What’s On Your Plate? –
Now do I have everyone’s attention? I went for my annual breast squashing test the other day. While I was standing in front of the machine, leaning back just enough to keep my head out the way, forward enough to get the little bumps on the plate, resting my arm in just the right position and holding my breath as the toaster flattened out my already mostly flat chest, I quietly fumed to myself. I am sure the machine comes from the dark ages.
That was just for the men who read my blogs. I urge you to accompany your wives, girlfriends, mothers and sisters (ok that may be a bit weird) and check out this contraption. Remind them to go get checked out. Early detection can make all the difference. I myself have been going for a mammogram every year since I was about thirty-two. (Before I get anyone up in arms… I know, I know… thirty-two is below the recommended age. Yearly is not necessary. But I have lumpy little tikes that are prone to cysts.) The machine has barely changed in the twenty years since I started going. Okay, the top piece is now plastic instead of the cold metal it used to be. These days the machine has sexy contours and a smaller waistline. When the top plastic slab compresses your breasts as it inches closer and closer towards the bottom metal platform, the “tick, tick, tick” sound it makes, is softer than the grating sound it used to. But it’s the same friggin’ machine!
A Radiologist I once visited blamed it on men. “If they had to check their balls by crushing them, I am sure there would be a better machine by now,” she said as she pressed her torture machine down on me. Now this may be true, but I’m not actually on her side. See, I’m not waiting for a man to improve my boob checking apparatus. There are lots of women engineers and doctors and technology freaks building all kinds of robotics and AI systems. Where the hell are all you brilliant women? What, is the challenge just not sexy enough?
I realise it’s not the “in thing”. It is never the in thing. When people are collating their career interests, they have no idea how painful and humiliating it is to have their breast pulled out and shoved down and poked and prodded just before they get thinned out by the Flattenator. By the time a woman goes for her first mammogram, her career is usually in full force and she’s not about to switch focus from solving world hunger to re-designing the giant toaster. No. Unfortunately, the way up and forward is in telecoms and space and battery cars.
Men are you still with me?
But as I was contorting my body and trying not to crumple, I knew I would be back again in a year. Exasperated but still puffing up my chest, hoping that my breasts don’t pop under the pressure. Then off I will trundle for phase two – the ultrasound. A far easier and more pleasant experience. There I can lie down in a dimly lit room with soothing cold gel on my chest as my breasts start to take back their original shape. That is when I usually notice the nervous little tick in my foot as I watch the greyscale images of my soul. Well, maybe not quite as far as my soul. As a mostly-friendly person goes over the bumps and blips and dark spots, I try to remember: is that patch bigger? Deeper? Darker than before. My heart rate goes a little faster each time a new round dark cyst is found. “Is that too big? Will I have to aspirate it? Can I leave it and see if it goes away again like the other times?” I always ask. And then it is done. “All clear. Nothing to be afraid of this time. See you again next year,” the technician always says. I know that the year will go by way to fast and before I know it, I will be in a face-off with that brutal tormentor again. Cursing like a sailor girl.