October is Breast Cancer Awareness month so I am reposting my annual mammogram reminder. If you’ve already read this post, please feel free to pass it along to a friend who hasn’t!
I get my mammogram done religiously every year and have since I was in my mid-30s when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m trying to set a good example for my daughters so I drag myself to the clinic once a year erring on the side of precautionary procedures because of my family history. Given my propensity for procrastination I’d very likely “forget” to have a mammogram done were it not for regular reminders, like Breast Cancer Awareness month.
For years I went to the same clinic for my mammograms. It was a great place to go because the woman who took care of me had that little extra special “bed side manner” necessary for such an awkward job. God bless her, she took the time to pre-heat the machine by placing a warm heating pad on the booby trap prior to each test, thereby eliminating that feeling that your hoo-hah’s are being squashed by a vice that’s been left over night in a sub-zero deep freezer. I’m not sure if she learned that in Breast Smashing 101 in Mammography school, but she should get extra jewels on her crown someday for that little secret.
This year I pushed my mammogram aside for an extra month since I’d had a change in insurance carriers and had to go to a new clinic. No big deal – or so I thought. Once you’ve had your twin sisters pressed between two large Plexiglas plates, you figure one mammogram is the same as all the rest. And for the most part, this one was.
The room was adorned with the standard issue mammogram cartoons designed to relieve internal fears. There’s the one with the husband backing the mini-van over his wife’s breasts as she lies down on the garage floor. Or the one with the woman who takes a number from a machine in front of a salvage yard with a sign that reads, “Mo’s Auto Crushers and Mammograms.” You get the idea. While the cartoons are designed to make you smile, there’s no denying the inevitable that your Ta-Ta’s are going to be smashed to within an inch of their very existence.
The procedure began and the technician began adjusting my girls just so. She quickly retreated doing that duck and cover thing behind the protective shield to flip her switch. I let my mind wander and started wondering if anyone ever wakes up thinking, “Gee when I get older I want to smash breasts all day for a living.” My brain barely had time to ponder the unusual career field as all rational thought and reasoning became impossible with each passing second. I teetered on tippy toes as the machine pressed down and the expected pressure increased. I did my best to “hold my breath and relax” as ordered but let’s face it, that’s the most ridiculous request on the planet when your body parts are being pressed and pulled beyond recognition!
Now it’s usually at the point where the pressure increases just so making you think your eyeballs are going to explode out of your skull from their sockets that the x-ray is mercifully over and the machine starts to release you from its death hold. Not so with this new girl. I suspect she must have been nurturing a darker, more sinister side to her personality as the machine continued to squeeze and press past the usual “flat as a pancake stage.” In fact we bypassed the “rolled pasta” stage and raced past the “flatter than is humanly possible” stage before she finally released the machine and my girls from the jaws of terror.
This new girl takes the all time prize in mammography for introducing me to the legendary, but rarely achieved state of “Tortilla Flats.” It was at the pinnacle of tortilla flat, I felt the oxygen leaving my brain and I think I may have blacked out for an instant. By the time we moved on to the second x-ray on the same breast to shoot it from a new angle, I distinctly heard a choir of angels singing all around me. Thankfully the technician switched to the other breast before I had a complete out-of-body-experience. Although, I’m pretty sure before we were finished I saw a bright light beckoning me forward through a long tunnel and Jesus himself calling me home!
To say that my annual mammogram was a religious experience would be stretching it a bit, but I definitely did some serious praying throughout the entire procedure. The most intense prayers being “please God let these films come out perfect so I don’t need to have retakes!”
If you’ve not had a mammogram yet and I’ve scared you into thinking you’re never going to have a mammogram – please don’t listen to me! I’m a writer and I have a tendency to embellish ever so slightly. Plus bear in mind that I’m a woman in a serious dating relationship with Mr. Menopause so “the old gals” are easily frightened these days and a bit on the squeamish side. (I’ve got all I can do just to keep them out of my lap when I sit down most days. They seem to be in a race with Mr. Gravity and Father Time – and so far the sisters are sagging behind – literally!)
Mammograms are a necessary procedure if we’re going to be responsible for these weak vessels that God has entrusted us with. Women need to have regular mammograms if you’re over 35, as well as a standard well-woman check up and exam (including a Pap smear). Remember mammograms aren’t always 100% reliable for detecting cancerous lumps, but they are still considered one of the most useful tools in the early detection of breast cancer. And yes, while they are uncomfortable and slightly painful (depending on your breast size) there are definitely procedures that rank far higher on the pain meter. Things like childbirth, root canals, death, dismemberment, divorce and foreclosure to name just a few.
Hopefully my experience brought a smile to your face — but more importantly, I pray you’re inspired to become proactive when it comes to your own health.
Breast wishes for a long and healthy life!
Or don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT)