How To Survive Your Mammogram With A Little Help From Your Friends

Men think it is weird when women go to the ladies’ room in groups.

Men may think it is even weirder that I go with two friends each year to get our mammograms.

We call it the “MammoVan.”

Let me clarify — the three of us travel together in one car but we have separate mammograms in consecutive appointments.

Even the most advanced imaging machine can only accommodate two breasts at one time.

The three of us — Martha, Liz and I — are alums of the same college and ended up in the Washington, D.C. area. (All lawyers but not the boring kind.)

We became friends before our breasts did.

One of us has had breast cancer, another of us has the BRCA gene in her family and the third has healthy breasts – so far. And would like to keep it that way.

Fortunately another friend of ours, the rather brilliant, Dr. Helen, is an expert radiologist with her own practice devoted solely to breast imaging. Imagine a spa-like setting with plush robes, soothing music and soft colors on the walls together with cutting edge digital technology.

And all of Dr. Helen’s patients (not just her friends) hear the results directly from her the same day. No waiting a week to get a letter in the mail with scary words like “dense tissue” or “ductal.”

If you might be expecting bad news, what better way to take it in than with close friends?

This morning we set off for our annual visit in the MammoVan aka Martha’s car. Halfway there, while on a highway with trucks whizzing past us, we started to hear a clinking sound. Liz, a car expert, confidently announced that it was a loose tailpipe. The ridiculous potholes we have had this winter have done their damage.

But as the clinking sound morphed into a louder more clunk-a-clunk sound, Martha guessed correctly, the car had a flat tire.

We pulled over to the side of the highway.

(I was silently cheering. Surely it will take hours for the road service to come and install the spare tire. YAY, we will miss our mammogram appointments!)

No such luck.

While Martha called AAA, I noticed that we had pulled over on an overpass precisely between the National Security Agency (barbed wire all around) on side of the highway – and some kind of a penitentiary (more barbed wire) on the other.

Yup, we and our breasts were already stuck between two heavy and ominous places – and we hadn’t even made it to Dr. Helen’s office!

Sadly, the roadside assistance arrived promptly and quickly put on the spare tire. Liz impressed me by knowing the location of something called a lug nut. And when I called Dr. Helen’s office, her receptionist told me she would be able to squeeze us in (the squeezing thing!) even if we arrived late.

30 minutes later – for the benefit of any men still reading this, the following occurred:

1. I took off my bra and sweater, put on a fluffy blue robe and was escorted into a room with the Giant Machine.

2. I took off the fluffy blue robe.

3. While standing in front of the Giant Machine, an experienced technician with a very soothing voice guided me into proper placement upon a solid glass plate onto which my breasts, first the left, then the right, got squished between that same plate and a sledgehammer appearing device which came ever so slowly slamming down on the top.

4. “Hold your breath!”

5. The technician moves behind the screen, a few buttons are pushed. I breathe again. Unsquished.

6. Then, while staring at a lovely painting of calming flowers, I was repositioned to stand with my side to the Giant Machine. Again, the right, then the left, or maybe it was the other way around.

7. Squash! “Hold your breath!” Squeeze hard, more breath holding. Breathe,

8. Done.

It was so bad at all. I will take a mammogram over dental work anytime.

And then one by one, we take turns going into Dr. Helen’s office where each of us was told:

“Your images look fine, you are good to go until next year.”

Good news: our breasts are healthy as is our friendship.

If you don’t have a MammoVan in your life, may I suggest you promptly get one? And bring someone along who knows where the lug nut is kept.

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