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Friday, November 16, 2007

A roomful of charm bracelets

A couple of weeks ago, I had my routine mammogram at the Little Country Hospital.

My doctor is adamant about these because I subsist on a high level of estradiol for a woman my age. Available data on the long-term effects are more pertinent to XX women than XY women, because studies on transpeoples' medical needs tend to be refused funding and we continue to be a medical unknown. She knows all this, but would rather be safe than sorry.

The technicians are used to me by this time and I'm not faced with the sort of thing that happened on my making my first appointment with them, and the visit was, as mammogram visits go, pleasant.

A few days later, I received that dreaded letter...

"Please go and have further tests made."

I wasn't unduly alarmed; the new digital gizmos are returning a host of false positives, because they show every blessed little thing and everyone is having to learn from scratch how to interpret them. I made the appointment at the Big City Hospital, sandwiched between a dental appointment and electrolysis -- an entire afternoon off.

The radiology clinic at the BCH is to that in the LCH like a feed lot to a farmyard. Instead of changing right in the room with The Machine, I was led to a changing room like others in a long row, such as one might find at J.C. Penney. There was a chair, a mirror, and a locker ("Please return the key when you are done.").

I had thought ahead (after some difficulties involving a long dress at the LCH -- a tyro's mistake) and arrived in a matching jacket and skirt, with a blouse, so that I'd only have to strip to the waist.

I found myself in an inner sanctum, with seven other women in robes, chatting, or reading Good Housekeeping, or staring ahead with expressions compounded of hopes and fears.

We wore our locker keys on elastic bands on our wrists, and they jangled as we turned magazine pages, like a roomful of charm bracelets.

When my turn came, I found myself entering one of a row of four rooms with The Machine in each one; the others were occupied by one radiologist and one bare back each. My radiologist, a black-haired, mildly distracted thirty-something, meant well, but she sees too many of us in a day too be personable, and I found myself much more uncomfortable in the grip of The Machine than I had been at the LCH. She took eight pictures -- all of my left breast.

"Okay, wait right here while we look these over. I'll be right back."

I leaned against The (cold) Machine for what seemed a long time.

"Okay, Ris-sa, please come this way."

Ultrasound.The device hummed, hovered, alighted elsewhere and hummed some more.

"All right, you can, lie there if you like; I'll show these to the doctor and be right back."


Maybe I should begin worrying now? Suppose the worst; Beloved may finally be willing to go with me to make a will. Ha, ha! Do ya suppose, if I were to show them a mastectomy, the Michigan Womyn's Festival would -- naaaahhh.

I fell asleep.

The shush-shush of size-seven support athletic nurses' shoes approached.

"All right; you can go now. We think you're fine, but we want to see you again in six months."

I retraced my steps, dressed, waved goodbye to my cellmates.

Stepping out onto the sidewalk, I found that most of the morning clouds had dissipated.

A sunny day.


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