This post is in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is October and there is pink everywhere. Honestly, some of the places I see pink seems a bit silly to me. Does an NFL player wearing pink socks do anything? I’m not sure, but perhaps the cumulative effect encourages women to get checked and supports those battling. I’ve been inspired by one of my main blogging girl crushes Ashli Brehm. Ashley was diagnosed with cancer in her early thirties as she mothered her three little boys. Ashli fought cancer like a total badass and won. Now she is a survivor and thriver. She lives each day with undeniable zest and inspires others to do the same. She came out of her battle with a determination to live to the fullest and has inspired me and many others along the way. If you don’t read my words at least watch this video so you can fall in love with Ashli too.
Recently I sat in the waiting room of a busy clinic with a clipboard on my lap waiting to get a mammogram. The top sheet of paperwork had an almost childlike drawing of breasts on it and I felt a bit self-conscious sitting there with it. I reminded myself there was nothing to be ashamed of, I mean it’s not like I had crayons out.
I’m not thrilled about these things that come with being middle-aged, but I’m thrilled that I get to be middle-aged. That sounds a bit off, but here’s the deal each day is a gift…even the kinda yucky ones. I love life and my guys and want as many of those days as I can get, so when I turned forty my gynecologist suggested getting my first mammogram I scheduled it and got it done. I’ve had a couple since.
After the most recent one, I was chatting with a girlfriend and she was giving me a hard time about not taking care of myself by suggesting I go see a real allergist and find some relief to my seasonal misery. I protested that I did take care of myself and even got my mammogram earlier that week. She seemed a little alarmed and asked if everything was okay and why I’d gotten one. So sweet that she forgets I’m nearly ten years older than she is! That’s when it occurred to me that us older gals have to pass along the info to the younger ones.
What to Expect
First off find a doctor you’re comfortable with. If you don’t trust the person feeling up your lady parts you need to find someone else. I lucked out and think my gyno is the bomb. I’ve even followed her when she changed clinics and will pay the upcharge for her now being out-of-network because that sacred relationship is worth some extra moola. Ask around for referrals to find someone that you can feel as relaxed as you’re going to in such a vulnerable state. Once you find that person you aren’t free of responsibility or the need to advocate for yourself, but you have someone to advise you on your choices which takes some of the stress away. I trust my doc, so I follow her advice and don’t overthink it.
Like so, so many things the first time is the worst because you don’t really know what to expect. The techs I’ve had have been super nice and make it seem like no big deal because it really isn’t.
Mammogram Newbies Read This, Others Skip Ahead
You will be sent to a little changing room to remove your shirt and bra and put on a gown. You can’t wear deodorant on mammogram day because it makes the machine gross, now if you’re like me and sweat when you’re nervous this may make you feel not so pretty. They will wet wipes available to freshen up with. Bring your own deodorant from home to put on when you’re done. Then you will step up to the machine and the tech will instruct you where to hold onto the machine and position your breast on the table for squishing. Because really that is what happens. Part of the machine comes down and squishes your breast like a pancake. It isn’t the most pleasant, but it also isn’t awful. It feels like getting your blood pressure taken, right about the time you’re thinking this is really uncomfortable the pressure is released and it is over. The whole process takes about five minutes.
Now the first time I had this done the tech told me that the results would come by mail or be available online if everything was normal and they would call if there were any concerns. So needless to say my heart sank when they called a few days later and left a message one morning before the school bus came. Every worst case scenario raced through my head, I instantly feared there would be a day I wouldn’t be able to walk to the bus stop. I put my boy on the bus, took a deep breath, and called the clinic. Thankfully, they were calling to tell me the results were normal. I won’t forget that feeling of uncertainty though.
You Are Not Alone
One in eight women will get the call that it is cancer. Early detection provides the best odds, so get it done. If you know someone who is battling now please send them to Ashi Brehm’s blog. She shares it like it is – providing real information and insight. She also provides helpful info for those of us wanting to support someone during their cancer battle. I’m grateful for warriors like Ashli who pave this pink path with honesty, grit, and faith.