Women in life seem to have far more visits to the Dr and hospital for health checks than men, in fact many men rarely go to the Dr at all! Whether it’s gynaecological problems, pregnancy check ups, giving birth, smear tests or once your body reaches middle age, mammograms.
I’ve sadly, reached the mammogram age!
Women’s numerous check ups are necessary, but as far as I’m concerned, hell with a capital H.
Most women have body hang ups. I have several. As I get older these hang ups increase, my once size 10 stomach was fine, my size 16 working towards 18, is not! With body hang ups comes a huge desire to stay covered up and display a little dignity. WIth women’s health checks, there is NO chance. I close my eyes, grit my teeth, think of England and wait for what seems like an eternity for the medical profession to check me over and do whatever is necessary!
In half term I was asked to go for a three yearly check up mammogram in a mobile unit in the local Tesco car park. HIgh Class indeed. The NHS is a wonderful healthcare system, but driving round a gigantic car park in search of a NHS truck was a surreal experience for a mammogram mobile newbie.
My first mammogram came about because I had been to the Dr with chest pain. I suffer from a bad back, but couldn’t tell if the pain I was getting was related or not. I couldn’t feel any lumps and neither could the doctor, but because I was close to ‘mammogram age’ she referred me as a precaution.
I went to the hospital alone, believing I would be sent my results in the post.
I had the mammogram which involved a machine squashing each of my small bossoms tight, very tight, not breathing or moving and a picture being taken. Another of each was taken of the side view with my arm up and holding on to a bar. It was painful, but when finished I was so relieved. The radiographer asked me to put on my clothes and disappeared into the connecting room.
Two of them returned. Their faces said it all. They apologised and asked me to take my clothes off again and lie on the hospital bed. The pit in my stomach sank. They would surely only do that if they were worried and had seen something? Cancer.
I lay down and the doctor prodded me and from what I recall, (My ageing brain is hazy and lacks memory skills!) some gel was put on and an ultrasound machine put over. I was by this time convinced I had Cancer and felt sick. The doctor then inserted a needle into my boob and said to her colleague “ah yes, it’s a cyst.” She smiled. I didn’t. The sickness started to subside, but the shock and shakiness persisted. I was okay, but my head and body had been messed with.
As I drove home my boob felt very uncomfortable. I struggled to move my arm on that side and after a few days was in excruciating pain. I went to the Dr who diagnosed mastitis, an infection where the needle had been inserted. It wasn’t what I anticipated from a medical check up. I couldn’t wear a proper bra for days, was in agony and ended up on medication. I was grateful it wasn’t anything too serious, but the experience was unpleasant and left me shaken.
When the recent letter arrived in the post telling me my three yearly check up was due, my tummy sank again. I am older, heavier, my hormones all over the place. The test was obviously necessary, but because of what happened previously, I was anxious.
Having found the mobile unit, I entered and was met by two nurses. They asked if I’d had any issues, so I mentioned my previous experience.
I was taken into the scanning room. I don’t know if memory is letting me down, it often does, but as it squashed my bosom tight, the pain seemed much worse than I remembered. I squeezed my eyes shut, took a deep breath and didn’t move. I opened my eyes, caught the bright light and suddenly felt shaky, as if I was going to faint.
I’m not sure if it was nerves, my labrynthitus or the shock of the pain, but the nurse had to sit me down and called for a glass of water. I was a bit upset. I put my head between my legs, drank the water and waited until I felt better. The scan was finished off, but now with both nurses in the room.
The one who had originally been outside looked at the scan and said “These are good pictures.” My head thought ‘ Why is she saying that?
When it was over, I was relieved, but before I could put my clothes on, the nurse suddenly asked me to stand in front of her with my arms stretched out wide. She then asked me to put my hands out in front as she stood looking at my chest.
That was it, the sick feelings returned. She must have seen something. Why else would she ask me to do that? They asked me for my best contact number, said I would find out the results within two weeks and told me not to drive home until I felt safe. They suggested I had a cup of tea before leaving at the next door Tesco. I left the mobile unit feeling a nervous wreck, yet again convinced I had cancer.
I sat on a bench and phoned my husband who told me not to panic which of course I was already doing. He has a sensible head on him and said if something nasty was picked up, be thankful that we live in an age where checks up are done and symptoms picked up, can be treated. So sensible, but not me.
I then phoned my friend who I was having lunch with, to explain what had happened.
Bless her, she got her husband to drive her to Tesco where she met me in the cafe and we waited until I felt ok for us to drive back together to her house.
I talked to several local people who had mammograms and none had been asked to put their arms out, I was convinced it was for a reason.
Each day when my mobile phone rang I panicked, thinking it would be someone telling me the news I was dreading, but expecting.
As the week went on I started to ease a little. Surely, if they saw something bad, they would contact me quickly and they hadn’t yet?
A week later it was Sports Day and as I sat with colleagues chatting, my mobile phone went. It was my husband. ” I’m very sorry I accidentally opened your post, but thought you’d be pleased to know the mammogram was normal .” I was elated.! What relief I felt and such happiness at hearing news I wasn’t expecting. I had spent a whole week expecting the worse and living on my nerves.
If you, like me, are of a nervous disposition, try not to panic when check ups don’t quite go to plan!
I thought I’d share my experiences to reassure women, it is not always the news you expect. I’m sure however, when I get my next mammogram request in three years time I will still be as apprehensive, but it won’t stop me from going!
It’s the down side of getting older, being a worrier and reaching the mammogram age.
Honestly Fiona xxx