“Have you scheduled your mammogram?” “When are you going to schedule your mammogram??” “You know. You really need to do that, like, yesterday”. I have the voice of my mother in my head daily, and while she is usually 98% right about everything, for some reason (I blame my genetic code), I am bullheaded and refuse to listen (I am getting payback for this in my mini me form, BTW). Several years ago, we lost my beautiful, successful, and also bull headed Aunt Doris Rossi to breast cancer. My mother has always gotten regular mammograms, and I of course knew that with a family history of breast cancer, even though a paternal history, that I desperately needed to schedule a baseline one. So, I put it off. And then I put it off again. Then I went to my yearly and everything was fine, so of course I still put it off. This system of avoidance and procrastination has served me well for many years, so why learn new healthy habits now, right?
Then it happened. I woke up one morning last month with a weirdo, painfully swollen lymph node in my armpit. Of course I didn’t call my doctor about it, like most rational grown ups would do, I took to my primary care physician, google. After I passed out and came back to, in my office, nonetheless, all doped up on ibuprofen, the strongest meds I ever really take, I came to terms with the fact that I was going to have to call my doctor, not because my mama said I should, because I didn’t tell her about it, but because google said I could have dyptheria, an STD (nope, closed for business) or breast cancer. After much complaining one day to my friend, Sarah, who also usually has all of the answers too, and my other primary care physician, the school nurse, they told me that I had to call my doctor immediately. After three attempts to get my mammogram scheduled, I was finally successful.
I dreaded it and stressed, in the meantime just telling my friends and family, minus Sarah, who has all of the answers, that I was finally having my baseline mammogram done. YAY ME! GIRL POWER! At the same time, after my sweet mini me Cole would go to bed I would get out my phone and google survival statistics for breast cancer and swollen armpit lymph node pictures. Commercials and films were all about breast cancer. In short, I was terrified.
The day came for my mammogram and my mama opted to come with me, sensing my neurosis, I think. I checked in and looked all around me and was hit with the reality that so many women face. One in four women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. One in ten will develop breast cancer (National Cancer Registry, 2014). I have lost so many precious people in my own lifetime to cancer, and my father is a cancer survivor. So why did I wait so long to go for an easy, ten minute test? Because the fear I had of the unknown.
They called my name, and the precious nurse greeted me at the door (who I later found out was a grandmother of a student, I see what you did there, God). She even let my mama come back with me. After being taken into a small, locked room (my mother said so that I couldn’t escape, not even funny at the time) to change in my gown (and take off all of my jewelry, of course) I was to then go into the room with THE machine, you know the one, ladies. It looks innocent enough, with it’s jaws of death. The nurse put some “jewels” on me, and led me to my fate, the mammogram machine.
Now I will be the first to say that it was not as bad as I thought it would be, but I also did not nearly, in my wildest dreams, ever imagine that this most delicate part of my body could be tugged and contorted in this way. Just when I thought it was over and I was home free, then I had to turn to the side and hold on to the dreaded machine for dear life (and somehow hold my breath), and try to maintain some type of dignity.
When it was all finished ten minutes later, I felt such a sense of girl power and accomplishment. Why would anyone living in our great country, not take advantage of the medical resources we have for women? I am forever thankful that we have such resources readily available to us, after a few phone calls, lots of tears and lifetime movies about breast cancer later. I would encourage every woman I know who has any family hisotry of breast cancer to schedule yours immediately. If you won’t do it for yourself or your children, then think about anyone you know who has been affected by the horrors of cancer.
As I prepared for my mammogram, I was shocked to find how many of my dear friends and family members have had “scares” that I never knew about, and how many more were just as terrified as me. It took ten minutes from start to finish, and if you need someone to go with you, and buy you a coffee afterwards as a reward, I will go (WRMC has an amazing gift shop too, just as a bonus).