I’m going to talk to you today about ultrasounds.
They are weird. They are uncomfortable. Sometimes, they are hilarious.
I’ve had roughly 20 ultrasounds over the years (about 19 of which were cancer-related, and one was to check for a blood clot in my leg after it swelled to the size of one of those GMO turkey legs at the state faire). Each experience was like the first time you let a monkey kiss you on the mouth – a little bit different and a whole lot weird.
I’ve had two kinds of ultrasounds – the kind where my abdomen is made into a slip-n-slide for hairless mice, and the kind where my vag is made into a fleshy joystick that feels like the total opposite of joy.
Recently, I had what may turn out to be my last cancer-related ultrasound…ever (which is both exciting and scary).
First, the nurselady led me from the waiting room into a more private one-person waiting room and told me not to get undressed. Under no circumstances was I to remove clothing. I sensed that at some point she must have experienced an embarrassing misunderstanding with a newbie patient. Don’t worry, lady, this is old hat.
I picked up a very tattered Ladies Home Journal and tried to calm my nerves. Even though I totally know the drill by now, I always get white coat syndrome on account of the dreaded c-word. Oh yeah, that, and my bladder was so fucking full that I could taste the pee in the back of my throat. Long ago I learned that if I actually drink the 304,786 oz of water they tell me to drink before my appointment, I end up having to swerve off the freeway halfway there and run into a gas station bathroom before urine drips down my legs and soaks my socks. All I have to do is drink the milk from my morning cereal and rinse my mouth out after brushing my teeth, and my percolator fills up that peesack like clockwork, no worries.
So I get called into the actual exam room where the undressing action happens. Usually, I get a student tech and ve’s supervisor asking if it’s ok if a student pokes around in my nethers. I support the sciences, so I usually shrug and tell them they can enter at their own risk. This time, however, I guess I got a real tech because she was all I got. Either that, or she was a student tech gone rogue. I decided to take my chances.
Next step is that I undress from the waist down for that first kind of ultrasound (bring out the hairless mice!). A tip to all you first-timers out there: make sure the towel they give you is fully tucked into your underwear unless you want to walk around all day with goo-covered chonies. That tech ain’t watching where they are putting that paddle, and that goo gets frickin everywhere. And it’s not even the good kind of goo you want up in there, anyway, so tuck it.
First good sign: this tech warmed up the goo! She’s a pro, this one. I lie back and enjoy the warm, sticky sensation as I watch the white snow on the monitor and wait patiently for Samara to emerge.
This whole process, if you sit and think about it for a quick sec, is pretty magical. A stranger wields a wand, adds some primordial goo, and – Expecto Patronum! – they can see inside your body, your innermost secrets. They can see the absence of a second ovary (if I get a particularly naive tech, or a tech who obviously hasn’t read my chart, sometimes I’ll fuck with ’em: What?! You can’t find my left ovary?!! WELL YOU HAD BETTER FIND IT!), they can see my scar tissue, and they can also see that my bladder is rapidly filling up and about to burst like Liz Lemon after sandwich day. Talk about embarrassing.
I usually try to position myself so I can see the screen. I’ve seen my ladyparts onscreen so many times that I fancy myself a real radiology tech – and by “real,” I mean that I point at blobs on the screen and ask, “Ooh, is that a spidermonkey?!”
A good tech will narrate the procedure for me: “…aaaand here we have your uterus, lookin’ good….and then we slide over here….and there’s your cute little ovary!” A bad tech doesn’t say anything and just makes weird facial features at the screen as she pauses and measures the blobs.
This tech was a bad one (the warmed-up goo was just a ruse)….and she was freaking me the fuck out. At one point her eyebrows raised and then lowered and furrowed. I couldn’t stay silent. “What!? What did you see?”
She looked at me with a smile.
“Well, I found your ovary!”
“…and it looks like an otter!”
It looks like a what now?!
“Oh, you know, it’s like finding shapes in the clouds with this thing, here look…”
And she points.
Funny enough, I could actually see it, right there, flippers and all. Weird.
We had a little moment, Madam Ovary and I. I waved.
I never really know what to expect at these appointments…