THE CHANGING ROOM
Did she say opening in the front or opening in the back? Mmmmm. This wasn’t my first rodeo so I took a gamble and assumed the opening was to go in the front. Struggling to figure out how to tie the gown so my breasts would be covered with the two sets of ties one at shoulder height, one at the curve in my waist, I considered the question that wandered aimlessly through my anxious mind; does anyone who designs these gowns actually try them on before they sell them? And does the buyer of these gowns ask for a sample to try on before they likely buy thousands of them? Is the buyer or designer even a woman? Who buys these? Here’s the observation, the ties do not allow the gown breast coverage, yes my shoulder is very well covered and my waist is too, but my breasts? I’m guessing the breast area is the intended area to mask for the next step out of the changing room into the waiting room, the familiar waiting room that is all about anxiety production full throttle.
I managed to get my breasts covered because I had to tie the ties so tight so the gown tied too. Still there was a gaping hole between above my breasts to my belly button. For an imaging center that is exclusive to breasts, it seems odd to me that the gowns wouldn’t cover them. I leave the changing room clamping the opening that is not supposed to be open into the brightly lit waiting area where I am the only one waiting because I managed to get the coveted first appointment of the day. I sit down and start to practice deep breathing to try to calm my nervous feeling that has been present since my last biopsy six weeks ago that didn’t get the spot they needed to get to confirm or reject that the mass they found looks strikingly as familiar as it did two short years ago.
The gown not fitting well is one of many things I wish I could change about the sensory experience for women waiting for their second biopsy, (check) or their call back mammogram (check) or their second round of mammograms after their six month check up (check). There are so many little inexpensive things that an imaging center could do to reduce stress and anxiety. Here’s my top ten list.
- Eliminate the wearing of all perfume and heavy scented lotions by all staff especially because in breast imaging centers there tends to be hugging. It is such a bummer to leave after an early morning appointment smelling like someone else’s perfume, usually bad.
2. Train all front desk staff to smile and say a big hello, maybe even introduce themselves.
3. Instead of television blaring crappy negative television play Enya or George Winston piped in through all of the rooms. Sonos would be an easy addition to at least the waiting room and the second waiting room.
4. Buy gowns that people with actual breasts tried on before making us wear them.
5. Add directions with images in all of the dressing rooms because every single woman forgets the instruction as soon as the tech leaves the changing area.
6. Dim the lights in the waiting room outside the changing area so it has a calming effect.
7. Have all of the rooms where the imaging is going to take place have heat, (I can never understand why the rooms that we will be half undressed are always so cold) and if this isn’t possible, at least have warm blankets.
8. Instead of sending us home after biopsies with these large sports ice packs, how about a small 2×2 square ice pack that fits snugly in your bra? I know these exist because at a different imaging center a few years back, they gave me not one but two and I have yet to find them anywhere to buy, (never thought I would have to again)
9. How about some nice easy breathing techniques typed out around the changing rooms and waiting areas for anxious women to read instead of the magazines from 3 months ago that some previous patient left behind with their name and address torn off the front cover in Hippa fashion. Better yet, how about some copies for said patients to take with them.
10. This is a dreamy one, but how about a small room that does not allow cell phones or anything other than calming music and lighting so you could just sit in and practice some breathing techniques?
After going through this a few times in the last few years, it seems that as streamlined as getting us to repeat our names and birth dates and confirming the part of our body they will be working on, adding some new simple almost no cost systems would make an anxious patient less anxious.
Sometimes I wonder if anxiety is part of the overall goal. Stress does not help cancer for sure, but I always remind myself that hospitals are for profit. It is not that I think someone in the big office with their boards of consultants is sitting around figuring out ways to create anxiety=stress=more cancer, but if an average Jane like myself can come up with a sporting list at the drop of a hat after a few unsuccessful try ons in the changing room, it does make a chick wonder.