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.
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.