Monday, April 15, 2013


My Ob-Gyn doctor is the kind of doctor who 'tells it like it is'.   I may not like what he says, but I know that it's the plain unvarnished truth.  That is one of the reasons that I've been his patient for more than twenty years.  Since I hit forty(which was just yesterday, mind you), the Doc has been handing me the orders for a mammogram.  The first time, I went right away, and everything came back wonderful.  That was seven years ago.  He kept handing me the orders, and I kept putting that piece of paper in a "safe" place and promptly forgetting all about it. It just wasn't a priority.  Out of all the diseases in my family tree over the years, breast cancer has been conspicuously absent.  There's been pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, brain cancer, and several weird cancers of miscellaneous spare parts, but no breast cancer at all. 

On my last visit to see my Ob-Gyn, however, he took my hand to help me up and gazed seriously into my eyes.  The Doc is a handsome man, and when a handsome man takes my hand and gazes seriously at me, I tend to pay attention. 

"Do I have to take your hand and walk you over to the radiology place to get your mammogram?"  The Doc said.  "Because I will, you know."

"No," I hung my head, chastened.  I hate disappointing my doctor.  

"What are you so afraid of?" he continued. 

"I'm not afraid," I pouted a little.  "I just forget."  (Which is true.  Out of sight, out of mind. It's a thing with me.)

"Well, enough of that." Dr. S. crossed his arms and looked sternly at me.  "There's a place next door.  You can just walk in."

Okay.  When your doctor threatens to personally escort you to make sure that you get a mammogram, well, that's kind of embarrassing.  I knew he'd do it, too, and I did not want to be known as the woman whose doctor had to personally escort her to her mammogram.  That sort of story sticks around the medical community for years!

So I walked right out of one doctor's office and into the radiology clinic.  I waited about five minutes and was escorted to the back, where my boobs were mashed under glass and radiated.  Painful, but quick.  I was finished with that, at least until the next time my doctor threatened me.

Then I got two letters. 

One was from the radiology place.  "Dear Person", the letter began.  "OMG! WE FOUND SOMETHING ON YOUR BREAST!!! YOU MAY ALREADY HAVE A HUGE TUMOR!! COME IN IMMEDIATELY!  WE ARE FREAKING OUT ABOUT IT RIGHT NOW!  P.S. We have conveniently made an appointment for you, and here it is."

I may be paraphrasing a bit.

The second letter was from my doctor.  "Dear Tina," the letter began.  "The radiology place says that they found a spot on your breast that requires further study.  DO NOT FREAK OUT.  It's probably not a big deal at all.  DO NOT FREAK OUT. The radiologist probably just spilled some grape jelly on the film while he was eating lunch, but just in case, please go back to the radiology place and let them take a few more pictures of your mashed boob.  P.S. DO NOT FREAK OUT.

So of course, I freaked out.  It's what I do best.  Then I called the radiology place and made them move up my appointment, because if I had something that had to be removed, I did not want to wait. 

I went back, and not only did they mash my right boob again, they also did an ultrasound.  The tech person who did the ultrasound told me that it looked like I just had some overlapping tissue, which happens sometimes.  So, nothing to worry about?  I asked.  Nah, she said.  Cool, I said, skipping merrily out the door.  At least I did that in my head.  Problem solved.

Then I got a letter.

"Dear Person", the letter began.  "You have a spot on your boob that we want to recheck again in six months because it may or may not be A HUGE TUMOR!!  P.S. We have conveniently scheduled your next appointment for you, in six months."

What the hell?  I said.  Call your doctor, my husband told me.  So I did, after about a week, because I kept forgetting.  Really.  Other stuff happened, I stopped agonizing over it, and forgot.  Finally, I called my doctor.  I spoke to a nice lady who worked there, and told her my sad story. 

"And you want to know if you need to freak out?"  she said helpfully. 

"Yes.  I want to know if I need to freak out.  I am on a schedule."

"Hold, please."   So I sat there and listened to commercials for baby stuff and how I am an important customer, blah, blah, blah. Finally she came back on the line.

"No. He said that you do not need to freak out."  There was no need for me to get upset, the radiology place was just being cautious.  They wanted to make sure that the spot they were concerned about didn't get any bigger.  No reason to freak out at this time.  I hung up, feeling a bit reassured. 

And less inclined to freak out, for which my husband is eternally grateful.


  1. Yes, and they will also recheck cysts every six months for awhile just for kicks and stress too. Now NYS has a law that they have to tell a woman if she has fibrocystic breast tissue. The gyn I go to takes that one step further and the radiology place wont let you leave until the doc has actually check ed the films. The rest of my body might fall off, but for that day I know the girls are fine!

    1. Wait, no...sorry, sorry...the legislation is for dense breast tissue as mammos can be harder to read/detect.

  2. "Yes. I want to know if I need to freak out. I am on a schedule."

    I love this... it's so... me. :)

    I too had an issue about 18 months ago, went and got squished and turns out it was a blocked duct. (Seriously, I am WAY done with kids, you'd think this wouldn't happen any more) but on the plus side, I now have a nice clear base line from when I was 36. :)

  3. So well done! I got one of those letters once too, and fortunately it was just that I have dense tissue and there are benign cyts, but still I FREAKED OUT. Who wouldn't!

  4. See, this is why I've never done one of those full body scans, where they assess any major health issues you can expect to face. I'd be a total wreck. Best just to stay away from the doctor/clinics. --Or conveniently keep forgetting. ;)

    1. Oh Lord! A full body scan would be scary! They'd probably find all sorts of reasons for me to freak out.

  5. I bet there'd be WAY more response to letters and reminders if they actually used your paraphrased version! Maybe you could market it?!?!

  6. I have had call backs from Mammograms and they cause freak-out for no good reason, it is always ok. I try not to forget about Mammo orders.
    Katie atBankerchick Scratchings

  7. Happy belated birthday by the way. You sound like you have a lovely doctor - thorough and reassuring though you would have thought by now there could have been invented an easier way to do the mammogram rather than all the squashing that goes on. Glad to hear that you don't need to freak out. I have listed your blog under my 'n' posts today. Blessings

    Amanda - Realityarts-Creativity
    Art Blog


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