Shortly after my 50th birthday, I received a letter in the mail from Cancer Care Ontario presenting me with the opportunity for another novel experience: my first mammogram. If you read my previous blog on my anxiety with people entering my peripersonal space (see # 7 Mind Over Makeover), you would understand that this feat was not at the top of my “love to do” list. However, after reading the brochure which accompanied my letter, I realized that it needed to be on my “must do” list.
While I have had close family members who have died from cancer, including my Mom, breast cancer was not the cause. It was not until I read the brochure that accompanied the letter that I was stunned to learn that not only is more than 80% of breast cancer found in women over the age of 50, most of the women diagnosed have NO family history of the disease (https://www.cancercare.on.ca/pcs/screening/breastscreening/). Nonetheless, it took me over two months of reshuffling the letter from the kitchen counter, to the dining room table, and back to the kitchen before I picked up the phone to book an appointment; I think it was a combination of avoidance and our tendency to relegating self-care to the back burner at play.
I had heard horror stories from other women about the procedure – painful machination involving the squishing of the ta-tas into torturous equipment by Nurse Rached look-alikes. On the morning of the appointment, I admit to being a little nervous. As it turned out, the procedure was both swift and, while somewhat uncomfortable, surprisingly painless. The technician explained the process in advance: four x-rays would be taken (two per breast, horizontal and vertical) using a machine with a plastic plate that pressed the breast in place for a few seconds while the x-ray was taken. The whole procedure would take less than 10 minutes. My technician was gentle and skilled and, fortunately, my proximal anxiety was minimal that day so, while I felt a little like Wham, Bam, Thank You Ma’am, it was more Dean Martin and less Urban Dictionary.
For all my half century girlfriends, I highly recommend that you take up the mantle of this particular feat. It is estimated that every year, 9,000 women in Ontario are diagnosed with breast cancer; unfortunately, almost 2,000 will still die from it. The upside is that breast cancer mortality continues to decline, likely due to both screening and better treatments. I can tell you that while the “Wham, Bam” wasn’t the most enjoyable feat, I wholeheartedly support the “Thank You Mamm-ogram” mantra.
Next up: a tarot card reading (delayed by a week due to high demand for psychic Jewelee).