Hey everyone Yesterday morning I got a letter through the post. This in itself is not an unusual occurrence except with it being Fair Monday I didn’t expect any post. Anyway this wasn’t one of my usual monthly statements and was post marked private and confidential so it was with utmost urgency I opened this letter to see what information it contained.
As I read the letter carefully I noticed this was no ordinary letter but was my appointment to attend my local breast screening centre for a mammogram to check for any signs of breast cancer. I have been asked to attend at 10 am on Friday 8th August. This is exactly 40 years since I started secondary school. So yet again the 8th of August will be significant date in my life.
I have made my mind up that I am going to attend despite my friend Samantha Bowden saying that it will be an uncomfortable experience. Well as a transwoman I am getting used to experiencing uncomfortable moments for the first time, and the way I see it is that it can’t be any worse than my first hot flush, or the first time I had stomach cramps or had an unexpected mood swing. It will just be a different kind of discomfort but unlike the others I’ve mentioned I will only need to put up with this one once every three years.
The letter informed me that my doctor is aware I am being requested to attend this appointment and if they are ok with it then so am I. The reason I make this point, is to clarify one which was raised in a facebook comment from my long time friend Audrey Marshall who admitted to being confused at my appointment believing that such appointments would only have applied to those who were born female. I however was aware that I would be invited for a Mammogram as the issue had been raised by my doctor at my general health check. So I was expecting this letter to eventually arrive through my post box.
You see the way I see it is that had my doctor had any concerns about my suitability for this check up on the grounds of me being a pre op transsexual then they would have raised it and the appointment would not have been made. However since I live my life as a woman, and I am in the target demographic for this screening and have developed breasts due to my intake of oestrogen hormones my doctor obviously and quite rightly thinks that it is important that I am treated in the same way as any other woman on this issue.
To me this is another right of passage and in that respect at least is like all the other small steps I’ve made along the road to my journey. I must admit I will be nervous when I get it done and there is no point in pretending otherwise as I would only be fooling myself and no-one else. Well it will be the first time I’ve had to have anyone look at my breasts. Even when I go for a bra fitting no-one sees my breasts except me. So the fact that someone albeit a highly trained female medical professional may even have to touch them in order to do their job does make me slightly apprehensive.
The one reassuring point however is that it will be female staff who will carry out the examination. It just makes things easier for me to know this because it will make me feel a wee bit more relaxed on a day when I understandably will be slightly nervous.
The information booklet which accompanied the letter has helped me to understand the procedures I will face on the day and why it is so important to get your mammogram and undergo any breast screening you may need. Apart from the fact that mammograms can detect any early signs of breast cancer the booklet also tells us how we can be more breast aware to spot any signs of early detection.
The booklet also advised on etiquette for my appointment, most of it was I have to say a matter of a good common sense. It tells us for example that the screening process can cause some embarrassment, and anxiety, as well as the physical discomfort I referred to earlier.
Let me assure the examiners I will feel no anxiety though I can’t guarantee I won’t be blushing as I do tend to react in this way when nervous.
The booklet went on to inform to us that not all breast cancers are found during screening because a small number of breast cancers don’t show up on mammograms. This is why it is important to check your breasts in the period between check up’s.
As for what the procedure feels like this will I suppose be different for every woman undertaking the test but the length of time, we are told, will be roughly the same at around 30 minutes. This may seem like a long time for what is essentially an x-ray but I believe it is better to take time to get things done properly rather than doing it too quickly and it all going horribly wrong.
With regards to the results of the test the booklet informed me that I will receive them within three weeks and my doctor will also receive a copy at the same time. This reassured me that both I and my GP will receive the results as quickly as is possible after diagnoses. This is important to me as I want to know within a reasonable time frame as to whether or not there are any problems and what do next in the event of the outcome being worst case scenario. Well as a church going girl I always believe should prepare for the worst whilst expecting the best. I mean it just makes sense to prepare for all eventualities even though the majority of women come back clear.
On a completely different topic, I do have to say, that I like the fact the booklet contained tips on what to wear to the screening. Since I will have to undress from the waist up it should come as no great surprise that I am being advised to wear trousers or a skirt. I have no problem with that as I normally wear a skirt anyway unless I’m going somewhere where I need to get dolled up a bit. The problem for me will be finding the right top by which I mean one which is not too baggy or too tight and will cause me minimal access issues. With this in mind, I think I may choose a vest top and take another with me to wear afterwards should the need arise.
The last point of etiquette raised in the booklet is the fact that though you can be accompanied on your visit, men are not allowed in to the screening area. This makes sense as this is a very private issue and should be treated as such. The idea of men to being in this area would I have to say be one I would find slightly disturbing, however there will be no man holding my hand on the way to this appointment and though I will probably go to the venue on my own, well it takes place exactly 40 years to the day that I started secondary school so I’m big enough to cope. Having said that however, If I do take a friend it will be a woman I will choose to support me. After all there are certain situations when you just need the company of woman and this very private moment would be one such occasion.
So having thought through all the issues I am as ready and as prepared as I ever will be for my mammogram. This is not something I enter in to lightly as a transwoman it is particularly important for me to look after my breasts which though still developing need to be checked to make sure I’m in good health. After all this is a personal issue for me and some people mainly not exclusively younger and I have to say usually uncultured males have even had the audacity to ask me if my breasts are real and to get my tits out for the boys.
Apart from being rude and in my opinion and downright transphobic, this kind of ignorance is stupid beyond belief. It may upset them to know this but my breasts are very real and I haven’t needed to stuff chicken fillets down my bra for a good few years. So when I go for my mammogram I will go as a happy confident woman who though slightly nervous will be proud to take the test and take it without complaint. It’s just a woman’s way. It’s my way and I won’t make a boob of it. It’s time to woman up and face the world, and you know, the next time some wee ned asks me if there real I can say with pride oh yes there real, I mean you don’t do mammograms on chicken fillets.
Love And Best Wishes