Under Pressure, Baring Ourselves for Healthy Boobs

Annah Elizabeth1 Comment

I remember with distinct clarity (as clear as one’s memory can actually be three-and-some decades later) going to my first pubescent physical.
I recall riding in the car and asking my mom if I was going to have to take off my clothes in front of the doctor.
And I remember being pissed at her when I was instructed to strip down, which begs the idea that I believed from her response that I was going to be able to remain clothed during the exam.
It matters not if she were direct or vague or if I stretched her words into wishful thinking, the bottom line is this: I was horribly humiliated and embarrassed sitting naked in front of my doctor.
Heck, I don’t even remember if I was truly naked or scantily clad in a sheet, which is more likely, but I FELT stripped to the bone, NAKED TO MY VERY CORE.
I remember that dreadful feeling that has surfaced each and every time I’ve sunk my feet into those gynecological stirrups, and the uneasiness in the pit of my stomach, one I tried to breathe out with each of the doctor or nurse’s reassuring words.
Even after countless experiences of this intimate nature, I still resisted seeing a masseuse for three years, a lack of action that prolonged a nagging neck pain.
Why are we so fearful or intimidated or anxious about baring our birthday suits to others?
Body issues are a good place to start.
And then there’s the simple fact that we are told to cover up from the very beginning.
How many of our family stories involve our toddlers running around naked and end with us demanding the child put on clothes or talking about how embarrassed we were that our child was running nakedaround the neighborhood?
We’ve told the tale many times about finding Fave sitting bare-assed on our four-wheeler in the yard, and I’m pretty sure I have one of those, what do we call them, blackmail photos?, of Beauty standing in nothing but her flesh on our front porch, pouncing joyfully in a puddle after a rainstorm.
What WILL the neighbors think?
Unless we’re nudists, we’re taught that we should be covered up, pretty much at all times.
And then we go to our physician, who instructs us to strip down.
How do we handle this state of undress in front of others?
Some of us refuse to go to the doctor, avoiding annual check-ups and breast exams and pap smears because we are afraid of something.
Some of us, like myself, have learned to suck in a deep breath and remind ourselves that whatever exam we’re undergoing is necessary to our good health.
Some of us are probably so confident in ourselves that we can sit up tall and straight, our nerves perfectly still and our stomachs in the upright position.
I wouldn’t know a thing about that
And some of us show up but can’t follow through, choosing to leave before the test begins.
The nurse, who performed my annual mammogram, and I talked about these very things this past Friday.
That discussion actually allowed my mammogram to make the list of one of my Happy Happens moments.
Talking through our fears and trusting in another human being is crucial to our good health.
The conversation began with me asking if I could take a couple of photos of the equipment and explaining that I was a writer and wanted to include my experience in my weekly Happy Happens column.
“Good health is definitely something that makes me happy,” I said to her.
We continued talking as she positioned and re-positioned my boobs, all the while checking in with me to see how I was doing.
“How’s the pressure, okay?” she asked.

“I’ve always said you can’t put a price tag on your health,” I replied, “in this case, I guess I can say that you can’t put too much pressure on breast health.”
We both chuckled.
We talked about women’s fear of embarrassment.
I know women who are self-conscious, some ashamed even, of their small breast size.
And I once employed a young female who broke up with a boyfriend because he told her he couldn’t love her as much if she went through with a scheduled breast reduction.
Not only was she in constant pain from the debilitating frontal weight—I wouldn’t know a thing about that either—she was perpetually mortified when her anatomy spilled out from her clothes or flopped wildly when she moved too fast.
Cast iron is about the only thing to contain anatomy of THAT PROPORTION.
And who wants to walk around being that confined?
But she talked, with her mother, her doctor, her friends, and even her employer. She talked about her emotional and physical discomforts and moved forward with what she needed to live a healthier and happier life.
Nurse Arr told me about a woman who insisted that she wasn’t going to allow the test if she had to expose herself.
Despite an explanation of how the scans work and why the tissue had to be unclothed, the woman chose to forego the exam.
I was leery of the Gardasil HPV vaccine and questioned the validity of using it on teenagers until I met Christine Baze, a remarkable woman who developed the aggressive cervical cancer and was fighting for more insurance companies to cover the test that would have given her an earlier diagnosis.
As I thought about the woman who left the office, I wondered if she had ever had open dialogue with friends or others who could empathize with her fears but could also encourage her.
For the past several years, I’ve posted status updates like, “Had my annual mammogram today! Have you had yours?”
I’m proud to be in the company of many friends who have done something similar or who have responded with a positive comment.
One of the concerns Nurse Arr and I talked about is the negative language so many women use when talking about mammograms.
For every acquaintance who promotes mammography, there are several more who speak about the procedure with disdain, embarrassment, or in negative ways.
We’ve heard women talk about “boob mashing” and describe how horrifically painful and awkward and humiliating the process is.
“I like to say that the few seconds of pain is a whole lot less than what I’d feel if I had to undergo cancer treatments,” I said to my examiner.

Maybe if we all gave more attention to the positive elements of our experience, whether it be the comfort quilts draped across the back of the rockers, or the coffee and tea station, or the soothing fabric that forms the dressing room cubicle, or the smile the station clerk greeted us with, or the practitioner’s reassuring words, or the care staff take to minimize our discomfort, or the fact that there are other things even more embarrassing—like walking out of a public restroom with your skirt caught up in the waistband of your panties and a trail of toilet paper following you like an Avatar’s tail—then maybe, just maybe we can save a few more lives through early detection.
I would know a thing or two about that…that panty thing…
Yes, Ladies (and even you men who cringe at the command, “Cough, please”), I, too, would rather not have to bare it all for the sake of good health.
But I say it’s a whole lot better than the alternative.
Join me in spreading the word, in encouraging others to take the plunge and bare it all for the sake of healthy boobs?
Go ahead, share your inspirational stories here, join me on social media with hashtag #IBaredIt, and spread a little encouragement and healing!
And while you’re at it, will you be a dear and click those little “Like” and “Follow” buttons over there on the sidebar? Thanks in advance, ‘cause publishers want to know that you like what I have to say. J
Until we meet again, yours in healing, hope, and happiness,

One Comment on “Under Pressure, Baring Ourselves for Healthy Boobs”

  1. Pingback: #IBaredIt: Bare It. Share It. Better Boobs., Banding Together for Breast Cancer Early Detection | The Five Facets

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