Hard to imagine anyone who likes a mammogram. At best, there must be those who don’t mind it. It’s not that it’s particularly painful, for me, because it’s not, really — it’s, just as they describe it, more uncomfortable than anything — but I have bad feelings about it. Deeply bad. I resent it: that I have to do it; that there’s controversy surrounding it’s usefulness especially in the face of the procedure itself, the radiation, as harmful to the human body; that there is the disease of breast cancer that is directly attributable to our toxic environment and as such, preventable, and nobody is doing a thing about that. Resentful and fear. Will I, despite my best efforts, going out of my way to avoid the foods, the cosmetics, the g-d water of rustbelt, not quite post-industrial cities, be one of the ones struck down?
But I do my best with this resentment and fear; you know, all the right things to manage the stress (because stress is a killer, too! you know). Yoga. Deep breathing. Etc and so on.
So I go to the hospital at the appointed time, which actually includes an extra fifteen minutes pre-appointment time to run through another registration cycle. I mean that this on-site physical registration is on top of an earlier pre-registration by phone that took about thirty minutes of my time one afternoon. After it is clear that today’s registration is stretching well beyond my appointment time, I get annoyed. I point out to the person on the other side of the desk that I’m late for my appointment and that I hope this doesn’t mean that I will then be kept waiting further for my service. Nothing. More clicking on the keyboard keys, more scrutinizing the screen at data I can’t see, then the helper/clerk gets up and goes out of the space, no comment. She returns with another clerk, who after much pointing at the screen and further key-clacking, confirms that, yes, all is as it should be. “Pardon me,” I say, “but what was the purpose of my having spent thirty minutes pre-registering by phone only to come here and go through another lengthy process that causes me to miss my appointment time?” No good answers, the consulted clerk scurries off, my clerk gives (at least) a tepid “I’m sorry” and wan smile. This is something to take up with those powers who be who have enacted processes that are not working as they should. Will I do that? Probably not. Throw more of my time away. Unlikely. And so it goes.
Back in the Breast Health Center, I have indeed missed my appointment time. It turns out that I will wait. But first, more papers to fill out. The chipper clerk behind this counter hands me a pamphlet and wants to know if I would like the breast pads, which cost $5, just check the box here yes or no. Meanwhile, there are other women coming through, and asked again verbally by the clerk who I must assume just does not bother to look at how each women has checked her form — surely she can read yes or no. Many of the women answer affirmatively. I sit waiting. And think, why? Why if this is now understood as a standard of comfort, a little foam pad to put on the machine to ease the cold, the discomfort of the surface, why put the burden on the patient? What does it mean to decline? (I don’t care about myself? My breasts can take it?) Where in the hell are all these used pads going? Consider there is no “away.” What a gimmick!