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Mammograms, Pap Tests and Other Pleasantries of Middle Age
by Marjorie Dorfman

Do you sometimes feel like an appliance whose warranty has just expired? Are you tired of all these tests the doctors say you have to take to insure that you will reach old age? Or are you just tired? Read on and laugh.

Someone once said that being over forty-five is like an appliance one day after the warranty expiration date. And on this morning after, so to speak, things break down, fall away, get lost and sometimes reproduce. It is because of this fact that check-ups and all the ramifications thereof, exist.

I will, just for the moment, forego the men's side to this sad story because I am not one of them and can only tell the tales of my own fair sex. They have their share of things; the necktie's one for sure, but they can't compete with what women go through every year with mammograms, pap tests and the like.

I think the person who invented the mammogram was a special soul; a man who hates women. (I suspect it is the same fellow who came up with the idea of spike heels and platform shoes, but I can't prove it. Maybe he threw in the necktie as well, just to throw men off the track). Only a person consumed with hatred could find it medicinal to lower a vice upon an innocent breast bystander, squeeze the life out of it and then let it go to fend for itself. Of course, it is "the life in it" that ultimately such a procedure protects as the pressure is necessary to get a full view of the breast, but you'll never convince me that there isn't an element of torture in the process.

As a writer of horror fiction, my imagination runs rampant during my annual visit to the house of horrors. I say to myself; "self, what if there is an electrical breakdown at the exact moment of pressure?" Will I have to go through life forever pinned to my nemesis? And what if a fire breaks out while I'm standing there? Would there be enough time to escape? And worst of all, what if there's a fire and at the same time the technician controlling the machine has a heart attack and dies? Would I be able to fit through the narrow door while still attached to it?

The mammogram is a yearly encounter of the tenth kind. Other tests are less frequent, but even worse. On a scale of one to ten with ten being the worst, I'd put the colonoscopy (test for Colon Cancer) at 91/2. No, I'm not talking about The Hit Parade or another Fellini movie, but rather in terms of invasive and disgusting procedure. It is a test that is given to both men and women and as such can become a sharing experience. Root canal and dental implants are a bit worse, but at least with them you can eat something and you don't have to swallow some vile liquid that I suspect the Russians mis-placed in America before the Cold War. (Actually, they did the right thing, but unfortunately, it was re-discovered because they lost the war).

If drinking this disgusting laxative that they dare to call "flavored" isn't bad enough, you must also refrain from accepting invitations to coronations and/or other celebrations where a bathroom is located down a long hallway. You won't make it. Trust me. After starving for 24 hours and drinking Hecate's Brew all in the name of health and science, you are still not finished. There's still the test itself and the lovely thing that needs to pay you a cold little visit where the sun doesn't shine. One must also be mostly awake for this procedure, as not to be can lead to a rupture of friendship between you and your doctor behind the OK Corral also known as the Colon Wall.

The last of the worst is that other thing called a Pap test. It doesn't hurt at all, but the damage is psychological. How does a woman consider equality in a man's world while lying down with everything important exposed and legs strapped into stirrups? (I've heard of sidesaddle, but this is ridiculous!) There is no more mortifying position for a woman to find herself in. Still, it is all a part of what's necessary for healthy middle-aged female life.

These and other issues abound. Will the results of my tests be scarier than the tests themselves? The answer is never and no. Fore-warned is fore-armed, as the saying goes and it is only what you don't know that can hurt you. (True, except in the case of meaningless gossip, ladies!) Despite my misgivings, I wouldn't have it any other way. Neither should you!

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Copyright 2002