and takes all precautions to find answers – which I greatly appreciate.

So jump back to my punishment in the torture chamber … when my sore breast was laid into that devilish device, I honestly questioned whether or not they were trying to pop the tumor, lump or whatever it was right out of my body! The pain clouded my mind as I stood there like a pitiful puppet placed in an inhuman position. I had visions of tumors shooting out of my boob like bullets blasting out, bouncing off the walls and blowing the torture machine to smithereens. I think the visions of destroying the boob brutality device was the only thing that got me through it.

I walked away from that experience in silent awe at the reality of what a mammogram entails. I was then directly guided into the ultrasound room in which the little knob like thing was repeatedly moved over the sore area of my breast. I thought I was going to get a Charlie horse in my calves, I was tensing up my muscles so much!  I have a high tolerance for pain, but this was pushing it.  Eventually the technician, with a confused look on her face, said she was going to go get the doctor.  Great.  So I’m lying there with goop on my breast, which is literally numb from all the brutality, left to wonder what in the world is wrong with me.  Finally a joyful doctor walks into the room and declares, “You, my dear, are just fine and I don’t want to see you again until you’re 40!”  I was speechless at first, believe it or not!  When I was finally able to form words, all I could say was … “Then what is wrong with me!?!?!?”

In Ultrasound Room Impatiently Waiting on the Diagnosis

It was explained to me that I simply have a cluster of fatty breast tissue that can be a normal occurrence due to a spike in hormone changes due to stress or too much caffeine. Hmmmm…. Well, the stress portion of my life is inevitable and has certainly spiked lately. Not much I can do about that, but hold my head high and attempt to survive as best as I can with the enormous stress in my complicated life.  I don’t have much caffeine daily as it is.  Naturally, I’m drinking a cup of coffee as I write this.  But I promise it will be my only cup today!  The doc had no meds to offer up, the only way to attempt to heal my clustered painful little boob is to cut back on stress and caffeine and hope that it’ll go away!  Go figure.

I can now officially say that I have survived a mammogram and though some women may not agree, I do indeed consider it total boobie brutality!

Do any of you have any Mammogram stories to share? Please…do tell! Let’s bond over boob talk shall we? 😉

8 thoughts on “Mammogram Madness

  1. Hello, my dear…
    I had to go in for my first mammogram and ultrasound a few months ago. Same reason, same result. Honestly? I don’t get it. Or didn’t get it. The pain, that is. Granted, the positioning is awkward. And Lord knows I am shorter than you. But I just didn’t feel any pain. I still laughed and made (often inappropriate) comments and chatter the entire time, but that’s just me. Sorry your experience was so miserable. Look at the bright side: you probably have very sensitive boobies, which can be a big positive in a very different situation. 😉

  2. It is so funny how many times you used the word “flat.” After having so many over the past 10 years, I can honestly say that word is a perfect description! The feeling of humility and uneasiness will pass, rest assued. A few years ago, the overwhelming dread of having to willingly put myself through such torture almost kept me from going. Then, for some reason, while lying in bed trying to come up with a really good stall tactic, I suddenly realized something. I should be grateful that I still have the necessary equipment to complete the task at hand……That thought was very humbling. Now, while I do agree – Dread is my only emotion for about 24-48 hours before, I think of it as a necessary evil. Kind of like that yearly GYN visit, just not as intrusive! Oh yes…and a little something else for the 2 MEN inventors…..what goes around comes around :).

  3. Thankfully, my mammograms have been relatively painless. However, I can totally relate to being too short for that machine! You should try being 5 feet tall and getting your boob up on that little shelf! I’m glad you received good news. Take care of yourself…and, remember, you don’t have to go back until you’re 40!!!!!

  4. I only wish 40 was farther away! 😉
    And yes, tho I despise the torture device, I’m thankful it was able to do it’s job, take my pix and allow me the privilege of finding out what is going on inside my priceless body. Heaven forbid being health conscious ever be pleasant, but at least medical advances these days allow us the chance to stay on top of our ailments!

  5. I’m so glad that 40 is still a few years off for me – yet. Of course, who knows what will happen between now and then, but the thought of trying to wrangle all of this out of my 5′ 2″ frame, always makes me want to cringe, combined with the “squishing” of my already chopped down boobs that are more sensitive now than 12 years ago when I underwent a reduction, it truly seems like torture. Maybe it will make it easier to endure! Thanks for sharing Shannon – maybe I should share my colonoscopy story from a few years back . . . or maybe not.

    • Oh Crissie! The mammogram was dreadful enough but I am certainly NOT ready for the whole colonoscopy thing!! They will have to just completely knock me out for that one!! 😉

      • Surprisingly, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be or as bad as a lot of people made it seem. The prep work, which is supposedly the worst part anyway, really wasn’t horrible.

  6. It can be scary. They say “don’t move and don’t breathe.” You just hope if the building catches on fire, someone will come and let you loose.

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