Everything I Thought I Knew About Mammograms Was Wrong

by Meggin LeVeaux
A mockup of a woman's breast represented in the form of crumbled-up paper, symbolizing mammograms
Lightspring / Shutterstock

Turning 40 didn’t really bother me. I think it’s because I have the maturity level of a 9-year-old who spends a great deal of time in the principal’s office. I still laugh at fart jokes, and when someone trips and falls, I collapse in a heap of laughter. Like I said, I’m juvenile.

But about a month ago, for the first time, I really felt the full weight of my 41 years, and let me tell you, that bitch is heavy. It arrived in the most innocuous of forms: an envelope. Despite having a myriad of ridiculous phobias, I haven’t been afraid of an envelope since I was 17 and waiting for college acceptance letters.

While sorting through the mail, I happened upon this harbinger of dread and opened it up, never suspecting what lay inside. I don’t remember the exact verbiage of the letter, but allow me to approximate:

Hey, bitch! You’re old. Old ladies get mammograms. You pickin’ up what I’m layin’ down?

Actually, the letter was ridiculously polite, like an awkward teen talking to a pretty girl:

When women reach a certain age, it becomes increasingly important for them to monitor their health. Since you are entering this more mature phase in your life, it would be a good idea to schedule your first mammogram.

My first thought was, wait, women aren’t supposed to get their first mammogram until 45! Surely they have mistaken me for someone else? Some old hag with saggy boobs. So I looked it up on Google and learned that obese women need to get mammograms earlier than their fit, athletic counterparts. Thanks, Kaiser. Now I’m old and fat!

Those of you who have already joined the mammogram club might think that I’m being overly dramatic, but you’re missing one key piece of information. When I was a teenager, I had a very traumatizing experience when I somehow wound up accompanying my mom on her mammogram appointment.

If you’re wondering why in the holy hell a teenager was in the room while her mom was getting a mammogram, join the damn club. I have no clue why she brought me in there other than to perform some twisted Pavlovian dog experiment where I cry every time a woman’s tit is squeezed. I distinctly remember my mom howling in pain like an injured alley cat when the tech lowered the glass on her boob.

Reluctantly, I made the appointment for the mammogram and nervously counted down the days until my first official boob smashing. The day of, I drove to the appointment, gently reassuring my breasts that it would only hurt for a second. After they checked me in and called me back, I changed into a very fashionable smock that reminded of the famous JLo Grammy dress that was cut down to her damn naval — except in my hospital version, it ended at a pooch of flabby skin where my belly button is currently hiding. If JLo had side boob then I had side sag.

As I walked into the room, I stared down that machine and puffed out my chest. A tech rattled off the procedure in a clearly memorized monologue, and then it was go time.

Here I must interject and explain my breasts in a bit more detail, so as to give you a lovely mental image. When my first son was only 3, he loved boobs more than anything. Whenever I picked him up he would rest one tiny, little hand on my tit, and pat it reassuringly. Every time we went to a clothes store, he would make a beeline for the bras and proudly announce, “Look, Mom, booby sacks!” One day, this precious child sat on my lap and said, “Mom, I like your boobs because they’re big, they’re sloppy, and they have nipples.” Well, damned if that wasn’t just about the perfect way to describe them. My husband is quite fond of the saying to this day.

So after the tech stopped talking, I whipped out both of my big, sloppy boobs, slapped them down on the glass with an audible thump, and asked, “Is this how we do it?” The poor tech was absolutely horrified and tried to push my breasts back off the shelf with the tip of her pen. Unfortunately, skin doesn’t easily slide off glass, so I wound up pulling them back in a jerky motion like I was starting a lawnmower. Turns out they don’t want both tits at the same time. Who knew?

The tech moved my body until I was awkwardly hugging the machine, one boob staring up at me from the glass shelf.

“I’m just going to tuck this away,” she said, pushing a roll of fat under that table.

Then she lowered the compression plate while I held my breath, waiting for the inevitable pain. But here’s the thing: It didn’t hurt at all. Not one bit. My big sloppy boobs mashed down nicely into an ever-expanding circle of pink skin and flattened nipple. After she took the x-ray, I mentioned that I had been nervous it was going to hurt.

“Yeah, I get that a lot,” she responded. “I think most of the people who say that are old.” Suddenly, she realized what she said and immediately tried to redirect, “I mean…they used the older machine. These machines are much better.”

After a half a dozen pictures and a small dose of radiation, I was back in the dressing room again. Before changing, I looked at myself in the mirror and had the sudden urge to take a picture. I had met that breast smashing machine head-on and came out victorious. I was quite proud of myself — and my big, sloppy boobs.

Meggin LeVeaux