On my 40th birthday was the last time I saw my mom before she passed. She was on hospice, and it had been a few days since she had opened her eyes, or communicated much with us. She was dying of breast cancer.
This was a pivotal moment in my life, where all things seemed to converge into one big glob that was my life. I was a new mom, of a not-yet adopted son (who was going to turn 1, two weeks later), I was turning 40, which was a HUGE turning point in a woman's life and I was quickly becoming an orphan- losing my most favorite human on the planet.
I loathed cancer. I had already been widowed in my 20's by this stupid disease, and had been with my mom on her 10 year journey. I was scared to death to lose her. I couldn't believe what was happening. And to top it off, this was a harsh reminder that the last time I saw my own father alive, was also on my birthday, several years earlier.
My (now) husband, worked hard to gather a few close friends and have a "party" for me. But none of us were in the party mood. We knew we were getting close to the end with my mom and it was difficult for everyone. I secretly didn't want to turn 40 and I certainly didn't want to enter into such a life changing decade without my mom. That night, we all fell asleep- and I was woken by the news of her passing.
Fast forward to 2018- July, I turned 42. I know that when you hit 40 you are supposed to go get your baseline mammogram. I had all kinds of excuses not to go and get it. Work. Work and more work. Being a mom (and a foster mom to additional children at that). Other loved one's health challenges. An adoption. And well, I was plain scared.
Being a scaredy cat isn't really in my nature. I am an anxious person, but I deal with that mostly through trying new things. But the ugly "C" word has stopped me in my tracks one too many times, and as I blew out candle number 42, I knew I had to do what no woman loves to do- Get my girls squished!
In July, I got new insurance, so I put off the other dreadful test that every woman hates- a pap smear. The doc took all of 3 minutes to complete her task and then reminded me that I was overdue for my mammogram. I told her that I knew, but that I was scared, given my family history with the big "C". She tried to evoke confidence in me, by reminding me that finding anything early, is better that waiting. I knew that in my brain- but my anxious subconscious voice was getting louder- "Mom skipped a mammogram and ended up with advanced cancer. I have skipped 2 years of recommended time to get one done- THAT COULD BE ME TOO." I had also learned that a childhood friend of mine, went for her first mammogram an was diagnosed with pretty advanced breast cancer at 43. That scared me- for her and for me.
When I left the doctor's office, I put my "big girl panties" on and made the appointment. That felt good- to at least taken a tiny step towards what I know I needed to do.
Each day leading up to my appointment, I tried to get my anxious mind to turn off. All of the "what if's". What if it hurts? What if they find something. What if I have cancer! I just kept plugging away at things to take my mind off of those nagging questions and pretty soon, I oun myself in the office of the radiology clinic. I signed in and sat down, knowing I could no longer put off what I had tried to do for over 2 years.
Within 20 minutes, my name was called and I went back into this small area, with little closets. The nurse told me to undress from the waist up and put on this lovely green gown she handed me. I changed and then sat in a chair outside the dressing room to wait. It wasn't long and this short, older lady who was quite bubbly, called my name and took me into her dark room. She tried to make light of everything- "Oh you're here for your baseline mammogram." All I kept thinking is "I'm here to see if I have cancer lady."
I followed all of her instructions as she placed my boob on the tray. The one thing I wasn't mentally prepared for is for someone to be moving my breasts around in precarious positions. I just kept breathing. She would move my arm, my head, to position me just right and then ask me to hold my breath. She run the machine and then return to position me again and again.
The one thing that surprised me was that it was virtually painless! What were all these women complaining about? All I ever hear was that it was painful, and horrible to have a mammogram done. I can certainly say it was awkward to have a woman fondling my breasts, but other than that, the experience was nothing like I had dreaded.
She then shocked me and said "Do you want to look at them? " "Um, sure?" I said. We walked over to the screens and there they were. My twin girls (who were fraternal twins- because, she pointed out to me during the exam that one boob was larger than the other). I saw a lot of grey matter, along with some "glowing white" streaks- but other than those distinctions, I could only tell that those were indeed my boobs.
The anxious voice in my spoke up. "Do they look ok? Do you see anything I should be concerned about?"
She said "oh, I just take the pictures. I leave all that to the docs." She then led me back to the changing rooms.
While I was changing, I was trying to keep that nervous voice from sending me into a full blown panic attack. This, I reminded myself- is the worst part. This- being the waiting. The same interval of time that came after my first husband was diagnosed with cancer (twice). The same amount of time between my mom's tests and her results. The horrible, awful, anxious time that has to pass between when you have a test like this done and the (what seemed like) inevitable phone call. I was not prepared for this.
Click here for part II. The follow up to my Mammogram Monologue.
Rebecca Johnson is a Freelance Digital Media Specialist, Social Media and marketing strategist. She uses her creativity, and marketing skills, along with her business ownership experience to assist small and medium sized businesses with their online marketing. Rebecca owns with her husband, Get Networking Now!, Rebecca Johnson Consulting and My Social Media Pro.
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