Friday, October 2, 2015

When Thinking Pink Means More Than Jumping On the Bandwagon

You don't want to wait until you find a lump in your breast to get a mammogram. If you haven't gone for your mammogram, you are from one of two schools of thought: it won't happen to me, or it will happen to me and I don't want to know.

I understand. At 44, I took my mammogram script and put it in my purse, where it quickly got swallowed up by the vast mess of papers, receipts, and wrappers. I was engaged, and that took precedence over a mammo appointment, in my mind. It was forgotten.

I once 'boobicon'ed my Facebook profile picture in support of breast cancer awareness.
Getting a mammogram would have been more proactive.

The following year (this year), I went for my annual exam, got another script, and lost it in the same way that I lost the previous year's script. I knew, though, that I needed to get my mammogram, so I called the office to get another one, this time with my married name on the script.

I sat on it for a few weeks. I'd get the mammo done, I would. But the thought of scheduling it, making time for the appointment, taking a shower and not putting on lotion or deodorant... such a pain to deal with. That is, until I found a lump.

I was getting out of bed, and the right side of my right breast felt tender and sore. Being post-menopausal, I knew it wasn't premenstrual breast tenderness, or a clogged milk duct, but it felt like that kind of pain. I put my hand to the soreness and whoosh, there it was. A lump.

Wait. What? This could not be. I just had a breast exam three months ago. And yet.

I freaked. I woke my husband up. "Feel" I said. "There's a lump." And when he nodded yes and said "It's probably a cyst", I started to cry. He felt it, too. It was real.

Breast cancer awareness month was approaching, which ironically only made matters worse. Everywhere, there were stories about lumps and prevention, both good and bad stories, and I just wanted to know that I was okay. I'm okay, right?

I called the imaging center immediately for an appointment, but when they heard I had a lump, they wouldn't book it. They told me that I needed a script for an ultrasound, as well as the mammogram script. "So when you call with a lump, you can't get in for a mammogram?", I asked.  It seems counterintuitive. I called my doctor's office four times before I got a nurse on the phone to ask her for a script for an ultrasound. "I am a 45 year old, post-menopausal woman with a lump. I know that I am not the most pressing or important patient in your office, but I'm scared," I said. The nurse understood and immediately got on it.

My appointment was booked for two weeks from that day. And today the two weeks are up. It's finally time for me to know what's going on. Hopefully, it's nothing, and I'll have learned to put my health first and get that yearly mammogram.

But for now, I don't know what will happen, or what is ahead, and frankly, I am scared. Really, really scared. For the people who think it won't happen to them, I ask, "Then, who?" But I am supported. My husband is nothing short of a saint, and he's always here for me. I have good friends, a few of whom are cancer survivors, all of whom will lend a listening ear. I have a supportive loving family.

And hopefully, I have nothing. Nothing more than a benign cyst. Or lumpy breasts.

But now, I don't know. I won't until I go to my appointment and the radiologist does whatever she does to let my doctor know what's up.

And if it turns out that I am A-OK, I will take my health more seriously, eat better, exercise more. I will advocate for women to get routine mammograms, even if doing so seems to be a pain in the neck. Because while taking the time out to go for a mammogram may be inconvenient, it may also be saving your life.

Note: I am writing this in the hopes that women feel moved to schedule their mammograms, and that they do self-breast exams. I am also sharing my story so that people understand that the process to getting checked sometimes takes drastic findings. I am not writing my story to have people stop me and inquire as to how I am doing, and while I appreciate your concern, I prefer to hear from you via message. Thank you.


  1. Thank you for posting this.

  2. YES GIRL!!!!!!! Great message, thank you!!!!

  3. Great article, sometimes we definitely take it for granted that these tests are important to get every year and also self examination. Thanks for the reminder to all!

  4. Great article and thank you for sharing. I've always been very diligent about getting my exams every year and always got upset with friends who weren't. Today...I'm a breast cancer survivor. The early detection was everything. Although I had to have a double mastectomy (high risk), I didn't have to do chemo or radiation. It really did make a huge difference in my recovery. My Dr's said "your prognosis is actually very good" and I thought they were nuts until I went to a survivor luncheon and heard the stories about chemo, etc. and understood what they meant.
    I will keep you in my thoughts. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. xo