The First Time’s Always the Worst

The First Time’s Always the Worst

From Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor's Soul

The First Time’s Always the Worst

Humor tells you where the trouble is.

Louise Bernikow

The first mammogram is the worst—especially when the machine catches on fire. That’s what happened to me. The technician positioned me exactly as she wanted: Think of a really complicated game of Twister—right hand on the blue, left shoulder on the yellow, right breast as far away as humanly possible from the rest of your body. Then she clamped the machine down so tight, I think my breast actually turned inside out. I’m pretty sure Victoria’s Secret doesn’t have a bra for that.

Suddenly, there was a loud popping noise. I looked down at my right breast to make sure it hadn’t exploded. Nope, it was still flat as a pancake and still attached to my body. “Oh, no,” the technician said loudly. These are, perhaps, the words you least want to hear from any health professional. Suddenly, she went flying past me, lab coat whipping behind, on her way out the door. She yelled over her shoulder, “The machine’s on fire! I’m going to get help!”

Okay, I was wrong. “The machine is on fire” are the worst words you can hear from a health professional, especially if you’re all alone and semipermanently attached to A MACHINE and don’t know if it’s THE MACHINE in question.

I struggled for a few seconds to get free, but even Houdini couldn’t have escaped. I decided to go to plan B: yelling at the top of my lung (the one that was still working).

I hadn’t seen anything on fire, so my panic hadn’t quite reached epic proportions, but then I started to smell smoke coming from behind the partition. This is ridiculous, I thought. I can’t die like this. What would they put in my obituary? Cause of death: breast entrapment?

I may have inhaled some fumes because I started to hallucinate. An imaginary fireman rushed in with a fire hose and a hatchet. “Howdy, ma’am,” he said. “What’s happened here?” he asked, averting his eyes.

“My breasts were too hot for the machine,” I quipped, as my imaginary fireman ran out of the room again. “This is gonna take the Jaws of Life!”

In reality, the technician returned with a fire extinguisher and put out the fire. She gave me a big smile and released me from the machine. “Sorry! That’s the first time that’s ever happened. Why don’t you take a few minutes to relax before we finish up?”

I think that’s what she said. I was running across the parking lot in my backless paper gown at the time. After I relaxed for a few years, I figured I might go back. But I was bringing my own fire extinguisher.

Leigh Anne Jasheway

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