Tag Archives: health

“M” is for. . . Mammogram!

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You guys, it was so not a big deal.  Let me just start with that.

It’s almost not worth blogging about, but it IS because they are important and necessary and something that a lot of women skip.

My doc ordered my mammogram last August when I had my annual physical.  I say “annual” with a wry smile, because it had been about three years since my last physical.  I’ve not really been that great at “taking care” of myself.  I mean, there is work and the kids and taking the kids to appointments and ballet and karate and grocery shopping and a shit ton of other shit that needs doing before my own health is tended to.

That’s a bad attitude.  I know.  I know.  Airplane philosophy.  Put on your air mask first and then tend to those around you.  I know it, already!  Please don’t lecture me.

So, my doc ordered the freaking breast exam six months before I actually got it done.  And to be completely honest with you, I turned 41 last summer so I really should have had the mamo a year and a half before I actually got it done.

So, why did I put it off?

Let’s see. . .  there was my busy schedule (see list of random crap above).  And there was my desire to go out and do something else on the days when I had the time to go and get the test done.  Let’s be honest about that.  Hiking, biking, shopping, slopping the pigs–  just about anything was more attractive than going and getting my boobs pressed flatter than flat in a mechanism I imagined to be somewhere between a medieval torture device and a Victorian flower press.

I was also putting it off because I wanted to be completely done with breastfeeding.  I don’t think there is any logical or medical reason why a woman should not get a mammogram while lactating.  I think for me, it had more to do with comfort and not wanting to accidentally squirt milk all over the place when my boobs got compressed.

Emily had finally finished nursing at the age of four last November…  so I was good to go.

Then there was my fear.

Firstly, I was afraid of the pain.  I’d read so many tales of woe (many that I now know were grossly exaggerated) about women’s terrible experiences in the dreaded mammogram chamber.  I’d endured crazy nipple trauma while breastfeeding, and not to make excuses, but I think that pain and horror has given me a bit of PTSD when it comes to the mammary region.  (PS.  If I haven’t told you yet, I have the internet’s most popular blog post on nip trauma… Google “nipple trauma from breastfeeding”.   Just go google it…  go ahead, I’ll wait!! See!?!  That’s me!!)

And I was also frightened by what the tech would find lurking in my bulbous, pendulous, no longer useful breasts.  I had nightmares about telling my family what so many women have to tell their families in real waking life. What’s the stat?  One in five women will be diagnosed with breast cancer?  Terrifying.

So what finally convinced me to schedule the appointment?

Well, a friend I’d gone to high school with was diagnosed.  She was a mother to new twins, and diagnosed at her first mammogram with invasive breast cancer.  Long story short, she’s doing great.

And why is she doing so great?

Because the cancer was detected early and she got radical and immediate treatment.  

She will live to see her babies grow up, thank the universe.

The lesson in this story is that early detection is key.  

I’m not going to front and say I got all brave and stoic.  I arrived at the radiology clinic and was shaking, shivering, dizzy, and nauseous.  I texted my BFF that I was quite certain I was going to puke and pass out.  She reassured me that I had natural childbirth and I could totally do this.

The tech thought I was crazy for being so anxious.  I could plainly see that.  Her chill demeanor should have been a big clue to me that I had nothing to worry about.  She led me to where I should get changed.  I was practically in tears as I put on the thin johnny and followed her into the exam room.

When the tech asked, kindly, if I would prefer to sit or stand, I was put in mind of a Monty Python sketch–  “No one expects the comfy chair at the Spanish Inquisition!”

And yet, there was no torture device before me.  There was a mechanism of clear plastic that looked a bit like it could be a fancy display case for jewelry or something.

The actual exam took all of five minutes. Total.  That was both breasts, two shots of each.

Five minutes.

Maybe it was even less.

It was virtually painless.  I can’t even say it was uncomfortable.  There was no excessive squeezing.  There was no flower pressing or medieval torture.

I left laughing at myself for being such a freak about it.

It is hard to believe I actually managed to write close to a thousand words about a procedure that took less than five minutes and was not in any way, shape, or form dramatic of dastardly.  I almost want to apologize for boring you!

But if you are one of those women putting off this important procedure because of the fear that it is torturously painful, please pick up the phone and schedule it.  It is fine.  I swear.  I have no threshold for pain or drama, and if I could get through it, so can you.

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Ultrasound

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This morning I had to go into a medical imaging clinic to get an abdominal ultrasound.

I wrote a couple weeks ago about taking an afternoon off to go to my doctor because of a piercing pain in my right side.  She didn’t think it was anything serious, but ordered the ultrasound just to be safe.

So, this morning I went.  I had to fast after midnight, so I didn’t get to drink my coffee this morning.  I was acutely aware of my pissy-coffe-less mood, but kept reminding myself that it was only temporary and I would be able to hit the Dunkin drive through as soon as I got done with the ultrasound.

I pulled into the parking lot and became aware of another sensation as well.  Anxiety.

All sorts of thoughts bubbled up in me like blisters on a burn.

What if I’m not okay?  What if it is something really bad?  What if this moment sitting here in my car in this parking lot is the last moment of my ignorance of some terrible tumor or fatal condition.  How would I ever say goodbye to my kids.  How would I explain my hair loss?  How would I manage to make a million video tapes explaining all of life’s little moments to them?  

Labeling this brand of thinking my “dread thoughts” helps a bit to bring me back down to earth.  Because I think this way a lot.  I have an active imagination that swings over into the realm of morbid when I’m in the bad place with my anxiety.

It is kind of embarrassing and self indulgent.  Some people actually have these issues going on in their lives and I don’t know for a second how they cope, because I can’t even imagine how I would cope.

Maybe I watch way too much medical drama on TV.

I was in and out of the ultrasound center in a half hour.  The tech couldn’t say for sure, but she said everything looked okay.  The radiologist will look at the images, write a report, and fax it over to my doctor.

She said my gall bladder looked “nice and clean.”

I’m not sure what that means, but I’m thankful to be healthy.

I’m also thankful for the two coffees I ordered on my way in to work. 

What are you thankful for today?  Do you ever have dread thoughts?  About what?  

You Are Okay

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“The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.  Yet it’s never too late or too early to practice loving-kindness.”  Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart. 

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You look in the mirror, hating on your puffy eyes and the two deep lines in between your brows.  You look in the mirror, thinking your lips are thinning, but your cheeks look fat.  You look in the mirror, counting gray hairs, extra pounds, stretch marks.  You look in the mirror and step on the scale, weighing your disappointment in yourself.

Stop.

You are okay.

You are wonderful.

Your body is a miracle.

Your hips will never fit back into a single-digit-size pair of pants because your pelvis has been stretched to accomodate the new life you brought into this world.

Your thighs and bum carry an extra store of fat, put on to accomodate your little one’s need to be nourished at your breasts.

The corners of your eyes have become creased from hours of smiling down on your children, teaching them the world is friendly and safe.

The commercials are correct, motherhood changes everything.  One of the things that changes is your body, and likely your attitude towards it.  But consider the miracle your body performed.

Your body did what it was created to do.

You are a mom.

You do not need to compare yourself to the mom who proudly sported a bikini after having twins.  Maybe she was blessed with different genetics than you, and that is nice for her.  You do not need to hate on her, but more importantly, you do not need to put yourself down for not being her.

Your body accomplished what it was meant for in a pristine and gracious manner, to be compared with no one else.

It is okay for you to enjoy cake on birthdays, burgers off the grill in the summer, pizza on Fridays, and mashed potatoes with butter on winter holidays.  It is okay for you to show your children moderation is a wonderful thing.  Show them we can treat ourselves here and there without feeling ashamed, fat, or ugly.

Your children will be happier and healthier if they learn to love their bodies, and all the wonderful, physical activities their bodies perform- jumping, running, climbing, dancing, swimming, kicking, twirling- to keep them fit and strong.  Your children will learn to love their bodies if you love yours.

Your children will be happier and healthier if they grow up not thinking the “F word” is “fat”.

Your children love your body.  It is their home.  They will not believe the place from which they seek comfort and love is anything less than beautiful, unless you convince them otherwise.  Were you a size 0 model on the cover of a magazine the gazes you attracted would not be more adoring than eyes of your children.

Keep yourself healthy and strong for them, but also for yourself.  Make wise choices about how you use your body, and what you put into your body.  But know, also, that your sum total is so much more than a number on a scale.

Your stomach jiggles when you run, and is tie-dyed with bleached tiger stripes of motherhood.  These are talismans to be worn with pride and confidence, not to be covered with shame or self-loathing.

Your breasts are big and floppy, lumpy and bumpy because they produced the most amazing food on the planet.  Your breasts have done what they were meant for, and they have provided nourishment, comfort, and bliss for your babies.  Your bra size is bigger because of this evolutionary miracle, not because you didn’t log enough hours at the gym.

And speaking of the gym.  It is okay for you to miss workouts to stay home and snuggle with your children.  It is okay for you to take them for long nature-walks by the bay or in the woods instead of running in smelly isolation with your ear buds in at the gym.  But if you do feel like working out at the gym, that is okay too, and you do not need to feel guilty for leaving your children for an hour to take care of yourself.

Tend to yourself.

Be healthy.  Be reasonable.

You are beautiful.

You are allowed to love yourself as unconditionally as you love your children.

You are not a bad person for calling yourself names in the past.  It is never too late to turn to loving-kindness.  You do not need to be your own worst enemy when you look in the mirror.  Instead, consider the art you created.

Loving others begins with loving ourselves.  How much better would the world be if we could support and cherish ourselves, rather than constantly putting down or insulting?  How much would kindness be increased if we could bring ourselves to view the changes motherhood creates in our physical beings as pure and natural, not abhorrent or aberrant?

Try it now.

Love yourself.

You are okay.

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