Yesterday I watched an online video made by two men trying to determine which was more painful, childbirth or getting kicked in the testicles. Get the F out of here, I thought. I have neither a baby nor testicles, but this seemed like a no-brainer. It also seemed like the kind of debate that only exists because men run the world. (Sorry, Beyoncé, but it's not girls, no matter how much we'd like it that way).
The video — which inanely concluded the pain could be equal — reminded me of my first mammogram. One month after turning 40, I found myself naked from the waist up in front of a lady I had never met before. I did not smell my freshest, as you are not allowed to wear deodorant to an appointment and the heat on my subway had been cranked all the way up to the You Are in Hell setting.
She was kind enough not to wrinkle her nose as she maneuvered my breast between two see-through medical plates. I stood with my head twisted to the side and my arm up at an unnatural angle, the better for the machine to pancake mush by breast. And I thought, this really would not happen if men had breasts. I thought of the exam they get at physicals when they are asked to cough as a doctor cups their business. In the matter of breasts and balls, the medical world clearly has a favorite.
But my mammogram did not actually hurt. It was awkward, almost to the point of being funny. But it was not unpleasant, especially not compared to the fun of an annual gyn exam. So it does not feel insincere at the start of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (designated as every October) to extol the virtues of the most acrobatic medical procedure I have ever had.
A little discomfort was nothing when I think about how mammograms have reduced the number of women who die from breast cancer by one-third since 1990. And how it goes hand in hand with monthly self-exams to give me peace of mind, or the red flag to get immediate help if anything is found. Also, in a country with iffy health insurance coverage, it is blessedly free. I still believe that if men had to get this exam, the machine would be fur-lined and attached to a video game. But sexism aside, it still may be one of the kindest gifts I can give to myself each year.
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