Hi amy & vanessa -saw the post u were in town,would hv loved to have met up w/you girls today but I was just diagnosed w/breast cancer & am having a double masectomy on Tues. Please, if you haven't had a mammo yet, please schedule one. I just went for my 1st & am thanking God I did. Its early stages & they are hoping I don't need radiation, let alone chemo. Hv a safe trip back Amy & hope to catch you next time. Xoxo
Kelly graduated with me, so she is my age. I was stunned to get this message from her - because obviously, if this could happen to her, it could happen to me as well. Luckily, her cancer was caught very early and she is doing great now - and I am so incredibly thankful for that.
A few weeks ago, she posted a link to an article about mammograms. Unfortunately, for some reason, the article now seems to have been removed, because I can't find it anywhere. I have tried the link, I have searched for it, I have done everything that I know to do, and it looks like it's gone. Basically, it said that many women do not get mammograms for one ridiculous reason:
Because other women scare us away from doing it.
Seriously? I had never thought about it before. But think about it - when you hear the word "mammogram" what do you think? I know I generally don't think of "a slightly uncomfortable test that only takes a few minutes and could potentially save my life". Instead, I think "OMG it's a boob smasher! It hurts! It takes the 'girls' and flattens them between these freezing cold plates like they've been run over by a truck! It's horrible! It hurts! It's the worst. thing. ever."
Why do women do this to each other? Why do we scare our sisters, our daughters, our best friends - out of getting a test that could save their lives?
Here are some interesting statistics according to breastcancer.org:
- About 1 in 8 U.S. women (just under 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
- For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.
- Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. Just under 30% of cancers in women are breast cancers.
- In 2011, there were more than 2.6 million breast cancer survivors in the US.
- A woman’s risk of breast cancer approximately doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. About 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.
- About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.
After reading that now-missing article, doing some research, and talking to Kelly some more, I decided to take action for myself. It's no big secret that I don't have health insurance - which has been the other factor that has prevented me from getting a mammogram sooner. But I had heard about random programs where they could be provided for free. So I started doing some digging - and in less than 5 minutes, I found a program in the state of Kansas. I called the number for information, answered a few questions and found out that I am eligible for a free mammogram and pap smear. I called to make the appointment, and got it set up within less than 2 weeks - had it not been for the Thanksgiving holiday, it probably would have been quicker than that.
I went for the pap smear on Monday, and thought that I was getting the mammogram at the same time - which is why I had planned to write this post then. But, there was a slight breakdown in communication, and the mammogram had to be scheduled on a different day.
1. Because I'm *cough* over 40, and I needed to get it done.
2. To see just how horrible of an experience it actually is to have done.
Let me tell you - relatively speaking, it's probably one of the easiest medical tests that I have ever had done. Ever. The technicians were friendly and amazing and funny, and they made it so easy.
The scans themselves? Painless. Completely and totally painless. I'm not going to lie and say that it was comfortable, because it wasn't. But it didn't hurt a bit.
Basically, I had to strip from the waist up and wipe off my deodorant. They gave me a gown to wear while they explained the machine and how it would work. Then the one technician got me into position - and no, it was not weird to have someone maneuvering my breast around to get it into the right place. They're boobs, plain and simple. They've been seen by dozens of doctors and nurses before and the tech sees dozens of them every day (not to mention that she has 2 of her own) so I was not embarrassed at all. She got my left one positioned on the plate (which was not that cold), lowered the top plate a bit, scooted things around a bit to get the perfect shot, lowered it some more, I held my breath, and the xray was taken and the top plate lifted. This process was repeated 3 more times, for a total of 4 scans (2 on each side).
All in all, the whole process took maybe 15 minutes, and I was back out the door and on my way home.
Fifteen minutes. Less time than it takes to get a shower on some days.
Some women claim that it hurts so much to have a mammogram. They talk about it as though it is the most painful and horrible thing that they have ever experienced. Maybe I was lucky that it didn't hurt a bit. I've heard that those of us who are *ahem* well-endowed have it easier with mammograms, and that it does hurt more for women with smaller breasts. But still - isn't a few minutes of being uncomfortable worth it?
Maybe it hurts some women a bit - but think of how much having undetected cancer hurts. Think of the surgeries, the chemo, the radiation. Think of the anguish of watching a loved one have to go through all of it because she was too scared to get a mammogram to detect it earlier.
Luckily, Kelly's cancer was caught so early that she didn't have to go through chemotherapy or radiation. Her right side was loaded with microcalcifications and a biopsy tested positive for beginning stages of cancer. She wasn't eligible for a lumpectomy because there were so many spots, so she chose the double mastectomy. She will be monitored forever through MRIs because there is no guarantee that it won't return - but for now she is cancer-free, because it was caught so early. Imagine what her life would be like if she listened to the horror stories and put off getting it done. Her story might have a very different ending.
So please, if you don't pay attention to anything else that I ever write, pay attention to this. If you are a woman who is 40 or older, and you haven't gotten a mammogram, go get one. It's easy. It's painless. It's not scary. And the next time someone tells you that it's horrible, or painful, or terrifying - ask her if she would rather go through 15 minutes of uncomfortable or years of surgeries and treatments because someone scared her out of doing such a simple test early enough to make the treatment easier.
|Right there - the most important reason of all for me to get it done.|
Because I love my family - and I will do anything in my power to
be here for them.
Kelly - Thank you. Thank you for sharing your story with me, and allowing me to share it here. You are an inspiration to me, and I would not have gone and gotten this done if it wasn't for you. So I thank you, from the bottom of my heart!