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Byron Shire
June 18, 2024

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: The Cancer Raffle

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Last time I went to the doctor they told me I had ‘dense’ breasts. How rude. I said, ‘Well, your penis is stupid.’ He said, ‘No, it’s fibroglandular tissue.’ Oh, great. So it’s not just my tits. I’m dense too.

‘This is Radiology, we are following up on one of your tests. Please contact our office.’

That’s not the message you want after you’ve had a mammogram. I’m 56, my best friend just went through a year-long ordeal with breast cancer and now is in the clear. I have had many friends get mastectomies. Other beautiful women I know and have loved, have died. Breast cancer is something one in seven women or people with breasts will be diagnosed with. It’s a raffle we all have tickets in but none of us want to win. But one in seven will.

Am I one in seven? I eye my breasts with suspicion. I have no family history. So that’s a bonus. I breast fed for 11 years. Breast feeding can lower the risk of pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer. And the longer you do it, the more protection you have. They should tell women that more. Maybe I should have put in another few years. Waited at the parent pick up with a boob out.

I do the self-check. The strange self-molestation that feels a bit like a teenage boy discovering a breast for the first time. I don’t ever really know what I am looking for. I hope I never know. Last time I went to the doctor they told me I had ‘dense’ breasts. How rude. I said, ‘Well, your penis is stupid.’ He said, ‘No, it’s fibroglandular tissue.’ Oh, great. So it’s not just my tits. I’m dense too.

I don’t love mammograms. The clinical laying of one’s breast on the mammomat. The flattening of the 3-D breast into a 2-D form. I have often thought if women designed a mammogram it would be a tissue-seeking velvet glove. The compression vice is ouchy. They’d never do that to a scrotum. And it’s scary. I’m hypertuned to the radiographer. Any change in their vocal tone, any ‘we might do this again’ is a red flag.

So the message is troubling. I check my phone. I’ve missed two other calls. They’re keen to get in touch. I don’t think they’re calling back to tell me I have great tits. Why would they want to call? Did they see something? Am I one in seven? Is this my call up for the cancer raffle?

I phone back. I’m trembling. In my head I’ve told myself that if it is cancer, it’s early detection. So better survival rates. I can do this. If I had to I would get a mastectomy. I probably would remove the second breast just to be sure. Would I get reconstruction? I don’t know. Maybe. How do they make nipples now? Maybe I’d just get nipples tattooed on. I hope I don’t lose my hair. I’m weirdly more worried about my hair than my boobs. Is that normal? Am I being shallow? Do other women feel like this?

The receptionist can’t find my notes. They tell me someone will call back once they ascertain who and why I was called. So now I wait. I’m in a meeting when I see the call. It’s now been two days that they’ve been trying to get in touch. They have something they obviously need to tell me urgently. I leave the meeting to take the call.

‘Amanda?’

‘Yes’

‘This is Jodie from Radiology, I’m calling about one of your tests. The mammogram.’

‘Yes’

‘There was a problem. We accidentally bulk billed you and we should have charged you.’

OMFG. I’ve just spent two days preparing myself for a cancer diagnosis.

And it’s a billing issue?

‘Can you pay over the phone?’

I’ve just been cold called by Radiology.

‘Send me the bill via email,’ I say, ‘I am in a meeting’.

Me and my dense breasts are happy and furious at the same time.

Here’s some advice to anyone in the medical industry, particularly those in the cancer-detection business. Don’t call people and say, ‘there was an issue with one of your tests,’ if it’s just a billing issue. Say, ‘we have a billing issue,’ in the message!

Anyway, as far as I am concerned, this one’s on Medicare.


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3 COMMENTS

  1. OMG Mandy! What a nightmare and yes, definitely on Medicare. Hopefully some lessons are learned at that radiology place.

  2. Just remember Mandy, you were one of the lucky ones, spare a thought for the not so lucky. Maybe it’s a subject to not try to be funny about. I don’t find any thing at all funny about cancer, I speak from experience……

  3. Just imagine what could be achieved if some of the money devoted to finding a ‘cure’ that never materialises were to be redirected into prevention, including via aggressively targeting carcinogenic chemicals in the environment, including xenoestrogens such as BPA, phthalates and atrazine.

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