August 19, 2015

There are days that can cause a woman to reflect upon the discomforts of being born into this gender. Today was one for me. I went for a mammogram. I know these are extremely useful tests that can save women from the horrors of breast cancer and even death, but mammograms are not fun. It is not pleasant to have one’s breast smooshed between two glass plates that are then tightened like a vice to hold it in place. I can’t help thinking if men had to undergo similar testing for penile or testicular cancer, they would object so violently that the medical profession would have to find a more comfortable way to scan for cancer. But women generally accept that life is punctuated with pain and discomfort (periods, childbirth, breastfeeding for some, and various symptoms that accompany menopause), and so every now and again, we show up at the doctor’s office to have our breasts squeezed between glass and grit our teeth.

Despite the physical discomfort of the dreaded mammogram, I was able to enjoy a moment of bonding with the radiographer, a woman called Lorena who was as gentle as she could be with the cold, hard equipment she was controlling. She apologized when I winced and laughed with me as I joked about the pain not being as bad as childbirth. (She did reveal that she had four kids, making me feel like a huge whiner, but maybe none of her labors was 36 hours long. Humf!) After I had put my clothes back on, she escorted me back out to the waiting room, explained that my doctor would let me know the results in a week or two, and parted with a kindly “goodbye, my friend.” She certainly had made the experience as pleasant as humanly possible.

digital-mammography-machine (a visual for any readers who have not experiences a mammogram)

As I walked along the corridor leading to the exit reflecting upon the strange circumstances in which we can connect with a total stranger, I passed a little table holding a couple of piles of books and a sign reading, “Give one, take one.” I couldn’t decline an invitation to give something away after my moment of connection with Lorena, the caring radiologist, even if the gift wasn’t to her. I walked to my car, opened the trunk and took out a kid’s novel about magic and mystery I had in a bag there as a potential giveaway. I went back to the table and added it to the pile, and headed home, feeling uplifted that a dreaded and uncomfortable event had transformed magically into an opportunity for a friendly exchange and a gift.

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