Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Welcome to my mammogram!

Whee! It's that time of year. And this time I got to go to the NEW Alta Bates Summit Carol Ann Read Breast Health Center. As a person who has a lot of experience with these types of facilities, I tell you, this place is THE BOMB.

Come along, and I'll take you on a little tour.

My visit began with an offer for (free!) valet parking. I declined because I am fussy about letting other people ride my motor scooter. I'd rather just park it on the street myself.

Patients enter down a hall and through this round room that has soft lighting piped in sounds of moving water and chirping birds. This is, I assume, the room where you collect your shit before continuing in to deal with your shit. I don't have too much any more, but I do remember walking into the place that preceded this one on legs that I couldn't feel and a head that was swimming with fear. I guess this room would have been nice.

Once through this entrance, you are greeted by a smiling person and seated in an enthusiastically decorated lobby. I don't know what's up with the hats (to cover bald heads??); I know what's up with the pink, and although I generally deplore the pink commercialization, I appreciate the sentiment most of the time.

There are even decorations on the ceiling—I guess so you have something to look at if you pass out and wake up on your back.

There's an attractive room if you need to deposit your child (thank goodness I never had to take her along on any of these visits).

And at the check-in desk, they have thoughtfully removed all previous surly staff who when I had trouble giving my correct phone number because I was so overwhelmed would sigh, gaze off over my head, and tap their two-inch fingernails on their keyboards. There were several like this, and I always seemed to end up at their desks. Assholes. 

Art is absolutely everywhere, some of it sort of interesting,

some of it sort of silly.

Something for everyone, I suppose.

And they are ever so organized. At check-in I was given a card with a nice photographic bamboo design. Once I changed, I was directed to . . . the bamboo waiting room! And when I was done and was to wait for news that they had enough images, I went right back to the bamboo room. No chance of getting lost. Here is the tastefully decorated and very comfortable bamboo room.

The bamboo room also featured this flat screen tv monitor that rotated pictures of various flowers and played relaxing "nature sounds." Can you just feel then tension dissolving? That's the idea, I guess.

But the absolute best part? THE ROBES! Not paper or faded cloth that opens in the back but REAL COTTON ROBES. Like you would have at a spa.

In fact the whole thing looks more like a spa than a medical facility. I'm sure this really works for some people; for me it sort of misses the point. I'm as comfortable in the MRI facility I visit once a year with it's beige walls, cold linoleum, bad gowns, and no art. The people are just as warm, compassionate, and professional as they are at the breast spa, and that's what makes the difference for me. But I realize that I've been desensitized to medical surroundings and apparatus in a way that some people haven't (and hopefully won't ever need to be), so maybe all the trappings serve a purpose that truly helps some people. In the meantime, I'm very excited about the zoomy new digital mammogram screeners and other equipment that the $13 million spent on this facility bought. 

Only one real gripe, but one that came with a silver lining: For some reason even returning patients are asked to fill out paperwork for information these people surely already have. Have I had any breast surgery? Um, yes. How many? When? And you know, I don't remember, which put the biggest smile on my face. The number of surgical procedures, including various biopsies, a mastectomy, and seemingly endless reconstructive surgeries, used to be a number burned in my mind. But now it's just "lots." And the date of my mastectomy used to sit there in my mind next to my birthday and Sophie's birthday. It was in August 2008. I remember this because Sophie was four, a fact that will forever anchor the chronology. But the exact date in August? I have no idea. "Look it up if you really need to know," I told them. Back in my office, I could look it up too, but I don't. It's no longer important in that way.


Kate said...

I'm thankful to know it starts to play a smaller role in your life, and it's always interesting for me to see the positivity that comes out of surviving breast cancer. Each of my friends who has survived it has a different way of living their lives than most people I know - with a joy and inquisitiveness that many of us lack. You clearly fit into that mold, and it makes me happy to see it for all of you. Mostly I'm just glad you are all here.

notes from the ordinary said...

Cindy, you are my hero!

First the cancer! I started to cry as I read your blog. I know you went through so much. I'm sorry I wasn't a support. More importantly I am glad you are here and healthy!

Second, your positive go for it attitude. I realize how much I lost when you left DC! I'm glad to be able to read your blogs, and facebook posts. I get to have some of you with me again!

Finally, I have joined not only facebook, but the world of blogging becuase of you! I saw your list of books you read last year and wrote my own. It was a nice way to look back at the year and reflect on what influenced my thinking.

You are awesome...keep rocking and inspiring me and everyone else around you!

Purple Flowers said...

Very good commentary on the spa- like accommodations. We have one of those attached to the nearby hospital. My sister liked it as she went through the steps of hell and back. We always kidded about taking one of those lady spa robes. Shit, she earned it!

Amanda said...

Hi, its my first time to your blog. I've never seen any medical facilities like this before. Its refreshing to read that you have conquered your cancer and have such a positive outlook on life now.

Elaine A. said...

Wow, that place does look like a spa. I was thinking you were going to tell us there was a massage included in your visit!

COngratulations on beating Cancer. That is SO wonderful!!

Kazumi said...

I don't mean to sound crass but the first picture of this post shows lights in the room that seem to form the purpose for every woman to be there! :) Subliminal lighting?

Cindy said...

Kazumi--I had not noticed that! Very funny, and I rarely object to crass.

I notice your blog is open to invited readers only. I'd love an invite if you're inclined. It's always nice to meet other bloggers in the area. At any rate, thanks for visiting.

Kazumi said...

Sorry Cindy, my site is personal. Hope it's still ok for me to leave a comment on your blog.

Cindy said...

That's totally fine. Of course you're always welcome here.

adozeneggs said...

I'm dreading my first mammogram. I'm quite sure my facility won't be nearly as nice as yours. Congrats on beating cancer.s

Belle in Bloom said...

I love this post. You are awesome.
Our office looks a lot like yours. We got the new "nice" robes, too.
We don't have the cool cabinet and drawer pulls, though. I DO live in KY, remember? ha.

Have a great day!

Monica said...

Thanks for the tour! I have about a year before I need to go down this road, although I doubt Kaiser has anything that nice...

lisagh said...

You make me smile.

I Love Your Whole Face said...

Besides the obvious comments of how cool you are Cindy, I am now jealous of your awesome book club. Adopt me, so I can live in CA and eat like a queen.

KK said...

I, too, noticed the lights looking like you know what's. :)

Angelina said...

Wow, I think that shows some true healing.

That a lovely tour. If I ever need to go through everything you've gone through, can I come down there to do it?

Jen Yu said...

Hey! The mobile with the leafy things looks a lot like the mobile in the radiation oncology building I went to. Do you think all those cancer orgs get discounts? ;)

That is one fancay boobie center. OMG. I guess all of those surly a-holes that used to work there are now employed at the general surgery department here - ha ha ha! I hope your boobogram went alright. More than that, I hope it comes back negative, yo. xxoo

cancersucks said...

Hooray! What a wonderful place for women. I admire it and I am so fond of you for posting.

Deb said...

My first observation was that the lighting looked like boobs.

That being said, your story is amazing and I'm inspired by your outlook.

Ginny said...

Your post is inspirational. I will be completing 5 years breast cancer-free in September of 09. I should be off tamoxifen then. So much good has happened in those 5 years that it doesn't bother me anymore. LOL