One set of boobs, to go

Friday I had my final meeting with the surgeon who did my breast biopsy last year. As much as I’ve been enjoying these every-six-months mammograms and subsequent check-ins with her, the time has come to say goodbye.

For one thing, it’s been a year and the boobs seem just fine. For another, I’m moving. (I know, you forgot, because I have only mentioned it every other sentence for the last four months or so.)

So I went in and had an appointment just like every other appointment I’ve had with her (don the paper shirt, get felt up, talk about how everything seems fine and we should keep monitoring but there’s nothing to worry about). And then I told her I’m moving and that I’d probably need to get a copy of my file, and she surprised me by saying that they could take care of that for me on my way out.

Have you ever tried to get a copy of your medical file somewhere? Usually it takes FOREVER. You have to submit a request in triplicate and wait and wait and wait and call them up and wait some more and then eventually go to your new doctor and explain that you have no idea where your file is, because you requested it months ago.

But Friday, oh, THINGS WERE GOING MY WAY. The surgeon wrote on my file PLEASE MAKE COPY FOR PATIENT. I was good to go.

First I went up to the checkout window, and the nice woman sitting there immediately started detaching the papers in my file to make me copies. This was too easy! But then… her phone rang.

“Hello, Big Hospital Surgical. Yes, he does. No, I don’t think so. Sure, I can check on that for you.” She put the phone down and set the papers aside. “I’m sorry, Mir, I’ll be right back.” She disappeared into the back of the office for a few minutes. When she came back, she picked the phone up again. “Please hold for a minute.” She put the phone down again and went back to my file. The phone rang again. “Hello, Big Hospital Surgical. Hi, Mom. Yep, we finished it up last night. I don’t know. Probably. Well what did he say?” I did a bit of sign language to ask if she wanted me to go wait in the waiting room, and she shook her head at me. “Mom, can you hang on a minute? Okay, thanks.”

She put the phone down again and went back to disassembling my file. One of the other women at the long desk there asked her a question, which she answered while pulling papers from the manila folder. Finally she had a neat stack and told me she’d be right back. On her way out of my line of sight, she stopped to ask someone else to take the call she’d put on hold. (Her mom? No, probably the other call. But that would’ve been funny.) And then she went and made my copies.

I believe she may have gone to a Xerox machine in Arizona.

No matter! She was back an hour later with my papers. I thanked her and she paused while handing them through the window to me. “You know,” she said, “you should probably go down to Radiology while you’re here, and tell them you want to pick up your films, too.” Oh, right. Perhaps my next doctor would like to see my previous eleventy mammograms. “I don’t know if they’ll be able to give them to you today, but you can ask.”

I thanked her and trotted down several sets of stairs down to the hospital basement. In the Radiology waiting room I was stunned to walk directly up to a window—no line!—to be helped. I set my papers down on the ledge (the nice woman upstairs hadn’t given me a folder) and realized that the top sheet had one line highlighted in yellow: DISCHARGE FROM LEFT NIPPLE.

Hello, my name is Mir, and I’m carrying around papers announcing that I ooze. Or, at least that I once oozed.

I quickly flipped the stack of paperwork over and explained to the woman on the other side of the glass that I wanted to pick up my films.

“Let me check,” she said, typing at her keyboard. “Okay, here you are… oh. We don’t have your films.”

“You don’t?”

“No, Dr. Surgeon has them.”

“But… I was just up there.”

“Right, that’s why your films are up there. They pulled them for your appointment. You need to get them from upstairs.”

“Oh. Okay, then. I can just pick them up from their office?”

“Well, yes, but then you have to come back down here.” I was clearly irritating her, but I wasn’t sure what I’d done.

“I… do? Why?”

“Because you need to sign them out!”

I scurried away, hoping she wouldn’t come around the glass and smack me around.

Back up the stairs again, there was now a line in the surgeon’s office. I waited my turn and then explained that they had my films. The woman behind the glass (a different one, this time) asked me to take a seat while she found my folder.

The films were located right next to the copier (in Arizona).

Once I finally had the folder of films (so large and heavy! so many pictures of my boobs!), it was back down the stairs again to follow proper protocol and sign them out. Sure, I considered just making a break for it—who was going to stop me?—but I figured I’d try to abide by the rules.

Back down in Radiology, there was now a line half a dozen people long. I stood behind a woman who was on portable oxygen and reeked of cigarette smoke. Again I considered just taking the films and leaving. But eventually I was called up, this time to a different window.

“May I help you?” asked a sweet young thing with too much eye makeup.

“Hi, yes, I just picked up my films from upstairs at Dr. Surgeon’s and I’m moving so I’d like to take them with me. I guess I need to sign them out?”

She looked at me like I had 3 heads, but then reached out for the folder. I gave it to her, and she told me take a seat while she did some paperwork.

In Arizona.

At long last I was given the folder back, and I slipped my copied paperwork inside of it and fairly ran out of the hospital. People kept looking at me strangely and I couldn’t figure out why, until I got to my car.

On the back of the folder, there’s a large diagram of—what else?—breasts. With gigantic (diagrammed!) areolas, even. The way I’d been clamping the folder to my body with my arm, said breasts were at about, well, breast-height. Nice.

Which, you know, considering the entire year-long saga of my boobs at that hospital, seems like a rather fitting way to wrap it all up.


  1. Sara

    Okay, first, can’t wait to see the hits generated by the phrase “pictures of my boobs.” Thing the next, your (in Arizona) comments made me think of Alexander and the very horrible…etc, book except bad days happen even in Arizona, not Australia. And last, I laughed so hard about you walking around with diagrammed boobs at chest level that I am now wide awake when I should be heading for bed. Dammit! This is why I read your blog first thing in the morning–to wake myself up with laughter.

  2. Crisanne

    Note to self: Find a place to examine myself and contents carried after only 1 or 2 weird looks intead of waiting until I get to the car!

    I’ve had the same experience with medical records disappearing into oblivion.

  3. theotherbear

    That last part made me howl with laughter. It is totally the sort of thing I would do.

    What’s good is that this story can end with something that funny (even if only afterwards, when blogging about it) than something more… tragic?

  4. Lady M

    LOL! I was so prepared to read that while you had gone up to the surgeon’s office to pick up the films, they had already been sent down to Radiology.

  5. Heather

    I wish I’d been around to see that last part. You have a gift, Mir. ;-)

  6. Brigitte

    Thanks for making me laugh when I otherwise feel so yucky from this neverending plague! Despite the trials and tribulations, that still sounds like the easy way to get your medical records . . .

  7. MomCat

    You know, without the interminable waiting at each stage, you might have started hearing the theme to The Twilight Zone. One thing we all expect at “Big Hospital” is a wait. I would have made a run for it.

  8. Juliness

    Ah yes, that stellar customer service at hospitals and very busy doctors offices. You were so much nicer than I would have been. These days I pretty much have zero patience for stuff like that.

  9. Randi

    I used to work at a hospital and believe me, the photocopier really is in Arizona, and when you get there you have to wait in line to use the dang thing!

    On the other hand…when do we get to see a copy of your breasts?

    I mean your x-rays!

  10. Suebob


    Maybe the Arizona copier is the same model that we have at work. The one that never, ever, ever, works without jamming. Ever.

  11. Chris

    Thank you once again for adding some humor to my mundane Monday morning. I can always count on you to get my day started off right. ;)

  12. meritt

    Walking around with the boob photo right across my um, well… boobs – is something I would end up doing!!!!

    Glad I’m not the only one. LOL.

  13. CCE

    Nothing like a bunch of doctors, doctor’s assistants and some charts to make us feel our most vulnerable. Reminds me of my gastrointestinal drama that was thousands of doctors visits with stool samples carried in paper bags from one office to another. I know these docs and assistants are used to such things but there was nothing more shameful than carrying your own poop in a bag into elevators, placing it in the chair in the waiting room, you know? Just gross. I feel your pain!

  14. Melanie

    At least it was across the boob area and not lower, so you had two sets of boobs. That would have been even worse, somehow.

  15. LadyBug Crossing

    LOL!!! That would have been me!!!

  16. Co

    Love it Mir! Great way to turn a horrible yet predictable hospital visit into a funny story.

  17. Wendy

    And this is why I wing it. I was pregnant during Hurricane Katrina and my medical files were in a hospital basement which sat in 4-8 ft of water for weeks. Yeah, I really dont want those puppies back. Can you believe a nurse chastised me for not getting them before we left? Well, duh, maybe the you should have run them up to the 10th floor and saved them all. Didnt think of that did ya, bitch?

    As we made our journey, drs would ask if I had my medical records. Not something that I usually pack when we evacuate. You better believe I packed my computer. Oh yeah, the kids, too.

    I am so lazy and really dont want to go through the trouble, so my medical records will sit growing mold and wither away. Nothing really important in there. Blah, blah, c-section, blah, blah, burning sensation, blah, blah irritable patient, blah blah… You know the typical stuff.

    Enjoying your blog. What took me so long?

  18. Cele

    I have lived in the same town for 30 plus years, had the same medical practice see me once (okay lately twice) a year. And they still can’t remember who I am, what my name is half the time. I guess that says a lot about my professional career – and the fact I went to school with my doctor.

  19. TSM-truth, sincerity, madness

    It’s fabulous that you can be so good-humored about it now! I haven’t gone back far enough in your archives to read about it, but I think I will now. That is, as soon as I get out of my pajamas, because good LORD it’s almost 11! Damn blogs! I mean…not YOURS of course… :)

  20. Jen

    This post just reminded me that I have at home, in our candy dish for some ironic reason, copies of my son’s dental films. It is a teeny envelope. It says on the outside, “Please return to Dr. So and So.”

    Well, I just refuse to, because Dr. So and So is an asshole. So fuck him!

    So, I probably would have bypassed signing them out. But you know, maybe not, because your doctor doesn’t sound like an asshole.

  21. Shalee

    Mir, admit it – you’re wannabe flasher in disguise and you just took your opportunity to expose yourself to the world.

    Nice. And it does sound like something I would do too… But the upside is you’re moving away (did you know that?) and will never have to see those people again.

  22. tammy

    So you’re gonna make the mammogram pictures into a t-shirt, right?

  23. Liise

    Trust me it is too hot here for any copying.

  24. Dana

    Oh my gosh. Talk about slightly embarrassing!

  25. Anna


    You are absolutely fantastic!! You should have made a break for it with the films. I went through this same thing a few years back and it is truly a comedy of errors. After leaving the surgeon in the exam room, I approached the receptionist requesting copies of my records…she said “can I see your ID please?” I almost flashed her a picture of my one-inch scar. How’s that for ID?

  26. Amy

    Oh, man. Figures – I just find out how close we live to each other and you’re moving! Still – I have to admit that this is a rather humorous story. I’m sure it really wasn’t for you at the time. But in retrospect, I hope you’re laughing. :)

  27. BOSSY

    Ah yes- technology makes things tons easier.

  28. rachel

    Wow – how can you manage to make even a looooong visit to the doctor’s office sound funny? wow.

    glad you didn’t have the kids with you!

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