It must be the day for breast checks! After an early morning walk of the dogs I came home to pre-fill in some forms for my mammogram at the Wesley Hospital and while I did, I flicked on the TV.
On the Today Show, the female hosts, Lisa Wilkinson and Georgie Gardner were being filmed live undergoing their own tests. It follows a similar story done by an American news presenter whose life was saved because she did the mammogram on air and advanced cancer was detected. She under went a double mastectomy.
The hugely popular website, Mamamia, called the actions of Lisa and Georgie, brave.
A little later I turn up for my appointment, hand in my forms, indicating family history as my aunty has had breast cancer and I have had an aspiration of a cyst, tick the box to show I haven’t had augmentation, receive a locker key for my clothing (new since last time I was here) and wait for a lovely volunteer to take me through.
Robyn is from South Africa and she takes me into the change room, shows me my locker, the bathroom and where I have to go to wait for my turn at the breast machine.
In the lounge area, there are about 30 other women all anticipating their name being called. They are all wearing the same ugly pale-green, checked gown, naked underneath from the waist up and either reading a magazine or watching television.
(For the record the new Channel 10 morning show, Studio 10 was on fronted by old colleague from Channel 7, Sarah Harris and Ita).
Most of the women around me looked older, perhaps in their 50’s and 60’s, one looked very young and in fact when her name was called her mother got up and went with her. I hope she has nothing to worry about.
One lady was knitting, a few older women had their husbands for support, I was the only one with an iPad.
No one was chatting, it was quite a solemn atmosphere; the only upbeat people being the volunteers buzzing around.
Within a minute of making myself a cup of tea ( and spilling it as I was trying to keep my gown from opening and revealing my boobs as I sat down) my name was called.
Ushered into a little room, Hilary the radiographer, introduced herself and happily started chatting as she proceeded to position me and my gown-less boobs into the giant mammary press.
“You are tan, do you exercise?” she asked.
“It says you are a journalist here, are you working?” she queried.
“How old are your kids?” she continued.
While I tried to concentrate on answering the bullet-like questioning, Hilary was positioning one hand on top of the machine, flopping my boob on the tray, re-positioning my shoulder, re-flopping my boob then telling me to hold my breath as she closed the contraption to squish my C cup girls to an A flat.
“Are you working today?” Hilary asked as she grabbed the other one.
“Do you have one at schoolies this week?” she probed.
“Did your aunt survive her cancer?”
I answered every question and all the while my breasts were being manipulated and mangled.
Don’t get me wrong, Hilary was lovely and she was quite athletic herself, squatting and straining to get me positioned perfectly for the best breast shot.
It took all of five minutes. Her constant chatter kept my mind pretty well pre-occupied. It hurt a little but it was mostly uncomfortable.
Returning then to the sitting room as the coffee machine got a work out and Robyn escorted more ugly-gown clad women in, I then had to wait for the results.
It took all of an hour and with no one firing questions at me, it dragged.
My name is called again by another woman, this time she looks more official.
My breath halts briefly. It’s crunch time and while I arrived at the clinic confident everything was fine, following this woman, who is a breast nurse named Sue, my heart started beating faster and my mind started working overtime.
“What if everything isn’t fine? There is some history, I have had some cysts, it took an hour get the results, what if I do have breast cancer?”
Sue informs me as soon as I sit down that my screening was clear.For me the result is obviously good news, and the fear was fleeting.
Just another routine appointment in 12 months time.
I certainly didn’t inspire anyone today, or evoke admiration for having a breast check.
I reckon perhaps all of us who do get checked can claim a little courage.
But the real stoicism and bravery is needed from the moment the breast nurse gives a result other than, all-clear. I do hope that young girl doesn’t need it.
Really, the check-up is simply sensible.
And the gowns could be a little bit more uplifting!