If they were giving out prizes for the most inappropriately dressed person at a mammogram appointment I’d win hands down. I did give my clothing some thought in the morning, quite a lot of thought actually, just reached the wrong conclusions. I only ever wear dresses, or tunics with leggings, the thought of stripping to the waist and standing in my leggings was a frightful image. I don’t wear skirts either, I had donated all my skirts to the charity shop when I moved house, the lack of hanging space precluded me from keeping them just so that I could admire their beauty from time to time. They’re bound to put me in a gown I decided, and wore a dress.
On arriving at the hospital car park, where the van awaited my arrival (Yeah I know, a Van in a car park. If my appointment letter hadn’t included my NHS number I might have thought it all a little bit fishy) I spotted the fire escape style stairs leading up to the entrance. Today I was wearing my 3 inch heeled ankle boots that I wear very little as I can only manage the short walk from the house to the car and from the car to the pub. If I wasn’t nervous enough the thought of ascending those stairs could quite possibly have made me let out a little bit of wee (if I hadn’t already been to the loo twenty times before I left home). I hobbled up the stairs, I felt like I was boarding a plane, waved back at my lift and said all that was missing was a pair of oversized Jackie Onassis style sunglasses.
On entering I was greeted by one smiley face, the receptionist, and three terrified looking faces. Apparently we all were first timers. I was asked to go into a cubicle and remove my bra and replace my top.
“Oh, I can’t do that, I’m wearing a dress made of very thin material and no-one wants to see the outline of my boobs hanging down to my knees”, I responded.
Everyone laughed (nervously/hysterically/politely?) I worked out that I could do that if I just popped my jacket on after to protect my modesty. By the time I wrestled my large padded bra into my tiny, but very pretty, handbag there was only one lady waiting to go in. We had a natter, both first timers, check, both nervous, check, both women who have to endure all this horrid poking about at various points in our lives, check. The other lady went in and I was left alone adjusting my jacket to cover my scared boobs, the jacket wouldn’t meet without a bra on, not a good look. Two other ladies entered and before you could say Bob’s Your Uncle ‘my’ lady came out. We all eagerly searched her face for clues, asked her how it was….no reply…. I then said, “Isn’t this the point you’re supposed to let us know it’s not really that bad?”. Nothing. Nadda. Nowt.
I will now quote, word for word, what I said on entering the room:
“It says outside to mention if you have any shoulder problems. I have shoulder problems”. I was asked to do a little pose that meant all was good and we could go ahead.
“Right, er, OK then. Er, look. Er. I haven’t shaved under my arms. I did think about it, but, you know, it’s Autumn and I quite like the extra warmth under there. And. Oh God. I’m wearing tights and no knickers! This dress is quite thin and I didn’t want any visible panty lines clutching at rolls of fat. I know, I really didn’t think this whole appointment through”.
When the mammographer stopped laughing I removed my dress and had to stand there in 3 inch high ankle boots, tights with no knickers and nothing else. I share this embarrassment with you as you need to know, that no matter how ridiculous you might feel you’ll never, ever feel as ridiculous as I did. There were four images taken. When the machine came down for the first one I thought that my boobs would be squished so hard that my nipples would explode like over ripe zits. But no, it wasn’t like that at all. When the first image had been taken I asked if that was it. A few yoga poses later and it was all over. Nothing like I expected, hardly any discomfort and certainly no pain. I joyously shared this information with the other ladies outside, their faces softened and smiles filled the room (as well as lots of laughter, because I told a good tale). I left feeling I should be employed by the NHS as a warm up artist.
Ladies, don’t let the fear of the unknown, or concerns about what feel like embarrassing and intrusive procedures ever stop you from having the checks that could potentially save your lives. They say that to overcome nerves in an interview you should picture the interviewer/s naked…when you attend your first mammogram remember my story, and how I made a complete tit (no pun intended) of myself.