Candy Grams and Mammograms

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There comes a time in a middle-aged woman’s life when she must bear her breasts to a stranger for smooshing and radiating in the name of health.  I mean, she doesn’t have to have to, but most of us do because it is Standard Operating Procedure for detecting breast cancer.  According to the CDC[1], breast cancer is the #1 diagnosed form of cancer in women, and the 2nd most likely cancer to kill us, the 1st being our kids getting a driver’s license and not calling us when they get where they’re going.  Just kidding, not that any of this is a joke: it’s lung cancer.

It was my turn this morning to be mammogrammed.  Every time I hear the word mammogram, either in my head or out loud, I think of the old school Saturday Night Live sketch that goes, “Candy Gram….Landshark.”  Which is only funny if you remember it.  So I progressively think in my head, “Candy Gram…Mammogram….Landshark.”[2]

It’s a weird thing.  We spend so much time being told that our mammories are off limits to all but our newborns and our husbands[3], yet we let these women with cold hands manipulate them into machines like they are hotel pillows into freshly starched cases.  It’s uncomfortable and awkward, but not awful, certainly not a hundredth as awful as breast cancer.

Like everything else, it’s something I overthink.  I can imagine thinking that being a mammogram x-ray tech would be a rewarding career choice.  It would be nice to have a job in breast cancer prevention and detection, a much more positive career choice than executioner or chicken de-gutter or lawyer.  I’m just trying to imagine the awkwardness of the training.  You’d have to learn how to feel comfortable (wo)manhandling the breasts of women you’ve never met before and jamming them into machinery.  There are different challenges for large and small breastesses, I’d imagine implants present their own challenges.  Particularly shy or modest women would need particularly gentle handling.  Women without the flexibility to contort into the machine would be another issue.

During training, do you practice on dummies?  How realistic are the dummies?  Do you practice on each other?  I’ve never run across a male mammogram tech, but surely they aren’t prevented from being in the class.  How does that work?  For that matter, male breast cancer is a thing – do men ever get mammograms?  How must it feel the first time you have to grab on to a stranger’s boob to put it into the machine?  Do they let you take a drink first?  Do they let you take a drink afterwards?

I get that they give you a bathrobe to wear so you don’t walk around the building topless, but I think it is kind of cute that when they are pulling your nipple like taffy to get it to lie properly in the machine they tell you to keep one arm in the bathrobe so the non-mauled breast is covered in a false show of modesty.  Who are we kidding?  Any pretense that you can maintain any kind of dignity or modesty while having your breast laid flat and on display like a pie in a showcase is as ridiculous as the idea that I might one day land an Olympic gold medal in anything that requires athletic ability.

And who needs modesty in that situation anyway?  There is nothing usefully modest anyway about breast cancer.  My friends who have died would surely have paraded naked around the town square in order to live.  No woman should be forced into a façade of dignity when staring at death.  I’m not downplaying the efforts at breast cancer awareness, but being aware of the existence of breast cancer isn’t really enough if we aren’t checking to see if it is lurking in our own breasts.

I love y’all.  I want to continue to laugh with you this year and the next and the next and the next.  We can’t do that unless we’re both here.  So I’ll wear a nubbly bathrobe hanging off of one shoulder and lay my tattelahs on a cold glass plate and have them squished and x-rayed and inspected by experts.  If I’m lucky, I’ll get an “inspected by number 12” sticker on ole lefty letting me know they’ve passed.  If not, I’ll deal with it, but I’ll know early so I’ll have a better chance.

Here’s hoping!

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/statistics/index.htm

[2] I tried to find this on YouTube and couldn’t, probably for copyright reasons.  If someone else could and put it in the comments, I’d be eternally grateful.

[3] Or wives.  This is 2019.

If you enjoyed this and want to read more like it, visit Lori at her website, www.loriduffwrites.com , on Twitter, or on Facebook. Lori is a National Society of Newspaper Columnists 2018 Columnist winner, and a New Apple, Readers’ Favorite, and eLit award winner for her latest release, “You Know I Love You Because You’re Still Alive.”  She is also the author of the bestselling books “Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza,” and “The Armadillo, the Pickaxe, and the Laundry Basket.

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