Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mammograms - and two words nobody wants to hear


There are two words no woman wants to hear after a mammogram: They found . . .Yet I got a call with those two words three days after my mammogram. Not from my doctor or a radiologist, but from a hesitant stranger. Something about finding a density. And a letter telling me to consult my own doctor. I was too stunned to ask his nurse the right question.

Back to the hospital after a frightened weekend. Long intake, waiting. It was not until I was in the filming room with the terribly young tech that I found out all breast tissue is of two kinds. And she seemed to be saying that one kind is more dense! In fact, nothing bad had been found! Older breasts, it seems, get folded or otherwise make it hard to see all their tissue. Why in the world didn't they train the woman who phoned to tell me they just didn't have enough pictures to see the whole breast!!! That whole weekend would have been much less painful.

More pictures and the happy tech took me far down the hall and shut me alone in a cold room without my bra and with a rack of bright pamphlets telling me how to live with cancer. I decided they put me so far away so no one would hear my reaction to their findings. I occupied myself with trying to support my breasts. Finally, the tech brought in the female radiologist, who told me her name. Without smiling, she told me again about older women's breast tissues. Finally, finally, she told me my breasts were fine, gave me a strange little smile, and walked out.

Why could the breast center not hand every woman or put on the order for mammograms the information about older breasts?

Shouldn't a breast center, staffed by women, want to avoid unnecessary fear? For those of us who have had a major biopsy under general anesthesia, for those who watched our friends die of breast cancer, any extra fear is too much fear.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


My daughter really loved my coffee this visit! I got some of my secrets from a coffee book on display at work, then did my own version. For each mug: 1 Tablespoon regular Yuban, 2 Tablespoons decaf Yuban, 10 ounces freshly filtered water. Duh Rules: always fresh water, warm the mug and the milk or soy milk (I set mine on the coffee maker while it brews.) Never let it sit around for more than an hour regardless of what your coffee shop gets away with.

Recently I shared a table at wonderful Priscilla's in Toluca Lake with someone who used to live in the area. He gave me a lot of history about Priscilla's introducing gourmet coffee to the area and getting people interested. I had to confess (tho I'll never leave Priscilla's) that I recently stopped grinding my coffee and went back to Yuban because I love the smell I used to love when I opened the can.

What has this to do with backtalk? In another local shop I've seen women meekly accept coffee that was not what they ordered and not prepared as they asked. We are the customers! It is not only okay to hold out politely for what we ordered, it helps the shop keep up its reputation for service. Really.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Mammogram day! No more procrastinating. I'm a dreader, so even if last year's screening was okay, I still put this off. When I actually get there, I'm cheerful. I ask for a feedback form at sign-in.

So what do you do when your mammogram is really painful or the tech could use an hour in the time-out chair? We can't call for the manager, and we're too nice to give her a little Gibbs-slap. We're afraid to stop the exam in case the insurance company won't give us another, so we suffer through it. Please tell your doctor! And there may be a patient relations office you can call or write to. I had great luck writing to patient relations in my hospital about a different problem

Actually, today's tech, Paula, was great and I wasn't really uncomfortable. I praised her on the feedback form. Do you ever praise hospital people for a good experience? Let me know.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

What we're up to

Are you ever just really mad about what you need that you can't buy, about how you're treated at the mammogram department, even about what you read in women's magazines? Every time I've said: I'm mad as hell, and I'm going to write that store (or that group or whoever) a letter, I've read somewhere that another woman is mad as hell about the same thing. If I'm mad about pants that don't fit or pants that no sensible woman would pay for, another woman is mad about trying to buy pants, too. Sometimes a lot of women.

Sometimes I do write the letter. And sometimes, like the letter I wrote to a certain hospital, the results were delightful and surprising!

Now I'm going to write the letters here, and you can write back. I'm even going to write to stores and restaurants and hospitals I think are doing a wonderful job. But don't you think pants are a good place to start?