May 14, 2015
So I, like so very many, many women, got my first hinky mammogram a couple weeks ago. (Spoiler alert—I’m fine, and so are my breasts).
I dutifully do my annual screening. And they dutifully send me a pink envelope each year with a generic “All is well” message. This year’s pink envelope sat on my counter for a week before I picked it up to pitch it. But the little voice in my head said, “Stop! Open that!” And so I did. Instead of the “all clear” I got, “We want you to come back for a left breast ultrasound,” and a lot of boiler-plate text on how some breast cancer is not found through standard testing.
Me being me, I poured myself a bourbon, and decided to cut off both breasts and replace them with 34Cs with daisy tattoos for my nipples.
After I sobered up, I called the hospital radiology scheduling department. If I paid onsite, I would get 15% off the procedure since I haven’t met my insurance deductible: Only $445 to get my boobie gooped and rubbed all over with someone else’s tool (which isn’t nearly as sexy as it sounds like it ought to be.)
And I thought, for the heck of it, “I might oughtta check my online medical profile and see if any further information shows up there.” This online medical profile is a newfangled thing they’ve started telling us to use this past year. At each doctor’s visit, we are handed a five-page, nine-point-font document telling us to set up and view our account.
It took me an hour to figure out how to log in. Sure enough, however, when I got there, I found the following message: “Not enough information on the mammogram. Possible unidentified boobie object” (or something along those lines).
“Now, hold on just a dang minute,” thought I. “If this is a case of a bad squish job, then I could just wait until next year and save myself 445 bucks!” But, in the meantime, my husband was turning all of our sexytimes into manual breast exams. $445? Or a year of determined palpations?
I called the doctor’s office and left a message for the nurse, asking (basically) “Double-ewe tee eff?”
Bless her heart, she called me back. At last, I heard a human voice. Nurse Laura told me they’d seen what they were certain was a benign, fluid-filled cyst, but needed to verify. I considered a whole year of my husband on cyst-hunt duty, and the choice was clear: Off to the ultrasound I went.
It’s a lovely cyst, by the way: 1.6 cm in diameter, with perfectly solid margins and perfectly clear fluid. Over time it should shrink and fade away unless I go on hormone replacement therapy (which I have every intention of doing because estrogen is the fountain of youth!), in which case it will simply hang out there, popping up on every mammogram from now on.
But the piece of my mind which I gave to the radiologist, the technician, and which I will give to my poor doctor next time I see him is this: Form letters and computer files still don’t replace the human voice. A simple call from a nurse–or even the doctor’s teenage daughter working for minimum wage after school to keep her out of her mother’s hair–would saved me hours of palpations and palpitations.
Customer service, people. At $445 I’m worth five more minutes of someone’s time.