It seemed like a good idea at the time, but who knew it would turn into a giggle fest? Mom, who survived breast cancer 23 years ago, and I both needed a mammogram, so why not Breast Fest 2010?
Maybe the weirdness runs in the family. In his first year of college, my nephew, Michael, and a friend dressed up as breasts and went to a Halloween party as a couple of boobs. My mom and I followed in their footsteps.
First, the all important check in. My mom and I have the same last name; she’s Genevieve, and I’m Catharine and not only do we not look one bit alike (she’s blonde and blue eyed), but she’s also 34 years older than I. Since I’m not a spring chicken, that makes her elderly, a word I use with great caution as my own dotage approaches. But let’s face it, friends: If Woodrow Wilson was president when you were born and Warren G. Harding became president before you could crawl, that doesn’t exactly make you Hannah Montana.
Conversely, if Ike was in office when you were born, your name could not be Genevieve Hamm. But it didn’t seem to occur to check-in chick when she asked me, somewhat conspiratorially, how long it had been since my breast cancer. It had, in fact, been a very bad day, but was it so bad that I really looked like someone whose DOB clearly said 1920?
“Bad news,” I told my mom when I returned to her in the waiting room after straightening out the confusion. “They think you’re 55, and frankly, for 55, you don’t look so hot. “
And then we both started to giggle.
I knew what was coming next. It’s an old joke between us. “Did you tell them to charge me half price?” she said. “I only have one, you know.”
We sobered up a bit in the undressing room. We had one wheelchair, two smocks, two purses, and three breasts that needed attention. We pushed and pulled and wiggled and squirmed. I have seen my mom’s mastectomy scar, but it has been only in the last couple of years. She was ashamed, I think. But now it’s just another reminder that she’s one tough broad. So she let me wrestle her out of her top and into her smock. Again, I knew what was coming: “Do you know my Chinese name?” she said “It’s One Hung Low.”
So we were both dressed in pink smocks that opened toward the front and sitting in the waiting room. And sitting and waiting and waiting, watching some DVD that looked like the Cirque du Soleil acroclowns running and jumping and leaping and twirling. It very much approximated what we had just done in the undressing room, except they had on cooler makeup.
And certainly better costumes. Our little pink numbers were a bit drafty. I was fussing with mine and realized that people were looking at me as if to say, ‘”Just because your mother is having a mammogram doesn’t mean you had to get into costume too, you attention whore.” My face flushed, and I wished for a sign that said, “I'm Having One Too.”
Waiting and more waiting. Only a couple of women had been called in the hour we’d been there, and more were arriving. My mother leaned over and said, “It’s like the roach motel. They check in but they don’t check out.”
Finally, they called us. Actually they called her, so this gave a whole new group of people the chance to think of me as an attention ho.
It is not easy, under the best of circumstances, to do the mammo dance. It’s kind of a cross between the Tennessee Waltz and the lambada, and if you’re 89 and you never followed directions well and now you can’t really follow them at all, well, it's more like doing the Monster Mash.
I stood behind her and held her up while they took both sets of pix. I absorbed her radiation and, then, my own. No big deal. She would have done it for me.
And as I stood there, holding this fragile little old lady, I prayed—that we’d both be fine and that, God willing, we’d get to do this again next year, just a couple of boobs, giggling, giggling, all the way.