In Awe Of Mná

“Your color’s fading
‘Cause I kept you waiting
It’s a wild wild world
And you’re a wild wild girl

Our sun’s still shining
But it seems half the size
And it’s a wild wild world out here”

Talk – Run Away To Mars

Two events in the past week have led me to an even deeper appreciation of the glorious creatures that are commonly referred to as ‘Women’, ( Mná in Irish ).

On Saturday night my Soulmate and I went to the Garage Theatre in Monaghan to see my good friend Anne Gildea perform her one-woman stand up “How To Get The Menopause And Enjoy It “, and I have to be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it. Don’t get me wrong, I love Anne, and I love spending any evening out and about with my Soulmate, but stand up comedy was ruined for me years ago by Billy Connolly who tore a poor drunken fan to pieces from the stage for daring to interrupt his act. I felt mortified for the poor chap and couldn’t enjoy the rest of the show.

My anxiety was not helped when we arrived at the Garage to collect our tickets and the chap in the ticket office said “ A man ! You’ve just doubled the male quota here tonight…and I work here. Good luck !”. I then went to order a glass of wine, to steady my nerves, and I heard three different women separately ask my Soulmate how she’d got me to come to ‘this show’.

We took our seats, and thankfully there was another male at the end of our row, a 50% increase in our numbers. A lady and her elderly mother sat the other side of me, and both gave me funny looks.

Anne exploded on to the stage to the sound of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ and had the audience up on their feet dancing before she’d even said “Hello Monaghan !”. She then welcomed all the “Ladies…and , do we have any men in tonight ?” she spotted the chap at the end of our row who’s wife immediately told Anne that his name was Peter. “You’re very welcome Peter…be chatting to you later.” It sounded ominous. I thought I’d escaped, but the elderly lady that was sitting beside me shouted out, too gleefully, “There’s another one here !”. Anne prowled the stage until she came level with me , “Ach, that’s only Paul, sure I know him. Hi Eileen ! Only two men in the audience and they’re Peter & Paul ? Jesus !”

From then on it was a blur of biology, barracking, bubbles, and belly aching laughs.

We were all crying with laughter throughout. There were stories of Sligo, nuns, teenage angst, mothers, doctors , middle aged angst, sex, fashion , and passion. Actually, I think that was all in one story.

It felt like it was over before it started. I haven’t laughed out loud as heartily, with tears streaming down my face and making the Snuffleupuguss snorts as I tried to breathe, in a long , long time. And it sounded like it was the same for the 248 ladies present…and Peter.

The previous Saturday we’d been at ‘The Ocean At The End Of The Lane’ in Belfast and it had been a stunning performance, with great set design, many set changes throughout, light show and special effects. At the end there was rousing applause, but it took a while for the audience to get to their feet. Anne’s show consisted of her, a guitar, and a chair. When her show finished the whole audience were on their feet immediately and shook the roof with their applause. There was a queue of people afterwards looking to thank Anne and get their photo taken with her. I was second in that queue.

As we were leaving someone said that men should see the show to have more of an appreciation for what women go through, on their own mostly, and how hard it is to get basic information. She was right. I thought I was well informed before the show. I certainly was afterwards.

And last Monday I had further cause to appreciate my female friends. I went for a mammogram.

A couple of weeks ago I started to get muscle pain in my chest. Well, it would be muscular, if I had any muscles there. I thought it was caused by the way I was sleeping , or because my friend Ray and I are waddling a bit faster in our training lately, and maybe that was causing it. And then, trying to take off a tight tee shirt, I thought I detected a lump, and then prodding around , found another on the other side. I thought it must be something silly, but as it wasn’t going away, I made an appointment to see my GP.

I’ve always found him very easy to talk to , and he’s been brilliant through all of last year’s malarkey, so I wasn’t embarrassed to explain what was wrong, and he took a look and said that he was sure it was nothing to be alarmed about, it can be a consequence of having your prostate removed that tissue can form in your breasts, and that it should be benign, but that because of my recent operations he’d get a consultant to see me.

This went over my head initially, as I was clinging on to that lovely sounding word ‘benign’, and then I said “Sorry, did you say tissue in my breasts, or breast tissue ?”

“Breast tissue. But they won’t grow, as such.”

“Jesus, this is the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t it ?”

He smiled, and tapped away at his computer , referring me on to ,what would now be, my 5th consultant in 12 months.  

So, here I was, parking in Beaumont Hospital car park again on Monday, and going for a mammogram. Over the past 12 months I have always resisted any temptation to look up any of the tests, scans, or operations in advance, as I wouldn’t be sure that the source would match my particular procedure, so I was blissfully unaware of what a mammogram actually was, but imagined it was some sort of fluffy ultrasound which might tickle a little.

This turned out to be as far removed from what a mammogram actually is as it is possible to be. The radiographer sat me down and explained what she was going to do, take pictures and  how long it would take. She asked me to take my top off and asked if it was OK to examine my breasts so that we could agree on where the lumps were. We agreed. And then she introduced me to this giant swivelly , cold metal and Perspex machine with , what I would shortly realise was a clamp, for squishing my breasts to the width of an After Eight mint.

I had to hold onto the machine as if I was a loose head prop forward in a scrum. And then she tightened everything until I thought I couldn’t breathe. And then she tightened it a little bit more. The clamp released after three seconds and I exhaled “Sweet Divine Jesus ! I’m glad that’s over.”

“We just need one more on that one, and then two more on the other one.”

I survived. I know that there are probably latex clad gentlemen in a dungeon somewhere paying for such a service, but I wouldn’t thank you for it.

I then went upstairs to wait for my consultant to review the mammogram and meet me. After a wee while his junior doctor called me in and went through what she saw in the mammogram, and that she thought it was benign but that she’d get the consultant to meet me and double check. She then asked me to remove my top so she could examine me to confirm her prognosis.

“Just be gentle. It’s been a day.”

She laughed. She was indeed gentle and had a good furtle around, and asked me to stay like that until the consultant could check me out. She then came back in with a student doctor and asked if it was Ok for her to show the student what she was looking for. I said OK, but go easy, you’re not at the mart. The junior doctor laughed, but the student didn’t, not knowing that the mart was where farmers went to buy cattle and poked and prodded hind quarters and udders before buying.

I was beginning to think that there was a sign on the outside of the door :

“Man inside will let you feel his moobs !”

The consultant duly came in and he too had a furtle, before agreeing that it did indeed seem to be gynecomastia, which was news to me, but didn’t seem to trouble him, and that it should be benign, but that, again, because of last year’s malarkey, he’d like me to get an ultrasound today and then come back next week for a biopsy, to be sure.

So I went back downstairs and had an ultrasound and my moobs furtled for the 5th time that afternoon.

So to a tiny, tiny, tiny degree I am wiser , but much more aware of what women deal with thanks to Anne and the staff of Beaumont Breast Clinic.

I truly am in awe of Mná !

Toodles Sisters,


P.S. ‘In Awe Of Mná’ is a line from Emmet Kirwan’s beautiful poem ‘Heartbreakers’.

Author: paul

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