I had a mammogram done today. If you’re going by the general rule that a woman my age ought to get one every year, you could accurately say that I was nearly a year overdue. My gynecologist’s receptionist has been calling me for the past six months to remind me to get on the schedule.
I’m probably not alone in ducking that anniversary. For one thing, I don’t have any family history of breast cancer, or ovarian cancer, or cancer of any sort…period. And for the other thing—the one that’s most likely the most relevant in this sort of procrastination—going through a mammogram is absolutely no fun at all.
Any woman who’s ever had a mammogram done knows exactly what I’m talking about! No matter how cheery the furnishings and wall art in the radiology department, no matter how friendly the staff, no matter how gleaming the equipment and how skilled the technician…you’re going to have your each of your ta-tas put in a vise and it’s going to be clamped down, hard. For just a few seconds, but STILL!!!
I might have kept putting this appointment off for, oh, say, another year. But…
It’s amazing what cosmic things can happen when you make a run to the grocery store.
Now that I’ve got my house up for sale, I think my social life pretty much revolves around going to work and shopping for food. Any other free time for the past eight months or so has been spent painting, patching, sanding, gardening, trimming brush, clearly you get the picture. (Okay, so I steal a little time away to play with my grandson or talk to other writers!) But I do manage to run into a fair number of folks I know in the deli aisle or the ice cream section of the grocery store.
I had stopped in at Sendik’s one afternoon, and had made it halfway through the store before I saw a woman I knew from years back when our daughters were buddies in grade school. Our daughters are now in their early thirties. I’ll call her Carol.
A retired teacher, she looked stunningly put together, as usual. She had always been slender, with good posture, and her still-dark hair was cut to a shoulder-length bob. While I tend to shop and otherwise run around town on my days off running errands in some variety of jeans or workout clothes, she wore a trench coat with a perky neck scarf, and looked like she had just stepped away from an office with a dress code.
We spent the first ten minutes of conversation just catching up on the usual stuff that occupies us after fifty—frail and failing parents; spouses or other partners; the health and happiness of our multiple children (seven between us!). And then, when the discussion finally turned to how WE were doing, health-wise, she dropped a bombshell. She had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer TWICE, a year apart, one breast per year. She had undergone limited surgery to remove the tumors, and had radiation treatments after that. She expected to make a full recovery after this last one.
But the “teachable moment” she wanted to impart to me, and to shout from the highest mountains and steeples in the land, was that both of her cancers had been detected because she went in for a strictly routine mammogram. She hadn’t had a single inkling that one, then another, were lurking in her breasts before that. No lumps, no pains, no signs of any sort that she was in deep trouble. The routine mammogram had detected the first one, and she and her doctors had successfully dealt with it. When she came in for another mammogram a year later, a tiny tumor was identified in the other breast. She was stunned…but happy that it had been caught so early.
Had she waited longer, had she pushed off scheduling either of those mammogram appointments for reasons of inconvenience, or squeamishness, or discomfort, or just plain aggravation mixed with “it can’t happen to me” cockeyed optimism, her eventual diagnosis and prognosis could have been far worse.
We hugged in the pasta aisle before we parted company, and I left her with the promise that I would give her message a shout-out through my blog here at Growing Bolder. And I also left her with the promise that I’d get cracking, quit procrastinating, and call to schedule my own procedure as well.
And so I did, eventually, a couple of months later. My technician today was a lovely brunette woman named Christina, and she wore a cute set of scrubs in midnight blue, decorated with baby monkeys sleeping on crescent moons in a starlit sky. She was friendly, and efficient, and gentle, and yes, there were still a couple of points during the process when I yelped “ouch!” But I’m glad I finally got there, and I’m glad to help Carol spread the lifesaving word. And for the record, she laughed out loud when I told her what I planned to use as a title for this blog post.
Do it EVERY YEAR, ladies, every bloomin’ year!!