I’m standing in a room chatting to two other women. We’re talking about the weather and shopping and body shapes. Nothing out of the ordinary with that for a Tuesday morning., except that I’m standing there with my gear off – well the top gear at least…
There’s many secret womens businesses that we are initiated into; getting your period, getting pregnant, having a baby, losing a baby, being a soccer mum or heaven forbid, a dance mom and today I entered another one – having my first mammogram.
There’s two women because one is training, let’s call her Kim. The instructor (she can be Kath) says “this one will be trickier cos she has tiny boobs”. There’s no offence taken because there’s none intended. It’s a fact and the size of my boobs impacts where I need to stand and what plates are put on the mammogram machine. It’s one of those fancy 3D ones which takes 15 shots per second then assembles them into pictures, each one representing a slice of my boobs, like a loaf of sliced bread Kath says.
To take these pictures I need to get my gear off and the mammographer needs to grab my boobs and put them one by one in the right place. This involves lots of adjusting and moving and squishing, from the front, the side and the back. Like childbirth, this is no time to be prudish. All bets are off when you’re the one standing there without a shirt. But it’s not uncomfortable. It’s kind of like, well now they’ve seen me with my gear off, Kath and Kim are practically my new best friends.
Remember back in the throes of youth you’d go out drinking with someone and next day they would be your new best friend because all those drunken stories and confidences you shared. (Not your BFF because we didn’t need acronyms for our friends in the 90s). Part of the luxury of getting older is that you sometimes get a little wiser. Now I know that to find friends, there’s no need to spend all that money on alcohol and suffer the ensuring hangover, you just need to get your gear out in the mammogram room. Cheaper, less pain, same result.
Anyway because these two women are now my best friends and I can say anything casually standing there with Kim doing her best to squish my boob under the plate and Kath giving the small boob instructions, I ask them about all the body shapes they must see in this room and all the varying levels of women’s discomfort. I mean I didn’t think twice about getting my top off and getting on with the job but there must be women who are embarrassed, I say.
And then Kath says the most amazing thing “I tell women there is no need for apologies in this room” .
How awesome is that?! Because as women, our default setting is to apologise;
“I’m sorry my big boobs are in the way”
“I’m sorry my arm can’t stretch where you want it to”
“I’m sorry I can’t flatten my cheek any more against that plastic cover”
So many body shapes, so many different sizes and ages and ranges of flexibility. We’re women, we’re different, we’re not one size fits all. Kath tells them ALL not to apologise. I love that.
Even better is that she’s not all talk. Once she had a patient who, standing there a bit self conscious in her nakedness, told Kath her shirt was inside out. Kath smiled and said well if you’re naked, I may as well be too and whipped her shirt off, braless boobs and all, and casually put it the right way round while she chatted. Women, hey. Don’t you love ’em?
I reluctantly say goodbye to my new besties and make my way to Phase 2 – the ultrasound.
By this stage I’m demurely covered with a gown and the ultrasonographer discreetly walks out of the room while I arrange myself on the bed. The irony of course that I am arranging myself with my boobs out so he can coat them with gel and get a good look at them!
Again instead of embarrassment there’s casual chatting – school and hockey and nightclubs (that would be the young ultrasound guy, not me !). Back to the job at hand he tells me that my boobs are very dense and asks me if that makes them difficult to check. Hmmmm, I don’t know these are the only two boobs I ever feel I tell him.
Two boobs that are given the all clear and haven’t been split open like a grape (a small grape) by the mammogram machine.
You have to be in the club to know.