I received the pink reminder postcard over a month ago, yet still have not scheduled my annual mammogram.
I was anxious about my first mammogram; having one’s breasts literally smashed flat between two plates would obviously hurt. My initial anxiety however, stemmed more from potential embarrassment. How would they
ever catch the small amount of breast tissue I possess between those plates? I envisioned my nipples being pinched between the plates while the technician became increasingly frustrated. Admittedly, real life rarely lives up to my imagination, and I learned to not underestimate a skillful mammography tech. The first mammogram was not painful and I walked out of the clinic feeling quite smug. Surely mammograms were more painful for my well-endowed friends, hence the horror stories they shared. Subsequent mammograms have demonstrated that the amount of discomfort and length of the exam is heavily dependent on the technician, and they are not all created equal. But still, mammograms do not approach the pain of childbirth, my yardstick for all things medical.
My procrastination stems from a deeper place. The older I get the more women I know get breast cancer. I have observed their struggles, noted the impact of losing a breast on the female psyche, and the toll of chemotherapy. My heart aches when their busy lives transform into a fight for survival. I do not want to have breast cancer and the mammogram is the first step toward diagnosis. I can hear my Mom’s voice saying, “You know better”, and admit that yes, I do. There are five stages of breast cancer with stage 0 describing non-invasive cancers and stage IV describing invasive cancers that may have spread to other parts of the body. Common sense dictates that undiagnosed breast cancer will assuredly progress, yet every year I go through this analysis until I convince myself that having a mammogram is intelligent and putting it off could cost me my life. I pepper this
analysis with a good dose of guilt regarding the potential impact on my loved
ones, because that is what I do.
I wonder what would make a good gift for a mammography tech…
This post is dedicated to a very adept and compassionate radiologist that has not only saved women’s lives, but provided countless women with comfort while performing breast biopsies.