Stress Levels: Outer Limits, Part II

So, where were we? Oh yes. When we last left our heroine at the House of Peevish, she was having a major existential crisis because, oh yeah, INSTITUTIONAL INCOMPETENCE, BUSES, AND INSURANCE.

That was a fun day, wasn’t it?

And it will comfort you to know that, in fact, exactly ZERO progress has been made on the whole “what the fuck do you mean, you’re not going to pay us for the value of our almost-brand-new car” and “what the fuck do you mean, the woman who totalled our car is also going to be driving our daughter to school on a regular basis” fronts. So that’s nice. Wouldn’t want to shake anyone’s worldviews with quick and logical resolutions to arsenumbingly stupid problems, would we?

But as I had said, that was just the start of our stress and fun, although the rest is slightly less OMG ONGOING STRESS stress and more of the WELL THAT WAS STRESSFUL, BUT NOW LOOKING BACK IT’S KIND OF HILARIOUS variety.

Because what’s not funny about subtraction, sweating, and boobs, I ask you?

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.

So, let’s cast our memories back to Monday, just over a week ago. A Monday on which I had, a few days previously, managed to schedule myself a mammogram and a bone density scan. Because I am Over 50 But Not Quite Old Enough To Receive A Discount At Michaels, so my doctor sent me home from my last appointment with homework to do.

So, first exams of either variety. Meh, no big deal.

The clinic I had to go to is smack in the middle of our downtown core, and for the last year or so and into the foreseeable future, the only parking garage (that I know about downtown) was closed for repairs. This is fine, though, because I used to live very close to downtown, and my preference on reasonable non-winter days is to park near my old apartment, where parking is free, and walk in. It’s about 20 minutes. Totally reasonable.

So I did.

It was surprisingly humid for late September, but not that warm, so I dressed appropriately, and off I went.

By the time I arrived downtown I was a bit hot and sweaty, but I thought I was there in plenty of time to sit and crochet, have a drink, and cool down before my appointment.

I didn’t count on them being a full 15 minutes early for me, though. I was called in almost immediately.

So, I gathered up my cares and woes and took my sweaty self down the corridor behind a lovely tech who led me to a room to do my bone density scan. If you’ve never had one before, it’s really quite easy. You basically lie down with your feet up on a pillow and they do all the rest! Napping and scanning! It’s my best medical procedure ever!

She gave me the preliminary explanation, asked if I was wearing an underwire bra to which I answered in the negative, and then I hopped up on the table and prepared to Nap ‘n’ Scan.

All was going well. I was comfortable, cooling down, relaxing, and then the machine stops. She asked me, “Do you have a belly button ring, or…?”

“Oh, honey, NO.”

“Well, maybe do you have a zipper or pocket on those pants….?”

I was wearing a pair of running tights, and whenever I go walking I have to store my keys and phone in my bra because I have no pockets. So I started to answer “no” but then realized, “No, wait, those are my crops OH MY DOG YES I DO I AM SO SORRY!”

My pants had a little zippered pocket at the back, but since I hadn’t worn actual pants since, I dunno, SPRING since we’ve had the Humid Summer From Hell, I had forgotten.

So, we started the scan again. MORE NAPPING TIME FOR ME, AMIRITE?

Once finished, I was taken to a little change room, and directed to get my kit off — well, the top half of my kit, anyway — and put on a little paper vest from the pile. The mammo tech would be with me shortly.

So I did. I stood there, in my Sexy Paper Cardigan, and waited until called.

At which point, I came out, modeled my Sexy Paper Cardi and did a spin on the catwalk down to the mammo suite. Which the tech thought was funny.

The exam itself was… well, let’s just call it pinchy. I mean, mammography exams are never a picnic. They’re uncomfortable, and parts of you that are unaccustomed to being squeezed are squeezed to within an inch of their lives. It’s nobody’s favourite exam, but there are so many worse ones.

(I’m talking to you, pap smears.)

So I basically sucked it up and tried to joke my way through the procedure. It was made doubly difficult because I was hot and sweaty and it is done by a hot and sweaty piece of machinery in a small room, but it was fine. The tech was lovely and put a fan on for me, and we chatted and I kept myself distracted throughout.

When it was done, she explained that because it was my first exam, and thus there’s no baseline for the radiologist to refer to when reading my images, I might get called back because they want to make sure they check any and everything out that might be an issue. It’s fairly common.

With that, I said thanks, changed out of my Sexy Paper Cardi and into my street clothes, and made my way out into the downtown core, where I walked to my car and went home.

So, homework completed! Yay!


I was home maybe half an hour when I got a call from the imaging centre, saying they wanted me to come back for another mammogram and an ultrasound. Apparently the radiologist saw something and he wanted a further set of images. Right side only. And could I come in tomorrow?

Well, I have a kid I have to be home for, I said, but if you can fit me in the middle of the day then sure. They agreed, and it was booked.

I was fine, because I had been warned that this might happen. I let BDH know, and he was slightly concerned (not knowing anything about mammo) but it was all fine. So we went about our day.

Fast forward to the next morning.

I was downstairs, getting breakfast for the cats and kid, when That Girl came down the stairs, holding aloft a pair of blood-stained pajama bottoms and apologizing.

Oh holy hell. My ten-and-a-half year old had gotten her first period overnight.

I was cool. We had had “the talk” a number of times previously, so I explained what was going on and took her upstairs to get her sorted.

At which point, I realized: with her issues, there was NO WAY I could send her off to school for the day and expect her to be able to handle it on her own. NO. WAY. She just could not comprehend enough what was going on, what had to be done, none of it.

I was going to have to keep her home from school to go over this whole thing a number of times.


Head, meet desk.

I mean, on the one hand… teachable moments, right? All the women’s health things together on one day, right?


I was freaking out.

I mean, do I leave her sitting, unaccompanied, in the clinic waiting area, where she-who-has-no-filter-or-stranger-danger could engage with people who a) could have wandered in out of the rain from the downtown core, or 2) don’t necessarily want a young unfamiliar child discussing her period with them at length?

Do I take her in to my exams? Where she would not be able to resist talking about herself and her new and exciting period at length, or in a slightly more dramatic turn of events, we would not be able to pause for us to rush off to the bathroom to deal with this new and exciting biological function?

Oy. Neither looked like an appealing prospect.

Also, if I am honest, I was beginning to freak out ever so slightly about my appointment. I had bruises from the adventure the day before, not to mention the skin under one boob was cracked from all the pulling. And there’s always that little voice in the back of your mind that goes, “yeah, but what if it IS something?”

So I was a little apprehensive.

But I got into full on organization mode. We got a bag of busy things — books, an iPad, a water bottle — ready for her to keep busy. I went over what was going to happen and what she was going to do, several times. And — TMI ALERT, LOOK AWAY THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE SQUEAMISH — we went over how to change and dispose of pads, over and over again.

And then we went to the same parking spot where I had left my car the day before and started walking once again downtown to the clinic.

Now, let me just tell you that, because of That Girl’s memory and reasoning issues, she spent that entire 20 minute walk talking about her period. OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN. A key way she can internalize information is often through oral repetition.

So she did. And I listened.

I swear to dog, I have never talked about periods as much as I did last week. Like, not even when I was a kid. Not even when I was doing years of infertility treatment. I didn’t think we could talk about something more than the Great Pubic Hair Discussions of ’18, honestly, but we came pretty close.


She came up with me to the clinic, and I got her settled in the corner of the waiting room within eyeline of the front desk, and explained to her that she was to sit there, and if there were any problems that she should go talk to one of the nice ladies behind the desk. Then I was called in for my mammogram.

It was the same tech as the day before, thankfully, so we had a rapport. I got the paper cardigan on and when I went in, I told her about That Girl sitting in the waiting room. She asked if I wanted to bring her in while I had the exam. I took a definite no on that option.

It was then that she explained what was going to happen. And she told me that it was going to be quite a bit more painful than the day before, because they had to be more specific.

She wasn’t lying. It was really quite painful. In ways I had not imagined previously. I may have said quite a few colourful words.


When it was all done, she asked if I wanted her to go out and bring That Girl in. She said it would be fine if That Girl sat in the dressing room, so long as she didn’t wander. I assured her that she would not, and said I’d throw my t-shirt on and go get her because she had bags and the like.

So I did.

And that was how I found myself, about five minutes later, in a dressing room at an imaging clinic, me standing topless in front of my daughter except for a paper cardigan, cradling a very painful boob, swearing under my breath, sweating like a pig, and answering subtraction questions while my kid played a math game.

The rest of the appointment went much the same. I left my daughter to play her math game quietly while I had an ultrasound on my boob. Which, if you have never had one, is reminiscent of a cat stepping on your boob repeatedly as it walks over you in bed.

Of course, I was sore already from the mammogram. But the fact that the tech did a set of images, took them to the radiologist for review, came back to me to do another set of images, which she then took again to the radiologist for review, and then the radiologist came in and said HE wanted to do some images, left me feeling really sore.

I was reaching the upper limit of how much boob squishing and pinching and pressing I could tolerate.

But, the radiologist coming in had some benefit. Turns out, he had seen something unusual on the initial images that he wanted to check out. He’s not terribly concerned, but wants me back in six months.


So, exams completed, I shoved my sore boob in a sports bra, gathered up my daughter and all her miscellaneous stuff, and walked back to the car. TALKING ABOUT PERIODS, AND NOW ALSO BOOBS, THE ENTIRE WAY.

So, mother/daughter bonding time. Nice.

The one bittersweet moment came later that evening, when I sent That Girl to the bathroom to Take Care Of Business. I sat down at my desk, at my computer.

That Girl was at the door of the office, looking unhappy. I asked her what was wrong, and she said, “What if you die of cancer and I have to do all this period stuff myself and I don’t know what to do?”

Remember when I said that the only way for her to grasp some concepts or understand what was going on was to repeat it and talk about it over and over again? Well, I guess that, although I explained the whole mammography thing to her a bit over the course of the day, she had not gotten enough time to talk it through and process it. She just made the leap from “mammogram” to “cancer” to “death”.

Poor kid.

So, we’ll talk about it some more. I am sure we will.

In fact, I CAN GUARANTEE we will.

And also periods, too. And let’s just cover pubic hair, too, while we’re at it.

Sigh. I plan to take up day drinking in the not-so-distant future, I swear.