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When Your Mammogram Isn’t So [Squishy] Funny

I looked around the waiting room, letting the sights, sounds and my reality sink in. Women well over 70-years old bustling around in the same pink robe as me – some waiting for their turn, others finishing their mammograms. I am well aware I am nearing the age of mammograms, but the reality of ‘why’ I was there hit me like a ton of bricks.

“Dempsey!” 

I jumped as I heard my name called by a woman in scrubs. She spoke firmly and routinely, like someone who squishes boobs all day every day.

“Here we go,” I thought in my head.

I entered the room following behind the mammography professional. And like a good girl, I weakly smiled and attempted to make pleasantries with this stranger who was about to maneuver my breasts like silly putty on a machine. But there was nothing silly or funny about this. As I entered the sterile room and saw the huge machine, my heart sank and shattered at the same time, echoing thoughts of pity and why me…

I placed my coffee and purse down and prepared myself for whatever was to come. The kind technician explained the process – holding breaths, the inevitable ‘pinch’ and ‘squish’. I couldn’t help but think that if I was going for a routine mammogram how I would giggle and make small talk, but there was no laughter, no small talk. I felt weak and sick to my stomach.

My eyes welled with tears as she lifted and molded my breast to the perfect position for each image image. She not only lifted my breasts as if they were pancakes, but moved my entire body. ‘Butt out here, lean over here, arms up, arms down’

Once again, my body felt like anything but mine. I choked back tears, picture after picture. Squish after squish. Waiting for it to be over.

She kept asking, “You okay, honey?” I would muster a smile and nod, not disclosing the deep rooted history that goes far beyond a simple mammogram.

For 15-years, my eating disorder robbed me of what it felt like to be one in my body. My body was just that – a body, a foreign object to be molded and shrank down to find worth. I worked hard in recovery to reconnect and reclaim my body, feeling in my bones a love and respect that was my earthly home.

When I ruptured at 25-weeks with Marjorie, my body was ripped away from me in an instant. From the initial small-town doctor who roughly examined me to feeling like my body was a ticking time bomb with my precious daughter inside, I felt foreign in my own body. Then at her birth, my body suddenly felt like a mangled car being ripped open with the jaws of life to get the precious human out. My body was not mine.

Years and a lot of therapy later, I have reclaimed my body. From its physical deformations to my souls’ internal scars, my body was once again mine – until last week’s mammogram.

As I changed out of the signature pink gown, I left the mammogram feeling weak and shaken. I wanted to run, hide and cry in a corner. I wanted to disappear. But there was another appointment – my thyroid screening.

My CHEK2 mutation puts me at a greater risk for thyroid cancer, as well as uterine and others. I went to the imaging center and once again waited my turn. And once again, I was surrounded with older patients. The ultrasound technician was flabbergasted when she called my name. Not understanding why such a young person was having a screening. Insert me explaining [again] my ugly reality.

Much to my surprise, the thyroid screening was actually pleasant. Maybe it was because I got to lay comfortably on a table in a dark room. Yes, I was having an ultrasound with all the goo on my neck, but I simply pretended I was having a spa day in my head.

I await results for my mammogram and the thyroid is a simple baseline for screenings to come. I am not nervous for my results. Maybe I should be, but I’m not focusing my energy there. The past week I have focused my energy on reclaiming my body. Reminding myself that my body is STILL MINE. And this is step one in my journey to prophylactic double mastectomy. My journey to beating cancer to the punch. 

I find comfort in a hell of a lot of laughter (thanks to my better half and husband), the best family and the most incredible groups of friends who keep me afloat – literally. Even when your best friend hustles you to buy raffle tickets for her town’s breast cancer fundraiser – and you both giggle at the irony.

It was another week of ups and downs, but once again I am finding my footing and looking for the light – because it is always there. Hope, gratitude and light. It is always there. I’m just in a season of life where I have to look a little harder for it. None of this is fun, but I have a hell of a lot of fun people around me, reminding me how loved I am. I am the most unlucky, lucky girl around.

Stay tuned…Next up on the road to McCall’s Bye Bye Boobies Journey: a recount of my plastic surgery consult.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Brynna S
    August 29, 2020 at 11:15 pm

    I’ve been getting mammograms and breast mri’s every 6 months since i was 29 years old due to high-risk status. It always feels so surreal and weird to be surrounded by women older than you – especially because, as you put it, we aren’t simply there for a simple screening appointment. The results have much greater weight when you have high-risk status. Thanks for your thoughts on the process and relating it to recovery from the eating disorder. That helped.

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