My breast screening mammogram

I’ve had my mammogram today

I make it a rule not to drink and use social media. I’ve just broken that rule. This is because I’ve had my mammogram today. No, it’s not the mammogram itself that has driven me to breaking my golden rule but the extra stress I’ve put myself under in attempting to create a VLOGGy BLOG thing; all so that I can share with you my experience and let you see that it’s really not that bad.

So here’s how my day panned out…

1. Preparation

Preparing for my mammogram

Invite for my mammogram

Well it started last night actually. I suddenly realised I didn’t know whether I could take my husband, John with me. I’d been with him for his Aortic Aneurysm screen yesterday so it was only fair! You’d think I’d know the answer to this, being a member of the WoMMeN team but as I’ve never actually worked as a mammographer, these subtleties have passed me by. So no better reason to test out the WoMMeN forum. We pride ourselves on having a site that can answer client queries posted on the forum; so I gave it a bash.

Sure enough Geraldine answered and it appears John could come with me (Muttley Laugh) (recommendation 1: visit WoMMeN.org.uk if you have ANY queries).

 

Setting off for my mammogram

Getting ready to go for my mammogram

2. Setting off and getting there

As it happens we ended up having a new boiler fitted today (life goes on in spite of mammo!) so I had to go on my own. I wasn’t deterred and, having been before I wasn’t particularly anxious.

Arriving at the site was easy as I’d been before so I knew where it was, but 3 years later, I couldn’t quite remember the parking situation. The invite told me parking was limited. It wasn’t wrong. Good job I’d given myself an extra 15 minutes (recommendation 2: – suss out the parking, travel etc as the appointment times are tight!)

3. Female camaraderie

These vans look intimidating but they are kitted out with a nod to aesthetics and there is an attempt to create a cosy feeling. The friendly staff help in this regard, as do the other ‘clients’ all sitting there in various states of anxiety but there is a general feeling of female camaraderie and solidarity which make it feel like you’re part of some kind of exclusive club – all in together girls (recommendation 3 – smile at the other clients, it breaks the ice and releases all sorts of tensions).

I wanted to video these ladies to see if I could capture this atmosphere but felt that might breech some kind of ethical or professional code (although being confused as to my identity today – client or WoMMeN researcher – I wasn’t too sure at all!).

4. The mammographers

Another potential ethical dilemma arose when I realised I knew one of the mammographers. Kate (she said I could use her name) was one of my undergraduate student many, many (too many) years ago. She managed the situation with ease; balancing both friendly acknowledgement and professional demeanour with great expertise. She must have been taught well! Even so, I was relieved when I realised the other mammographer (who I didn’t know) was to do my examination. There’s only so much informality you can muster when someone you know has their hands on your boob!

Just after in the mammogram cubicle

Just had my mammogram and smiling

And let me say how absolutely delightful my mammographer was. I didn’t know her name (the only negative observation I shall make). She handled my body as though it was indeed a very precious and special thing. It put me in mind of a poem my mum wrote after she had her last mammogram (she’s a tendency to express herself in poetry). You can read the full poem below but the poem’s title ‘Kind Hands’ really resonated with me, indeed I’d even say I felt they were ‘loving hands’.

5. The pinch

I can’t say it didn’t ‘pinch’; it did and it made me grit my teeth but it didn’t last more than a few seconds then the pain was gone. There were, of course, three more such teeth gritting moments as you have four pictures taken but, for me, this was less uncomfortable than having my teeth scaled.

Mammogram results

Mammogram aftercare

6. After

After the mammogram I was given a leaflet which told me what would happen next. This is very important as it’s the wait between the screen and the results which can be the most anxious time for many women. I imagine this is especially the case if they’ve been called back previously! If I get called back it might be because the images were technically substandard, or it could be because they need further information before they can discount a cancer.

I nodded to my new friends on my way back through the waiting room; we had a shared experience that bonded us in some strange way! Maybe I’ll see them again in 3 years. I’ll certainly have no hesitation in coming back for my next invite (recommendation 4: come back again but in the meantime keep an eye on your breasts as three years is a long time!)

Whatever the outcome for me, I know that I’ll be in KIND HANDS.


My twin and myself discovered one day
I was being prepared for a kind of x-ray
As I warily waited KIND HANDS came along
And stripped off my bra with my twin looking on

I was placed on a plate, oh great care was shown,
KIND HANDS pressed a button; a shutter came down
And spread me full flat!.. I balked even though
Kind Hands had explained the procedure before

And as I lay pinioned a thought came to me
If a fire breaks out how on earth can I flee?
Flattened down thus? Oh a frightening thought
(A real fear dear Kind Hands, please make a note)

So, the mammogram over and back in my bra,
After my oddest encounter by far
O my twin and myself send our deep loving thanks
For our bill of good health. Thank you all Kindly Hands

Florence Remmer

 

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