Real men wear pink

April 29, 2010 — 6 Comments

This is one of the breast days of my life.

After a routine doctor’s appointment on Monday revealed an abnormality in my chest, the doctor scheduled an ultrasound to rule out breast cancer. Of course, you can imagine my surprise when the nurse told me that the office radiology lab would be unable to handle that task. Instead she referred me to the Baptist Breast Center.

Now I don’t know about you, but in my opinion, the words ‘Baptist’ and ‘Breast’ should never go together . . . it just begs me to go there – ‘Methodist Breast,’ ‘Catholic Breast,’ etc.

Never mind the fact that when we moved to the Little Rock area, my family and I joked that the Baptist Breast Center was actually a Baptists-run chicken strip drive-through restaurant. I know, sad, isn’t it? But I digress.

Back to my story.

Well, I met one of our Sunday School teachers for lunch today and then headed down to that place for my little test to be done. Upon arriving at the clinic, three different female employees looked at me like I was lost and needed directions. When I assured them that I was at the right place (no matter how wrong it might have felt), I checked in and filled out all the necessary paperwork.

As my eyes glanced bashfully at the various women with whom I shared a waiting room, a scrub-clad assistant came through the door and seemed to scream, “GARRICK CONNER?” I got up from my chair, walked briskly to the door, and asked her, “Was it really that hard to tell?” The lady smiled and said that she knew it must feel a bit strange but assured me that other men have been there before too (She didn’t say if I was the first this year or not, but it was clear that she was trying to diffuse any embarrassment I might have been experiencing.).

She did ask me how long the place in question had been present. “A couple years,” I told her. “Other doctors have said it’s probably nothing.”

“Ooooh,” she said in a very concerned tone. “It’s good that you’re here.”

I was taken into a small room that I thought was a dressing room. The nurse told me that I would need to take off my shirt for the test. I could have sworn that I heard an ‘s’ on that word as she finished her sentence.

“Tests, plural?” I asked.

“Yes, sir. The doctor ordered a mammogram AND an ultrasound,” she replied flatly.

“He didn’t tell me that,” I insisted.

Then she asked that question that I suppose all breast nurses are supposed to ask, “How long have you had this issue?”

Hadn’t I already heard this question before? I said, “A couple years.”

“Ooooh,” she said along with a slight sigh. “It will be fine,” she assured me. “Someone will be back to get you in a few minutes.”

I was confused. “Well, what am I supposed to do in here?” I inquired.

“Nothing. Just have a seat,” she said. Then she closed the door behind her.

As I turned to sit down, my eyes were drawn to the sign on the mirror that said simply, “Please watch the Breast Self Exam video while you wait.” I thought to myself, “Hmmm. I’m not sure my wife really wants me watching that . . . better not.”

Then I saw something I had never seen before: a breast model. Not a nude female but a silicon-like breast on a platter . . . . I mean, tray. OK, I honestly don’t know what it was sitting on because I couldn’t help but look at it and wonder, “Why in the world am I in here with that?”

I decided that I needed to read something while I waited. Southern Living? No, I wasn’t really interested in that. Besides, I often see issues of that magazine when Michelle’s subscription is delivered to the house. RedBook? No, that didn’t really strike my fancy either. The only other available options were a copy of a Gideon-placed Bible and a breast cancer support magazine.

I have never more regretted my choice to pass over the Bible as I did on this day. On the cover of the breast cancer magazine, the headline story just jumped out at me: “Men Share Their Breast Cancer Stories.” Oh, golly . . . just what I wanted to see. Of course, I turned to that article and read all about men wearing pink for breast cancer awareness. I learned several things about male breast cancer, and to be honest, it made me think I was probably a goner.

What was probably just a few minutes seemed like an eternity as I thought through such pertinent matters as who I would call first, where I wanted to be buried, and what musical selections I would definitely want sung at my funeral.

Then another nurse-looking person came in and told me to follow her. We went into a room for the dreaded mammogram. I removed my shirt and undershirt and did exactly as she instructed. The woman said a few things to try and make me feel more comfortable – like, “You’re not the only man who’s had this done.”

“Yeah, right,” I thought to myself.

As I scooted closer into the contraption, she told me that the pressure she applied would hurt for a bit but that it wouldn’t take long. Let’s just say that I have a whole new appreciation for women. This test was particularly painful, and I struggled to even know what the nurse was saying to me as my mind seemed to turn to mush.

“Are you alright?” she asked. “Yes. . . I mean, no,” I answered, as a dizzy feeling washed over me.

“Here’s a chair. Sit down,” she said. Then she opened the door, and called loudly to a co-worker, “I need a cold pack in here!”

Now I must admit that I am a real wuss when it comes to medical stuff. I mean, after all, I once passed out cold at the eye doctor. Too much information just does a real number on me. And today I felt a bit overloaded.

After placing the cold pack on my bald head, the nurse said, “You just stay right there. We can do the other side sitting down.”

“The other side?!” I asked with complete bewilderment. “But that side is fine!”

“Well, we just want to be sure,” she replied.

So here I was in a clinic I didn’t want to be in, surrounded by stuff I didn’t want to look at, trying to somehow press my hairy chest into a contraption that it clearly was not designed for. You can imagine my relief when she said, “All done.”

The ultrasound was WAY easier than the mammogram. The only pain with that was when she snatched off the ‘x’ of adhesive tape that marked the spot in question. And really, I’d have preferred a full-body wax job to the humiliation I felt during that first experience.

Following a conversation with the doctor and nurse, my fears were confirmed – no, not that I had a major problem . . . but that I DIDN’T and had gone through this experience for seemingly no reason.

I asked the doctor if this was something I should be concerned about in the future.

“No,” he answered. “Besides, if you’ve had this for two years, if it were malignant, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

Just as I suspected. They did think I was a goner!

What did I gain from this experience? Well, let’s see:

  • Peace of mind that I’m going to be OK.
  • An incredible sense of empathy for women throughout the world
  • A strange identification with cows
  • A real understanding of why a man might hesitate to follow-up at a place called the Baptist Breast Center

Any regrets? Well, yes, just one. Given the chance to do it all over again, I’d definitely have touched the fake boob. I mean, after all, it’s kind of like Halley’s Comet. How many times will that opportunity come knocking?

Oh yeah, one more thing. The next time I wear my pink shirt or tie to church, I’ll be sporting it with a much greater respect for those who have not only been affected by breast cancer — but also for those who have merely endured the diagnostic tests.


6 responses to Real men wear pink

    Dianne & Don Cunningham April 30, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Garrick – I’m so sorry you had to go through that experience at “Baptist Breast Center”. Most men have no real idea of what their wives go through each year for the routine screening as well as the added apprehension each year that is experienced by having been actually diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. I laughed through most of your description of how you felt in the waiting area and the examination area. You are so funny! Now you will have a much different perspective of this situation. Thanks!

    Marilyn Riordan April 30, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    Garrick, I read with interest about your experience at the breast center. I thought of those men I saw come through the door from time to time when I worked at Baylor back in 2002. Your description was so vivid, and I am glad you have a new appreciation for what we women have been going through for years. I, too, got a few chuckles out of your story. (Usually they describe it as clamping down until it really hurts and then clamping it one more level). I am so glad you are OK. You are a special guy, and your family is special, too! PTL for taking care of all of you!


    Thanks, GC!!! Your (NOT SO SUBTLE) humor was thoroughly enjoyed….NOT your discomfort, but your PERSPECTIVE about the entire event! Glad all is well and GOD BLESS!



    I laughed and laughed and laughed. Please know that I’m laughing with you and not at you. Glad to hear that the tests were negative. That’s one time being negative is a good thing.

    It sounds like the Lord still has a purpose for your earthly life. Obviously a large part of our common purpose is to love other people and to glorify God. Maybe part of your purpose is to make someone’s day, like your blog entry did for me today.


      Thanks, Steve. I’m glad you appreciate my sense of humor. I’ve learned through the years that life goes a lot smoother when you learn to laugh at yourself too.

    Kathryn Evans May 9, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    That, my dear cousin, was funny! I laugh with you because I can! You see, for years I was not only transcribing radiology reports but being the secretary for the mammogram dept as well! We have had quite a few male patients over the years. Most of them always had a negative study and looked like they wanted to bolt out of there as if it had not happened… but then there were a couple of men who were not quite so lucky! So thankful that your tests were okay! PTL!

    I, too, had to endure these tests in March and have a biopsy. Praises going up that mine was negative as well! With Mama’s history of breast cancer, I considered myself especially lucky.

    Praying that you never have to endure that experience again… but it does all of us females good to know that you guys “get” what we go through!! 🙂

    And, having worked with some of our breast seminars… be glad you didn’t touch the fake breast. It’s wierd!!! HA HA

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