Editor’s Note: This column was originally published in May 2014, but since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Lagniappe is reprinting it as a reminder to schedule your mammogram, if you are due for one. Remember, no deodorant!
The night before, when they called to remind me, I knew the next day was just going to stink. I was to wear no perfume or deodorant to my first mammogram, the one known as the “baseline.”
Gross! No problem with the perfume, but no deodorant in Mobile … in May? Thank God my appointment was at 8:15 a.m. My BO and pit staining shouldn’t be too bad that early in the morning.
I arrived at Mobile Infirmary’s Breast Center to find quite a disturbance in the parking lot. A redneck momma was screaming loudly at one of her two young and freshly buzzed-cut sons. “Dontchu dew that to hiiiim,” the momma cried. “You ain’t gonna act like that in thar.”
Lord, Momma. I appreciate your dedication to keeping your boys in line, but if that’s the frequency and decibel level you require for discipline, I’d hate to hear your emergency shriek — it would probably only be detectable by dogs.
After harshly judging them and then remembering where I came from and that I pronounced the word “on” as “own” until I was 20, I knocked my high-falutin’, snobby ass (and soon-to-be-stinking self) back down a peg or two and headed in to have my breasts squished.
Before entering the office, I took a quick sniff of the pits. They didn’t smell of my Secret clear gel in Paris scent, but they weren’t burning my nose hairs off yet.
Hmmm. Wonder why I chose a deodorant scent inspired by Paris? There are certainly many parts of Paris I would not want my underarms to smell like and the pits of Parisian women are not really an ideal of which to aspire. I shuddered as an image of a thick patch of black underarm hair with flies buzzing around popped into my head.
Note to self: Pick up a new deodorant with a classic name like “Powder Fresh” or “Shower Clean,” instead of maybe unintentionally smelling like a Moulin Rouge hooker who dies tragically young from tuberculosis.
But self did not smell that way today. No, self had overcompensated for the lack of Parisian prostitute deodorant by finding the most fragrant body lotion I had in my body cream arsenal, which I determined to be some leftover hotel concoction I had with strong lemongrass overtones. I slathered it on thick and smelled tasty enough to be on the menu of a Thai restaurant.
I opened the door to the booby center and immediately read with dismay the notice posted right by the sign-in sheet: “Please do not wear perfume, cologne or scented lotions due to allergies and sensitivities to others.”
Sorry, guys. You didn’t say anything about lotion on the call last night. Too late. Hope no one is sensitive to pad thai.
I filled out all of the requisite paperwork, being careful to write very slowly so as not to break out in a sweat. I turned it in and waited for my name to be called.
In my obsession with the parenting techniques of rednecks, body odor and the smells of Paris and Thailand, I had kind of forgotten about the importance of the procedure.
I wondered if my grandmother who had breast cancer had ever had a mammogram before she knew there was a problem … and if she would still be here today to see my daughter, whose middle name is hers, if she had. She would be have been tickled about me using her name, although a little angry. She always hated her name, Genevieve. Mainly because everyone where we lived pronounced it “Jenna-vee.” But I always thought it was beautiful. Still do, Grams.
The mammographer (or is it mammogrammer?) opened the door to the waiting room and called my name. It was showtime!
She was a very nice lady, who asked me if I had ever had one before and when I told her I hadn’t, she explained what we were going to do. Then she made sure I had not put on deodorant.
“No, I didn’t, but can you tell me why you guys ask for that? Seems like that requirement would make your job a little unpleasant, especially during Mobile summers.”
She kindly explained the aluminum in some deodorants can be picked up by the sensitive machines and distort the results. She said she had some deodorant available for use after the procedure.
As she stepped out so I could put my hospital gown on, I wondered what scent it was and how it was packaged. Certainly not a community roll-on or stick!
She came back in and I bellied up to the machine. As gently as you can mash someone’s boobs flat down on a plate, she did so as she made small talk. I’ve always found it simultaneously comforting and hilarious the conversations you have with the clinicians caring for your lady parts while they are examining them.
“So how’s work?” they will ask. “Fabulous,” you will say. “We just went weekly. Business is good.” But what you are thinking: “Shouldn’t we be talking about my other ‘business?’”
I guess not. What are they supposed to say? “Your tatas look really good, medically speaking, of course.”
“Why thank you! Yours too!” you would say back.
Yeah, maybe small talk is better.
My lady was great. She draped me over the machine and snapped the shots she needed with great care and precision. I just wanted to cheer her on. “Rammer jammer. Give ‘em hell, mammogrammer!” Or is it mammographer? Whatever, except don’t give them hell. And she didn’t. It was quick and painless. And most of all an important thing to do, ladies. Make your appointments now if you are due for one.
After I finished my “photo shoot” she offered me the office deodorant, but I declined in favor of going back home and putting on the dead Parisian hooker scent.
About a week or so later I received a letter saying the results were “within the normal limits” — absolutely the only time you want to hear your girls described in that way.
In celebration, I went back to the deodorant aisle to look for a new scent. Degree has some called “Just Dance” and “Sexy Intrigue.” Lady Speed Stick has “Silky Chiffon.” Geez, how many dead hooker scents are there?
I grabbed my Shower Clean and me and my normal-limit boobs headed to the checkout with our normal smelling deo.
Update: Since this column was published, I had to return for my first mammogram after turning 40, which now means it will be an annual event. Yay!
But I am pleased to report my boobs are still “within the normal limits!” Make sure yours are too.
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