Did you get your mammogram this year? For me, the anxiety started last week as I looked ahead on my calendar. My annual mammogram was coming up. It’s not the squishing and smashing and pulling I detest, rather it’s the unknown. When it comes to health, especially my own, it’s not what I can see and feel that gives me anxiety, it’s what I can’t see, and waiting for results that eat me up. I have no reason to believe anything should go wrong. I do self exams, although not as often as I should. I have no family history of breast cancer, both my mother and grandmother tested negative for the BRCA genes, and I don’t have dense breast tissue. What scares me is that I know or have friends who know someone exactly like me who found out they had cancer as a result of their mammogram.
A few months ago a college friend of mine posted on Facebook that a friend of hers was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and was scheduled to have a double mastectomy. This 43 year old mom and wife had no family history of breast cancer and had no sign of any lumps, still a tumor was discovered during a routine mammogram. My friend ended her post with this message “get your annual mammogram. No excuses, no delaying– you have children to see grow up and a wonderful, healthy, full life to live!” I always get my annual mammogram, not always on time, but after reading her post, which hit a little too close to home, I picked up the phone and made my appointment!
I tried to keep to a normal schedule when “M”Day finally arrived. I went to the gym, worked out with my small group and even joked about “having the girls checked.” But the truth is, I was terrified. Today I am me, tomorrow I could be me, but with a statistical caveat after my name. I arrived early at Renown Breast Health Center and sat in the car counting down the minutes before my appointment. Six more minutes to go. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Crap, it’s time to go in.
The woman behind the counter at check-in was pleasant. She handed me some paperwork and sent me into the waiting room. But this room isn’t the lobby, it’s the inner sanctum. No spouses – women only. The room is small but comfortable, with a big screen television dialed into the Food Network. I guess what better way to calm the nerves than watching The Pioneer Women whip up some cowboy friendly dish. And…. then I hear my name called! I’m am taken to a dressing area and given what I call my “superhero cape” – a little piece of material with a single snap in the front – because god knows I’m feeling the need for some courage about now.
I’m led to a room with a special x-ray machine and told to stand straight and relax while the tech placed each breast, one at a time between the x-ray plates. Easier said than done. The tech looks at me and says with a smile “you might feel a little discomfort.” You think? Squish, smash, flatten whatever you want to call it, it’s uncomfortable and even a little painful, but thankfully it doesn’t last long. I guess the flatter the tech can make your breasts the better the picture… so fondle away.
I also scheduled a secondary screening called SonoCiné, which is a whole breast ultrasound. Thanks to my former colleague, Wendy Damonte, there has been a big push to inform women on the dangers of dense breast tissue. I’ll put a link to her TEDx Talk about Dense Breasts at the bottom. I don’t have dense tissue – I found that out during last year’s screening – but I wanted it done for comparison and for peace of mind. SonoCiné is painless, just like the ultrasound you get when you’re pregnant, minus the transvag one you get during the first trimester. I was given a mesh vest to wear, which I firmly believe, without a doubt, that my Burning Man friends would love to get their hands on. The tech places the goop on and then moves the gizmo over the vest from top to bottom until each girl part is covered.. sounds kinky, but it’s not.
The entire appointment lasted maybe an hour, but I was going to have to wait for the results. I kept watching the tech’s face as she performed each screening…looking for a hint of concern. All I can say is these women would make great poker players. Five days later this arrived in the mail.
I took a deep breath and ripped open the envelope.
A big sigh of relief. Today, I am one one of the lucky ones. I had my first mammogram when I was 35 years old. I wanted a baseline and my doctor at the time did not want to make the referral and tried to convince me otherwise. I’ve since changed doctors and have gotten my girls screened every year since I turned 40.
October is officially Breast Cancer Awareness month. You can’t open a magazine or turn on the radio or television without some celebrity reminding us to get screened. The point is, breast cancer doesn’t wait until October to strike and neither should you. Make your appointment today and take charge of your health!
Extra: Wendy Damonte at TEDx University of Nevada: Dangerous boobs alert! Dense breast tissue hides tumors.
Michelle Simmons is a Nevada transplant for the second time. She first moved to Reno in the 1990’s, after graduating from Chico State, to work as a news producer for one of the local television stations. She remembers working during the flood of 1997, the grand opening of the Silver Legacy Resort and Casino, and when the former Pink Scolari’s was the edge of town. After a couple of years in Reno, Michelle took a producing job in Portland, Oregon. A career change of sorts brought Michelle and her family back to Reno and she’s not complaining. She says she could only take so much rain, constantly wet dogs and towels that never dried. Michelle would say she’s not crafty, is mediocre in the kitchen and has a running list of anxieties. She doesn’t make New Year’s resolutions, but rather New Year’s goals. In 2015 her goal is to conquer her anxieties, take a few cooking classes and attempt to make “something” crafty. Her two kids ages 10 and 4, and her husband just roll their eyes, but offer support. What more could a girl want?
You can follow Michelle on her blog MomsvilleUSA.com.