Looking around the waiting room, the faces are strained and fearful. Most will not meet your gaze. They are lost in their own world of thoughts and concerns about today’s outcome.
A woman in her 50’s walks to the counter to ask a question. Her hair is very short. It is not a hairstyle you usually see on a woman of her age. It’s painfully obvious that she has gone through chemo therapy and her hair is just starting to grow back.
Another woman, youngish, is looking around nervously. She can’t be any more than 30 years old. Perhaps this is her first time here; perhaps she is following up on some previous gloomy diagnosis.
I think about how I should never have started smoking again. What about the hormone therapy I’m on? I hear that may cause problems.
Each face has a different thought process going on, but we are all here for the same reason.
My name is called and I follow a cheerful woman that shows me where the changing rooms are. She hands me what looks like a short hospital gown and instructs me to undress from the waist up then have a seat in yet another waiting room.
About half way through a 2 year old copy of Better Homes & Garden, a tiny, beautiful woman calls me into another room. I step in and I see it. The Boob Vise.
The indignity of it all.
The tiny, pretty woman introduces herself as Susan and makes sure I am who I say I am. I am then instructed to untie the front of my gown.
This will be my 3rd visit because of “the spot”. One was a mammogram, followed by an ultra sound and now 6 months later another mammogram.
The doctor wanted to know if the spot had changed or grown in any way. I did too.
Susan has me stand right in front of the Boob Vise as she adjusts the height of the shelf in front of me where my left boob will soon rest. She does this with a foot pedal that controls the movements of the Boob Vise. She gently but firmly lifts my boob up and places it on the shelf. Flattening out my boob as much as she can with her hand, she then lowers a clear plastic plate on to the top of my boob. The plastic plate is the top of the vise. Her hand slides out of the way as the shelf comes down. She pushes my shoulders forward and turns my hips to position my body more the way she wants it to be.
I look like I am in love and giving the Boob Vise a really big hug.
Susan lowers the plate a little more with the foot pedal. Just when I thought she was done and I could be no more uncomfortable, Susan turns a knob with her hand to more precisely lower that top plate. I am being squeezed! I look down at my poor boob and I don’t even recognize it! It looks like a pale pink pancake! I finally let out a bit of a cry. I just didn’t think I could take any more. With one more tiny tweak, Susan finally backs away from the vise.
I am now up on tip toes hugging this stupid vise, with my boob stuck between two plates. Susan now tells me to lean my head back. Oh, now that’s comfortable! 😦
Susan walks over and steps behind a small wall. She says “ok, hold your breath”. Really?! Crap!
On tip toe, hugging this machine that has my left boob squeezed flat as road kill, my head leaned back at an odd angle and now holding my breath! Oh yeah, piece of cake!
There was screen in front of me, where I could see the images that Susan was taking of my boob. There was the spot. I think to myself, “Wow, I don’t remember it being that easy to spot before. Does that mean it’s grown?”
Finally she says “ok, breathe” and the evil machine releases its death grip from my boob.
I let out my breath and stepped back from the vile machine.
I thought we were done with that boob, half way through the procedure, when I realized Susan needed a sideways view as well. Susan turned the Boob Vise and then went through the process of positioning me where she needed me to be.
I looked down at my already abused booby, instead of it looking like a pink pancake, it now looked very tall and thin! It really didn’t look like a boob at all. A couple more tweaks from Susan, my pretty, but brutal technician, and a little squeak from me and she steps away.
Back on my tip toes, holding my breath, my head thrown back, Susan takes a couple more pictures. I look at the screen and there’s a sideways view of that spot, just clear as day.
The whole degrading, uncomfortable, painful, process is repeated on the right boob.
I finally step away from the Boob Vise.
I’m allowed to close my gown as Susan takes my images to the Doctor for review.
I sit on the edge of a chair in the exam room waiting. I guess they don’t want you out in the waiting area in case they have to give you bad news.
It’s been 6 months of waiting. A few more minutes won’t kill me.
After what seems like forever, Susan opens the door with a piece of paper in her hand. She tells me the doctor says everything looks fine, but he wants to keep an eye on that spot and wants me back in six months.
I breathe a sigh of relief. I didn’t realize how tense I was until that moment. It was like someone letting the air out of a balloon. The pressure was gone!
I dressed quickly and left the office. I couldn’t wait to get outside.
Just as I pushed the glass door open that lead from the main waiting area, I looked back at those other women’s faces. How many would get good news today? How many would get devastating news?
Out in the sunshine I paused. I looked up at the beautiful blue sky and took a deep breath. I said a quick silent prayer of thanks. A smile crossed my face and I headed for my car.