Like all health conscious women over forty, I go for a bi-annual mammogram. I went for one today. And, as if I was meeting my lover, I showered beforehand, blow-dried my hair, put on lipstick.
Most women I know have a love/hate relationship with their breasts. Either too big or too small. Functional. Nurturing. Appendages that get in the way or don’t get in the way. Sexy. Flattering. Curvy. Attractive. Enhanced. Reduced. Push-up bras. Underwire bras. Low cut tops. Wrap over tops. Cover ups. Bikinis at the beach or full costumes, or no beach. Some women are proud of their breasts, some women aren’t.
You become aware of them as soon as they start growing. And while they are part of you like a leg or a foot or your liver, you probably spend more time thinking about them than any other part of your body – well, except maybe your hair or your face.
They are imbued with cultural taboos, fantasies and fashionable ideals. In modern western culture they have become visible to everyone, less of a cultural mystery.
My breasts are too big. I think so anyway. And yet for a very long time I thought they were my best feature. Until I got into my forties and gravity started to take a toll. Now they get minimised in an underwire bra with functional straps. Not very sexy is it?
But then neither is having a mammogram. Each breast gets two opportunities to be women-handled and squashed into unnatural shapes. Yes, it is uncomfortable. And yes, it hurts.
I am sure that the mammogram machine was created by a man, someone who has never had to put their breasts between those two plates and feel them being ‘minimised’ in a whole different way.
Why can’t the machine be like a cup that gently holds the breast? Why do we not have the technology to probe breast tissue in this way? Technology that can see through the layers and examine the breast tissue gently from all angles.
And then you wait in your cubicle in the dark beige gown open at the front, wait for someone to tell you if you can go. Or not go, as it was in my case. ‘Doctor would like you to have an ultrasound’
And then you lie on your back, have gel smeared over your breasts while a doctor traces an ultrasound wand over your breast tissue. No, it’s not sexy, nor is it funny. It just is.
No there was nothing wrong. The mammogram just looked a little different from the previous one and they wanted to check it out.
So I can tick that off my list, put it into the completed file until 2012.
October is Breast Cancer awareness month.
What are you doing to ensure your continued health?