A Mammogram and a MURDER!

June 7th, 2010

My first mammogram appointment took place at a clinic in Topeka.  As  I waited in the lobby for the nurse to call my name, I glanced over the various magazines.  Strangely, they were all sports magazines.   Sports Illustrated, Inside Sports, ESPN…. men don’t typically get mammograms do they?  Not that men are the only ones who read sports magazines, but the sheer amount of sport magazines on those tables seemed strangely out of whack for the waiting room of a mammogram clinic.  I asked the receptionist if I had time to run out to my car.  I wanted to get my camera and document this strange anomaly, but she told me that I had better just stay put.  So I sat back down wishing for a People to take my mind off of what was soon to come.

A few minutes later, a nurse invited me back.  She showed me to a small changing room and instructed me to remove my shirt and my bra and to tie the robe in the front.  “Not in the back,” she repeated, “the front”.

Oh yeah… right… gotcha!

So I changed into the cotton hospital gown trying to secure the ties as well as I could.  Clutching the gown to keep things covered, I stepped out into the hallway where the nurse, who actually turned out to be the ‘mammogrammer’…or… uh… the… mammogramophotographer?… or… the… uh… mammogrammerista?…. directed me back to a small room that was maybe six feet by ten feet (trust me, the size of the room plays a critical role later in this story).  In only a few seconds this skilled mammographonerator had me hog tied, trussed up, cinched in, and splayed open so that the machine was gripping my boob with all the tenderness of a semi-tractor trailer.

A pattern quickly developed.

She would reposition me, crank down that machine, smoosh my boob into oblivion,and then say “don’t breathe.”

The “don’t breathe” statement quickly became problematic for me.  Because I am an anticipator. Once I find out what it is that people want from me, I try to anticipate it. I try to already have or do, whatever it is, that I know that they prefer, before they even ask for it.

It’s like the great line from Gosford Park. You know the one!  Helen Mirren plays Mrs. Wilson, who years ago had a baby by her evil boss and she gives the baby up for adoption only to discover him years later at the estate where she now works as a housekeeper and then she realizes that her son has come to… to… well… to… uh… to… uh…  Oh!  I can’t tell you!  It will ruin the whole story!  But her famous line goes like this..

What gift do you think a good servant has that separates them from the others? It’s the gift of anticipation. And I’m a good servant. I’m better than good. I’m the best. I’m the perfect servant. I know when they’ll be hungry and the food is ready. I know when they’ll be tired and the bed is turned down. I know it before they know it themselves.

Like Mrs. Wilson, I too anticipate people’s needs.  If I know what you like, I will have it ready for you and it is even worse if I don’t know you very well.  Then I really go off the deep end with the whole anticipation thing.  So having just met this ‘mammographerator’, I was determined to anticipate her needs thereby making her life so blissfully easy that she would come to think of me as her best patient EVER!  She would begin to anticipate my yearly mammogram almost as much as I anticipated her mammographarian needs!

And all I had to do was stop breathing!

As soon as I realized that she was going to say “don’t breathe” every single time she stepped away to take the photo, I began to anticipate her saying it.  So I stopped breathing WELL BEFORE she said it!  I was trying to make her life EASIER!  I was trying to say “hey mammographerer lady! You don’t have to tell me to not breathe because LOOKY!  I am already not breathing!   See!  SEE!  I already stopped breathing two minutes ago!  So you don’t have to say it anymore!  Because I am already doing it!  See what a GOOD patient I am!  I already stopped!  I already know!  So you can take a vacation from telling me!  Just take it easy!  See what a good person I am!  I am SO TAKING CARE OF YOU!”

So there I was…

Dangling by my boob…

From a cold hearted machine…

Trying to make someone else’s life EASIER

Which almost caused me to asphyxiate inside of the boob crusher.

Oh Great!  I stopped breathing too SOON!  Now I am going to pass out!  Shit!  Why didn’t I wait to stop breathing when SHE SAID STOP BREATHING!  What happens if I take a tiny breath? Will she notice if I suck a few molecules of air into my lungs?  Don’t breathe… Don’t breathe… Don’t breathe RECHELLE!  Crap!  I need to breathe!  Shit!  She just said, ‘Don’t breathe again!’  Does she not realize that I stopped breathing two minutes ago!  Could she not at least NOTICE that I am trying to take care of her!

But she didn’t notice.

She just kept repositioning me…

And my boobs….

Twisting us… turning us… mixing and making us… stirring and baking us…

And telling us not to breathe.

Even though we were ALREADY not breathing!

Not only was this particular mammographanista impervious to my desire to make her life easier by not breathing, she was also something of a miracle worker when it came to turning two loaves into twenty.  She managed to come up with more boob on my body than I ever thought possible.  She just kept scooping it up and rolling it out.  I had no idea I had enough… uh… material… to uh… create that large of a pancake!  I kind of thought that once the mammographerator saw how little flesh she had to work with on my body, I might get off with just a cursory exam.  Maybe flat chested women like me would only have to be examined with a hand held magnifying glass.  Shouldn’t we get SOMETHING!   Even if I had a lump the size of a pencil eraser, it would practically double the size of my chest.  So I was mightily impressed with the amount of substance she was able to extrude into that machine. She gathered it from my shoulders, my armpits, my rib cage and my back.  She just kept smooshing and wadding and flattening it out until she had an enormous amount of my most tender flesh crushed inside of an X-ray machine.  I only wish she had been able to make it stick!

And then once she had me squashed, leveled, cranked and not breathing – she walked away!

It was the walking…

The steps…

Why the STEPS!


You are hanging from a machine by your flattened boob and then the technician STEPS AWAY to take the photo!


It’s like maybe nine… maybe twelve steps!?!??!

Could they not figure out a way to ELIMINATE the STEPS!

You could easily save FIVE WHOLE SECONDS of AGONY for every patient if they just eliminated the steps!


Can’t they get a remote!

Or attach the screen to the boob clamp?

There SHOULD NOT BE ANY STEPS in this process!

This should be a one step process!

No, wait!

This should be a NO STEP process!

C’mon you X-ray machine inventor people!  Figure out a way to eliminate those steps!

I am hanging by my TITS HERE!

Fortunately – the mammographerina was able to release the clamp immediately after she took the photo from her remote location.

The machine makes a big gushing sound as it releases your boob.

Or maybe that was the sound of my lungs re-filling with air after not breathing for so long.

And when it was all over…

When I was dressed and heading out of the clinic…

I have to tell you…

My boobs felt GREAT!

They felt ALIVE!


They had just received a brutal massage and they were ready for some ACTION!

It was like they were saying, “Hey!  HEY!  HEY YOU!!! Remember us!  Remember how we used to RESPOND!  Well… WE ARE BACK!

So I took my boobs shopping and out to lunch and neither of them were really satisfied with this choice, but it was the best I could do.

Overall, the entire process took less than fifteen minutes.

Of that fifteen minutes – only about forty seconds were really painful enough to be impressive.

Anyone out there that has been putting off a mammogram for those forty seconds…

You need to get a grip!

Get it!


Ha ha ha har ho hee hee hah hah HWAH!

Okay – I am going to go watch Gosford Park and fold laundry now.

With my tame boobs.

Because they aren’t tingling anymore.

But maybe Clive Owens can bring them back to life!

Oooooooh!  It’s working already!


  • Nanc in Ashland:

    If Clive Owen would come and hold my hand I would be much happier about the yearly boob squish. And I’m like you, not a lot there to squish, which the helpful tech at my very first time told me made it harder to get a good picture and therefore she always took extras. Gah! Glad you and your boobs had a nice day out after the torment.

  • Erin:

    That’s hilarious about all the men’s magazines in the waiting room…maybe they are for the husbands while they are waiting?

    My CD has had some complaints from some of his male patients about the variety of magazines in their waiting room…I tend to send over my magazines when I’m done with them, and they tend towards the female persuasion…so he started bringing in his American Rifleman magazines to balance it out!!

    (hate to admit it, but silly magazines are a guilty pleasure of mine…I try to counteract it by actually reading “real” books)

  • Will Clive be administering the ‘gram?

  • Nanc in Ashland:

    No, no. Clive is there to hold my hand and say soothing things in his lovely voice!

  • Patricia:

    OH MY GOSH ! You are very funny ! Glad it’s over though…….

  • I have only had one mammogram. My baseline mammogram. Because my doctor, a male , said I was getting to “that age”. Yes, I’m saying that with much disdain. Anyway, I didn’t think it was that bad either. I happen to have a good amount of material to squish, and I couldn’t believe she got it all in there! Maybe if Clive was the administerer of my mammogram I would have tingled too! He is quite something. And that voice… get me a cool towel!

  • Cherie:

    Please, please, just don’t name them – or let anyone else name them!

  • amy:

    Awesome post. Really, I’ve had a few mammograms now and was shocked the first time at how anti-climactic it was (having been told how horrid and awful and painful it would be). About 40 seconds of discomfort is about right.

    And I love those lines from Gosford Park. I’m an anticipator too!

  • I think if men had to have mammograms we’d already have a wonderful machine that doesn’t squish and cause pain–it probably would work with a remote too!

  • Martha in Kansas:

    I agree with Janet B. If men had to have tender areas squished, we’d have a totally different system!

    And why is the machine about 2 inches too high? I can only stand on my toes so long. So I dangle and have leg cramps. At my last one, I think I told her I had not breathed for the last 5 minutes. (I am also an anticipator.) She was not amused. I also suggested that, being flat chested, I could maybe just lay down on the machine. That was also amusing. Despite my charming delivery.

    My theory is the women took all the good mags!

  • Martha in Kansas:

    It was supposed to say “That was also NOT amusing”. I can’t help it — my office is surrounded by sweating students at the moment and it’s affecting my typing.

  • Kay in KCMO:

    I heard someone say that there need to be more female engineers. “Why?” someone else asked. The response was “Do you think mammogram machines would work the way they do if a woman had designed them?” More female engineers, please!

  • I had my first mammogram at 40, four years ago, and my first experience was just a tad bit better than yours. The pushing, pulling and pinching didn’t bother me… What bothered me was how the techician shoved me from behind, to get me closer to the machine, and thereby CLOCKED me in the face with the top part of the machine. It was rather embarrassing to explain exactly how I got the black eye that resulted.

    All I can tell you is they get better. Me… I just keep my head tilted back and away from the machine during the positioning. It’s not fun, to say the least. Glad you made it through though – and I wish you a NEGATIVE report!

  • This. Is. Awesome. (That is best said in your Rhino voice from Bolt.)
    Enjoy Clive. Until I take him back.

  • Mary:

    OMG, found you at Woman’s coloney, I thought you stopped blogging!!!!!!!!!!! I’m so happy your back, you got me laughing again. Mary

  • Sara:

    I love your story, they do suck!!! I get mine every year usually the week of my b-day, so I don’t forget and I am doing something good for myself. I wish everyone a negative experience ;)

  • LucyJoy:

    Before I had my first mammogram, my sister-in-law toldl me how bad hers were, “Yours will be much easier since you have smaller breasts.” “Oh, no”, said the mammographer, “Smaller breasts are much harder to get good pictures of.” Because of my small breasts, I had to go in twice last year…”Nothing to worry about, dear. They just want to make sure.” Now THAT scared the living daylights out of me! Fortunatley, everything was A-OK!

    I’m glad everything worked out fine for you!

  • Kristin:

    Like you, I have very little material to work with. BUT…MY breasts are dense…which makes it difficult to get good readings. Aggh. Why don’t men have to have their testicles squished to check for testicular cancer?

  • bPer:

    Janet B:

    I think if men had to have mammograms we’d already have a wonderful machine that doesn’t squish and cause pain–it probably would work with a remote too!

    I’m a man, and I’ve had a mammogram (thankfully negative). It was awkward and tight, but I felt nothing more than very minor discomfort. Certainly no pain. Sorry, Janet, but even if I had to go through that every year, I wouldn’t change the design if I were the engineer. I think you want a female engineer for this job.

    Isn’t it a messed-up world where the breasts that need the mammogram are the generally more sensitive ones? You’d think they’d have evolved to be less sensitive, given the job they have.

    Oh, and I’d take a mammogram any day over a colonoscopy.

    On another note, Martha, I’m 6’1″ and I found the machine to be about 2″ too high! I think we’ve uncovered a sick game that mammographers like to play – making all patients stand on their tippy-toes. :)


  • Carol the longwinded:

    I have alot to work with and tell me mine are difficult to work with – I guess there’s some Platonic Ideal of Boobitude that the mammographers prefer to work with. (I frequently end up with an ultrasound too because they are not only giant they are dense.) Don’t know if boob size makes a difference as to sensitivity.

  • My “Iowa-ian” father, raised on a farm, kind of a crusty guy, used to use the expression:
    “screamed like she had her tit caught in a wringer”…
    that is the charming expression that replays, over and over in my head, everytime I get a mammogram!

  • Oh my, I am laughing so hard that I am crying here. I have no excuse now. I need to get a new referral (because mine is now 15 months old and presumably expired) and get my heinie to the radiology center. Because I will collapse in helpless giggles every time the mammagramma goes to reposition me, thinking of this post. Perhaps that is not what you intentioned. And perhaps I had better chose an imaging center that does not deal professionally with my husband.

  • Lori Anne:

    Yep, that pretty much sums up the process. Hee, hee. So glad you FINALLY went. Seems a doctor’s wife should have had that done a long time ago. Now mark your calendar for the same time next year. :)

  • Tracy:

    That was hilarious! Please go get a Pap and write about that too!

  • Carry:

    I will make sure to bring my own reading material next year. Thanks for the heads up!

  • Robbyn:

    lol! I had my first mammogram this year, too, only I think I had less “material” to work with than the average gal. I believe they used a special mammography machine on me called Create-A-Bosom, because they seemed determined that my underarm was NOT in the right place and therefore needed to be steam-pressed sideways in what can only be thought of (while NOT BREATHING) as the The Longest Yard….something from nothing, lymph nodes and former underarm be darned. I’m glad you were all masseussed after your exam…please forward name of facility…I hurt for DAYS afterward (sadly, my momentary third boob retracted back to its steamy underworld, leaving me no plumped-up cleavage or luscious decolletage…a good thing since obviously i can’t spell it…)

    I’ve tried repressing (ha no pun intended) the memory till the next “necessary” exam.

    but yeah, folks should go be mamm’d…if not for any other reason than a mid-life rite of passage through the Vale of Pain.

    (chinggg…champagne glass clinking) mazel tov for surviving yours! (at least mine had good magazines…maybe that’s the problem…I should shoot for one with the worst back issues of championship wrestling rags)

  • Ted Powell:

    Overall, the entire process took less than fifteen minutes. So, figure out how many patients the operator is likely to deal with in an eight-hour day. Then multiply that by anywhere up to 240 working days a year. If she were to stand next to you while taking all the exposures, she would only get a fraction of the radiation that you did. But take that lesser amount, and multiply it by the number of patients during a year. During the time that you—and most others—have had only one session. That’s why safety regulations require that she retreat to a safer distance while doing the actual exposures. Try googling mammogram operator safety. What about my safety?! I hear you cry. Well, it’s a tradeoff, between early detection and the radiation risk. There’s been some discussion on this recently. You can find some of it by googling mammogram frequency.

    • You’re right Ted – I hadn’t thought about that.

  • Hey Rechelle,

    Good for you for getting your boobs squarshed! As soon as my Cobra payment check clears, I’m making an appointment for myself.

    My first one was in 2006, it was basically painless but, as she left the room to go push the button, I’m standing there, my boob trapped in this big machine, and I’m thinking (and I’m in Los Angeles…), if there is an earthquake right now, I am f*cked.

    No earthquake, but I did have to go back to check some spots on the film. They use this clear plastic cup-thing to smash into your boobs, and that hurt. (Cysts, so good.)

    And WTH with all the sports mags? Did all the good ones get stolen? (Not that I know anything about that. *lalalala*)


  • Lynn:

    Just discovered your site thru NW Skeptics. I love it! I knew I wasn’t the only former Christian woman out there, but sometimes I wondered!

  • sandy:

    Ha! What a talent you have that I wish were mine! (writing that is, not tolerating mammagraphy). When I visit my orthopod’s office he also has only sports magazines. I keep thinking the generic and/or women’s magazines have been stolen! When I looked around at least 75% of the patients in the waiting room were female……and guess what? They were all twiddling their thumbs.

  • Sue UK:

    I had my first mammogram this year (they only start them at age 50 in the UK). Luckily it didn’t hurt at all because I then had to have several more, 2 minor biopsies and a lumpectomy to remove pre-cancerous cells. I’ve now had the all-clear thank goodness so I’m one of the luckky ones.

    Changing the subject entirely, have you seen Bill Bryson’s latest book “At home”. It’s not a funny book like his travel ones but it’s a fascinating look at (mostly English) houses, based around his 19th Century house in Norfolk (UK).

  • susan:

    I can so identify with the stop breathing. Every second of holding your breath seems an eternity

  • PaulieY:

    I’m going to be 40 this year too. I’ve been having these cussed things for more than a few years now because my Mom passed from Breast Cancer when she was 41 after having battled for over 3 years.
    I have my yearly appointment next week. And I have to say that I think that this time I will have a very hard time not laughing the entire time while thinking of you and this post!
    The problem is this…I AM a breath holder. I catch myself unconsciously holding my breath all the time! Such as when I’m trying to concentrate on something, or if I’m in pain, or if I’m anticipating something or if I’m enjoying and savoring something, or during sex (yes, I said SEX)…anyhow, you get the picture!
    Anyhow, the minute she starts to clamp down on my boob I start holding my breath! Way before she tells me to. And I’m not doing it as an act of trying to please her…I just can’t help it! It is uncomfortable and I’m anticipating it getting over! I end up feeling like I’m going to pass out before I leave the place!
    However, next week she will probably have to tell me to PLEASE, GET IT TOGETHER, STOP LAUGHING AND HOLD YOUR BREATH!

  • Jo:

    At least you still get some magazines to read in the States. We in Britain (or in Scotland) don’t any more as apparently the great Gods of Health and Safety have interfered yet again and we might inadvertently pick up a bug from them so all we have to read at the hospital are the posters on the walls, if any.

  • Keza:

    Still laughing at the mental picture you created! Great post.
    Clive is currently filming here in my hometown in Australia. Unfortunately he is sporting one very ugly tache around town ….here is a link – http://www.clive-owen.org/gallery/displayimage.php?album=864&pos=0. Its wrong, very wrong.

  • Lois:

    Clive could make almost anything better. Ahh, thank you, England!

  • Hey, where’s the MURDER part of the post? Or is it in the movie? Guess I’ll have to watch it to find out. All this talk about Clive is making me curious anyway.