My health insurance was canceled so I scheduled multiple appointments for a full-body tune up and lube before the policy expires on December 31. In four weeks, I was pricked, prodded, flossed, scoped, and dilated as nurses and doctors scribbled notes and muttered in amazement that someone so old could be so healthy. My biggest regret, besides stepping on the scale, was that I didn’t bring along a full flask of Cabernet.
During the dreaded mammogram I concentrated on the escape window as a sassy young nurse handled my breasts while muttering “Damn, that’s a lotta skin!”
“You need to apply these nipple stickers first,” she said. “That’s so the X-ray technicians can identify their location.”
“I’m menopausal,” I replied. “They can find my nipples somewhere down at my waist.”
She wasn’t amused and handed me two little stickers will tiny steel balls in the middle. I was instructed to apply them in the exact area and wait for further instructions. I imagined being a geriatric showgirl wearing miniscule pasties in an old-timer’s burlesque show. The word “perky” wasn’t part of the performance. Finally she manipulated one nipple-decorated boob onto the plate and squeezed the clamp until my eyes watered. I watched in horror as my pummeled mammary oozed into the next room. I think I heard her cackle.
“Doing okay?” she chirped.
“Die, Wench!” I gasped between clenched teeth.
She tortured one side for several x-rays and then moved to the other one, efficiently stretching, molding, and positioning my breast as if she were a celebrated sculptor. My brain was flooded with fight or flight signals as I resisted the temptation to tip over the offensive machine, tie up the nurse with the flaps of my flimsy gown, paste nipple stickers across her face, and run screaming from the building. I had almost finalized the plan when she announced that the procedure was completed.
“You’re free to go,” she gushed. “And, don’t forget to remove those nipple stickers.”
She left me alone clutching my body with the swaying nipple ornaments. I ripped off the first sticker which immediately caused guttural groans similar to the sounds I’ve heard on the National Geographic Channel when a beast slaughters a wild hog. Some tender body parts aren’t meant to wear super-glued decorations. I focused on a spot on the ceiling – a technique I used decades ago during the pains of childbirth – and tugged at the remaining sticker. It wouldn’t detach.
A mild panic consumed my mind and body. Should I go into the lobby and ask for help? Should I just be tough, get dressed, and hope the sticker would fall off in the shower? Should I go to the nearest bar and drink a bottle of wine? I gave one last pull and the offensive nipple sticker came off, so I defiantly stuck it on the window, dressed, and hunched out of the office.
A few days later my cell phone rang with the good news. “No signs of breast cancer! See you in a year.” All the other medical tests came back positive, too, so I should be around to irritate people for many years. I am profoundly grateful for good health, but I’m still having flashbacks. My wee granddaughter recently asked if I had any stickers and I started to whimper. She’ll discover why in about 20 years.
Today’s blog was fueled by a $25 bottle of 2011 Frei Brothers Reserve Merlot from Dry Creek Valley, California. The label notes that the wine has excellent aging potential. Preventative medical procedures – including mammograms – will enable the same thing. Cheers!