I went for my 3rd mammogram today. I’m 31 years old. A little background:
One November day when my Mom was 38 she found a lump on her left breast while she was taking a shower. She and my Dad were pretty freaked out. She went to the Doc, had a biopsy, and ended up having her left breast and some lymph-nodes removed. She went to chemotherapy every 2 weeks for 4-5 months.
It was a difficult time for me and the family. My Dad explicitly told me I was not to talk about it. I didnt know what was going to happen. I’ll never forget hearing her throw up at night or waking up in the morning to find gobs of her hair in the waste basket. She lost a lot of weight. I was 12 and very insecure about everything and wanted to be as thin as she was. Dad was working 3PM-11PM. When Mom was too sick or worn out I had to make dinner, clean up, help take care of my brother who was 9, etc. That Christmas Dad and I were sitting in the car outside his younger brothers house. He looked at me, put his hand over mine, his eyes teared up, and said that he needed me to be strong for him. One day after her shower Mom called me into the bathroom. She showed me her scar, still red, from where her left breast had been removed. I touched it. She also had me touch her skin just above where her breast had been, there was a button where she got her chemotherapy.
There are other things I’ll never forget though. That Easter, Mom had just finished chemotherapy. Their Church (Zion Lutheran Church) service was broadcast on the radio. She didnt feel she could attend because her immune system was weakened by chemo so she listened to the service over the radio. It was sunny that morning and for some reason I have a very clear memory of her hand on the dial knob, her fingernails, her hand dialing in the AM signal, the morning light, the sunny sky . . . There was another sunny afternoon, after school, when she called me to her. She wanted to know if I could feel peach fuzz on her head. She wanted to be sure her hair was growing back. That it wasnt just her imagination. She wore a bright purple paisley scarf to cover her bald head. She had others but that one she wore most often. Once a month for 5 years she had to go down to the Quad Cities for continuing treatment. She got a shot in the stomach, that always came with a bruise afterward. This was part of a study to see if this would keep the cancer from reoccurring. In the summer when I was out of school, before I was working, I would go with her. I’d go with her to the Genesis Clinic. She’d get her shot sometime between 10-11. We’d go out to lunch then go shopping or do something else. There were afternoons where we’d spend a couple of hours at Trash Can Annie’s because I was obsessed with old clothes. At that time I was obsessed with women’s fashion from the Civil War. I was 12 and was going through a “Gone With The Wind” phase. I read the book twice, had seen the film several times, and thought it was very romantic. There are still periods of womens fashion I’m very attracted to. The Empire dresses of the 1820’s and 1830’s, the flowing Edwardian dresses and hats of the early 1900’s. The freedom from corsets, short dresses, and experiments with boys fashion in women’s clothes from the 1920’s, the cut of jackets, skirt length, and shoes from 1930’s-1940’s. I could take or leave women’s fashion from the 1950’s. Not so into the Donna Reed thing. I didnt like fashion in the 1980’s and have absolutely no idea why it’s coming back.
I digress. Anyway, with all that being said, I found out (I was at the Doc for a completely different reason) that if your Mom was under 40 and diagnosed with breast cancer that you’re supposed to start getting mammograms when you’re 10 years younger than your Mom when she was diagnosed. It’s suppose to give baseline reads over time and is supposed to make it easier to see any change in breast tissue. At 29, I had my first mammogram and was scared half to death. I didnt know what to expect and was convinced that the tech would find something.
I’m here to tell you that mammograms arent so bad. Not to say it’s the most fun experience ever and I’d have one every day if I could. It is uncomfortable, and does make me feel vulnerable. But there are worse things. Stitches for instance are worse than a mammogram. For any girls who are curious here is what happens:
Dont wear any under arm deodorant, anti-perspirant, or perfume your pits. Check in 15 minutes before your exam. You get to keep your pants and socks on! You get to put on a lovely cloth gown that opens in the front. If you’re lucky your tech will be a woman (imho I’d rather have a girl than a boy). You step up a machine that has a table your boob gets put on and a plastic piece that comes down on top of your boob to squish it. The tech takes your boob and puts it on the table and adjusts it to make sure it’s just right. Then she goes over to the computer to take a picture. Then they do the same thing but squish your boob sideways. Now, I’ve been very lucky and have had techs who have told me they will not give me more pressure than I can stand and if I get too uncomfortable just to say so and she would back off. This doesnt happen to everyone. You do get red marks on your chest from the machine and your boobs will be a little sore but, that goes away after a little while. Sometimes if you ask you can see the pictures of your breast tissue. I know some anatomy and know that your boob tissue is full of glands, ducts, blood vessels, veins, etc. But it’s pretty neat to see the inside of your boobs.
You’d be surprised at how long and flat your boobs get. Each time I have one I’m surprised at how flat and long my boobs get. I’m not well endowed, my chest measures 33 inches around the fullest part. My boobs arent much more than mosquito bumps on my chest. But they get really flat, like 1/4 inch tall.
Girls, dont feel like you’re a weenie if you ask someone to come with you. Either because you are a little afraid or need emotional support, or for whatever reason. It doesnt make you a weenie.
Even though mammograms arent so bad I am absolutely CONVINCED that if men had to stick their penis’s in a machine that squeezed them flat medical science would come up with something else awfully quick. I dont think men would stand for having their willies squeezed until there were flat as a pancake.