Mammograms and Crocuses and My Ability To Misunderstand Basic Instructions

In what must be a new record for me, on Saturday Jake and I cleaned up the two warmest gardens in our yard. It’s so early! Most years everything is still frozen and snow-covered at this time of the year; believe me, I’m not saying that cannot still happen, but at the moment there is no snow in my yard. Not even in the very coldest area of the yard. NO SNOW. In fact, yesterday I noticed that in the very warmest part of the yard, the crocuses Mark and I planted last fall are poking their little green shoots through.

Small side note: the aforementioned garden cleanup – consisting of cutting back dead foliage, most notably from the gigantic Siberian iris, the clematis, and the enormous ornamental sage – has never taken me less than two hours to accomplish. With Jake’s help, it was finished in 45 minutes. I am enjoying my competent and still-wanting-to-be-helpful preteen!

I’m telling you, this gorgeous weather has real mood-elevating qualities. It’s been a crazy long week – and it’s only Wednesday – and yet I feel like everything is rosy and wonderful. I am mere steps away from singing and soft-shoeing down the street like my life is an old-timey musical.

I had a mammogram on Monday; all is well, not to worry. This is my third – I get them annually ever since I found a lump when I was 38. Apparently, I just have really lumpy breasts, and the annual mammograms establish a baseline for this. I was pretty much a mess during my first mammogram, as you can imagine; basically I spent the entire test and follow-up breast ultrasound mentally choosing a wig, and wondering where one actually purchases wigs, and what I would look like in a wig. I think I obsessed about wigs so as to not think about what it would be like for my children growing up without me.

I had to do some deep breathing just typing that.

Anyway, as I said, all is FINE. Have you ever had a mammogram? Honestly, my first I had no idea what to expect, except that people had said it was very painful and uncomfortable. Truthfully, I do not find it to be particularly painful, although I suppose that varies from person to person, depending on what kind of lumps or breasts you have.

The one thing I wondered about was that, when you book the appointment, you are told to not wear any deodorant. I wondered for a long time why: was there something in the deodorant that reacted badly with the mammography machine and the results? Was it something with the aluminum in most deodorants? If I wore a natural deodorant would it make a difference? After all that wondering I finally asked, and the answer was much more practical than I had anticipated: when getting the test your armpit rests on the corner of the machine, and deodorant makes it too slippery to hold still long enough. This is also why they tell you not to use any body lotion; so that your breast won’t slip right out of the machine, which would be awkward and pretty difficult to get a good result.

I don’t need any help on the awkward front. The technician led me to the little change room and handed me a medical gown, and I SWEAR I thought she said it ties at the back. I put it on and it seemed weirdly difficult to tie; I wondered how less flexible patients even managed to do them up. Also the collar seemed weirdly snug, but at no point did I think that I had it on the wrong way.


I feel sure I don’t need to tell the punchline to this story, which is that when the technician brought me into the exam room, she looked at me quizzically and said, “You know, I think most women find it more comfortable to tie those gowns in the front.” WELL NOW THAT SEEMS OBVIOUS. Of course, it was a bit moot by that point since I had to immediately disrobe anyway.

Other than (kind of unnecessarily) pointing out the obvious, the technician was nice but I missed the young girl I had last time, whose perky and vivacious demeanour reminded me so much of a 1980s aerobics instructor. “Okay, now we need to lift the breast in. Lift! Lift, and stay, stay, okay! Great job! Now the other breast. Lift! Little lift. Just a little more lift and…STAY. YES. Perfect! Great! Okay, moving on!” I half expected her to break out the Olivia Newton John CD and tell me to Get Physical.


  1. We’re having a warm week here, too, and some people’s daffodils are in bloom, though not mine. The only lingering evidence of winter weather are the big, dirty, icy pyramids that are still in some parking lots (and have been since January). I monitor the shrinkage of the two closest to my house every time I pass them and I have been known to break off chunks as I walk by to help that process along.

  2. bibliomama2 says

    We’re still snow-encrusted and sloppy, although a little warmer now. I’m happy for you – I know how you hate the cold. I also haven’t shoveled the driveway once this year, thanks to MY capable, willing-to-help teenager, which is nice. I’m trying to look forward to my sunny vacation rather than stressing about packing. And I never know where to tie those freaking gowns.

  3. When I get called for one – something to help celebrate being half a centuary, I won’t be asked to lift, I’ll be having to hoist, possibly with mechanical assistance. Still, it’ll be nice to be braless to let my knees breathe for a while.

  4. Linda Sullivan says

    Can you imagine men undergoing a Peno-gram? No??

Leave a Reply