Monday, February 25, 2013

After a Mammogram

There is a joke that if the genders took turns having babies – if the woman had the first, the man had the second, and the woman had the third, there would never be any fourth babies. I thought about that this morning as I drove home from having a mammogram. If men had to put their secondary sexual characteristics between a couple of flat plates and have them squeezed flat while being told that compression is necessary for a good reading, they’d get busy and invent a better way to take a look at the inner man. As it is, men don’t get compressed in this fashion and women are encouraged to get a mammogram every year or two. I encourage any women inventors and researchers to get busy on inventing a better way to look at the inner woman. Getting machine-mangled while the technician calls me “honey” and “dear” and pushes me this way and that, telling me to turn my feet this way and my arm that way and my chin a third way, is not my idea of a great way to spend the morning, but I went and did it out of a sense of duty, and oh yeah, because I had a lumpectomy a couple of years ago and it’s good to keep an eye on these things. I was told I’d hear from my doctor in ten days or so, and I can wait. When I was younger I would panic at the thought of having cancer, and rightly so – I was too young to die. Now – well, let me tell you a story. I was online one night when an ad from Swedish Hospital popped up encouraging me to take a quiz to see what my greatest health threat might be. I figured I knew already – I’m fat. I’ve been told to lose weight and get my cholesterol down for years. So I took their quiz, and according to Swedish – and they claim they know – my biggest health risk is my age. It’s not the fat, the cholesterol, the angina, the lurking type II diabetes, the lingering effects of injuries, the lung congestion, the fatigue, all the conditions I worry about which I wonder, “Which one is the bullet with my name on it?” No, my greatest threat now is that I’m old. That’s the bullet. We used to say that people died of old age, and no one thought much about it. Now the cause of death is detected and people die of pneumonia or its effects, or myocardial infarction, or renal failure, or complications of cancer or its treatment, or whatever. There’s usually a name for what finally gets you. Saying that we lived it up until we were used up is not a medical label. Too bad. We used to have a sense that a person went when it was their time. Now it’s that one medical condition that could not be cured and took you down like a cheetah leaping on a wheezing gazelle. We’ve lost the big picture. Ah, well. It’s easy to think about such things when coming home from a diagnostic test. I was told I’d hear from my doctor in ten days or so. Until then I live in the limbo of unknowing – didja find anything? Or not? I want to hear what the result has usually been over time: I’m fine, and I can go on my yippy-skippy way and not think about it for another year or two. Unfortunately, the last time I had this test, three years ago, there was something found, and that led to surgery and a recovery that seemed to take a long, long time. It was tedious, friends. A person gets tired of waiting rooms and magazines full of helpful advice on how to be healthy, all left lying around for perusal by people who wouldn’t be there if they were healthy. I think it’s the smiling models in these magazines that annoy me the most. Have you noticed how the people in drug ads are always grinning like they won the lottery? “I have cancer/heart disease/erectile dysfunction/bipolar disorder but I couldn’t be any barking happier because I am using this drug!” Aah, that’s enough out of me for one day. I have ten days to live in ignorance, and I plan to enjoy those ten days. If the results are negative, hallelujah. If they’re not, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Either way I’m going to keep sitting out on the kitchen porch in the morning, drinking my coffee and listening to the birds sing. And that’s the truth. Post Script: I have been called and asked to come in for further images, on the side which had surgery three years ago. So I'll be going in for that this week. Stay tuned, but I'm really hoping that will be the end of it.


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