I have discovered that one of the really annoying things about hitting your half century is all the medical tests your doctors want you to take. Since I am taking a break starting at the end of the month (Actorspeak = unemployed), I decided now would be a good time to get a physical. The actual physical exam isn’t until Tuesday; today, however, I had to go in and get blood drawn for the various tests.
I went to the lab and presented my left arm for its sorta-semi-annual poke, but the lab lady surprised me by handing me a packet containing a stool sample kit. I gave her a startled look and she gave me a rueful laugh in return. “You fitty now,” she said. “Now you get new test. Be sure read instruction carefully ’cause there a lot.”
There sure are. It’s a three-day test regimen; the lab lady kindly opened the kit up and showed me what I have to do. “You take sample and kind of paint these spot here ev’y day for tree day. They give you wooden stick to paint with,” she said. “Ick,” I responded. She gave me the rueful laugh again and asked, “Which arm you like take brud?”
While she drew “brud” from my left arm (my right is my gun arm and I have a dozen more performances of Assassins yet to go), I read the stool kit more carefully. I can’t take ibuprophen or aspirin for seven days prior to the test or during the three-day test period (whoops – just took some yesterday). I can’t eat red meat (beef, lamb or liver) for three days prior to the test period or during the test period. I have to avoid citrus fruits and juices and take no more than 250 mg a day of Vitamin C – again, before and during the test period. A pain in the butt (you should pardon the expression), but I understand that the alternative is a colonoscopy every ten years. I’ll take an annual “painting with shit” class instead, thanks.
I mull this over while I waited for my mammogram. This used to be a semi-annual event; now that I am “fitty” I get to do it every year. I hate mammograms. If we can send a man to the moon, why the hell can’t we find a better way to examine breasts than by smashing them between two plates of glass?
They called my name (I always know it’s me they want when I hear someone announce: “Donna Mmmm…Donna Muh…Mih…Meh”) and I went back, filling out the obligatory form on the way. I was ushered into a litle changing booth, stripped off my clothes from the waist up and put on the little paper jacket they provide. Then I joined the other worried/embarrassed/exasperated women in the waiting area, all clutching their little paper jackets closed at the front. I didn’t have to wait long before a tiny Asian woman called me into the mammogram room. She handed me the little skirt to put on and busied herself wiping down the machinery.
The little skirt cracks me up. For the gentlemen who are reading this (and the girls who are too young for mammograms, and the naughty older ladies who haven’t had one – yes, I’m talking to YOU), this is essentially a large, rectangle-shaped apron mounted on a curved heavy-duty plastic rod. The rod naturally curls in on itself when at rest; you pull the ends apart and set it around your waist, whereupon it curls back on itself, emcompassing your waist. It’s a point of interest to me to see how far it overlaps in the back – the day that the ends don’t overlap is the day I shoot myself because I’ll be grossly overweight. The apron part is made of some kind of heavy vinyl which is lined in lead, so what with the paper jacket just covering your upper bodaciousness and the lead-lined apron protecting your naughty bits, in this outfit you are stylin’ indeed.
The tiny lab tech then manuevered me into position. For those who you have not experienced a mammogram, here’s what the equipment looks like. Those two big flat things are the vise in which your mammaries get the big squeeze (one at a time). The tech loads an X-ray plate into the bottom section and you belly up to it while she adjusts it to boob level. Now comes the fun part: your bare boob gets laid out on the icy-cold lower plate like a slab of ham, and then the tech adjusts your position as she brings the upper and lower plates together. Your “position” usually entails keeping your lower body square to the machinery, while the tech adjusts your upper body into a contorted position with one arm upraised and your head tilted back. Today’s tech added a new one to me; the hand not in the air was turned palm up. What this was supposed to accomplish I don’t know, but the Botticelli-esque posture made me think of Hermione Gingold in the movie version of The Music Man, crooning: “ONE Grrrreeecian Urn…TWO Grrrreeecian Urns…” However, I’m certain my grimace as the two plates mashed me flat ruined the effect. It must have been a good grimace because after each of the four X-rays, the tech asked me: “You okay? You all right?” It was then that I noticed the little ampule of smelling salts taped on the wall nearby. I’ve never felt faint during a mammogram, but I can imagine others keeling over from the combined effects of the posture, the squeezing and the holding of the breath during the actual X-Ray.
After the procedure was finished, the tech took away the lead apron (and I am happy to see it go, even though I know it has kept my nether regions from taking a nice dose of röntgens and thereafter glowing in the dark). Me and my paper jacket go back into the waiting area with the other bra-less broads and wait. I’m guessing someone develops my X-rays and reads them during this time, but no one’s ever told me exactly why we wait. About ten minutes pass before the tech returns, flaps her hand cheerily and says, “Go get dressed. Bye-bye.” I disappear into the booth and put my clothes back on. I toy with the idea of taking the paper jacket with me, just for fun (it would certainly be a source of amusement in the dressing room this evening), but I decide that the instructions for the stool kit are amusement enough, and I go home.