Thank God they take your ‘health’ more seriously once you reach the big 5.0. Which appeases my increasing levels of hypochondria.
The request for a poo specimen from the government that arrived on my birthday, however, took me by surprise.
My doctor recommended that I get all my checks done at the same time, around my fiftieth birthday, so that it’s easier to remember each year. Meaning, he knows I’m a prime candidate for dementia, and so recognises my need for getting strategies in place.
My list of health checks is pretty much the same for all middle-aged women and comprises of a mammogram every two years, the same for a pap test, a yearly cholesterol test and a poo sample test whenever I can face acknowledging/looking at/touching my poo.
Today was mammogram day.
Anyone who has experienced the torture of the mammogram knows that it’s not for the faint-hearted.
Exposing your tired, sagging, middle-aged breasts to some young, pert radiographer takes courage, no matter how professional and upbeat they try to be. Forcing your breasts through what can only be compared to the type of vacuum press they use on Masterchef, is gruelling from a both a dignity and comfort perspective. Having your withered breasts tweaked and manhandled like a piece of tough meat on a butchers bench top so that they are the right shape and in the right place for the torture chamber is even more than awkward.
Before I went in, it did cross my mind to put on some sparkly Miley nipple covers to lighten the mood.
But what choice do we really have? At least we don’t have to have a finger stuck up our arse.
The general medical consensus is that mammograms DO save lives, and once you reach 50, they are free – so there’s no excuse for not having them.
Apparently I have dense breasts. Which would have been nice in my youth when I vaguely cared about what they looked like, long before the ravages of breastfeeding and ageing.
But dense breasts are not such a bonus now, because the denseness of the tissue that once would have brought all the boys to my yard can camouflage sinister shenanigans like cancer, that may be going on behind the tissue.
For a visual analogy, my boobs look like half full tea-bags like most middle-aged breasts, but mine have not yet been dunked and strained.
Personally I found the freebie national breast screening to be a superior experience to the private one I had a couple of years back, where whipping your breasts out to several white-coated strangers was made to feel like some over-indulgent beauty consultation. I may have even been given tea and a biscuit. The national one was brief and to the point.
No gowns were offered and we had to wear one layer of clothing over our terrified, bra-less boobs that had a moment of gleeful, public free fall in the waiting room. It felt strangely comforting to be surrounded by several pairs of equally floppy, middle-aged boobs, each in the various stages of droop.
A bowl of half-knitted woolly hats sat on the coffee table with a request to knit them while waiting – for breast cancer sufferers. A pertinent reminder of why we were there. I tried to avoid eye contact with the knitters, such was my shame at not knowing one end of a knitting needle from another.
The point is, mammograms aren’t much fun but are a necessary evil. So you bite the bullet, flop your boobs out onto the machine proudly and in my case, think of England.