Saturday, May 03, 2008

Lovely Lady Lumps

In which I blog explicitly for the purpose of breast cancer awareness.

So, if that makes you uncomfortable, well...go away for now and come back next week for something less about breasty business and more about...honestly, I have no idea what I'll blog about next, but, odds are good the words "ta-tas" will not be involved.

Can I start out by saying I am really not a fan of the "save the ta-tas" campaign?
I've been seeing lots of stickers and magnets that say this lately. I appreciate the sentiment, conceptually. I'm just not a big fan of the term "ta-tas" I guess. It seems like we could come up with something you think "Rescue Our Racks" is too subtle? How about "Safeguard the Gazangas?"

I know it sounds like I'm being flip.

But here's the thing about me - sometimes I use mocking humor to shield myself from things that are painful and/or scary to think about it. So...please accept this facet of my personality and let's talk about our knockers for a few minutes.

The unfortunate truth of my medical history is that I have breast cancer in my family. Hence, I was recently written a referral to go and have a mammogram.

Maybe 35 is the age at which all women are sent to get a baseline mammogram - I'm not sure. All I know is that the last time I saw him, the good Dr. J~ looked in my file and said, "you have a history of breast cancer in your family, it's extremely important for you to get a baseline mammogram." And he wrote something on a form and handed it me and I said, "ok".

I am embarrassed to admit this, but, the referral Dr. J~ wrote for me floated around in the glove box of my car for about 2 months, because...I am a coward. I had heard so many horror stories about how awful mammograms are, I didn't want to go.

That was stupidity, really it was. I avoided having a potentially life saving test done because I had heard it was painful, uncomfortable and embarrassing.

But, I finally made the appointment, and the worst thing about it was something I had never heard before, which is this: if you are going to to get a mammogram, you are not supposed to wear any perfume, deodorant or lotion on your torso.

Yes, I'm serious.

It's crazy, I know. But, that's the rule. So, my first piece of advice on this topic would be, make your appointment first thing in the morning so you don't tiptoe around your office for several hours making every effort not to exert yourself at all and avoiding your co-workers at all costs lest you start to smell bad.

When the time arrived for my appointment, I sat in the waiting room of the lab practically shaking with nervousness and full of anxiety.

I was really pretty freaked out by the time they called me back.

The radiographer told me to take off my blouse and bra and handed me a hospital-gown-type thing, except that it only covered my shoulders and chest.

Which brings me to my next piece of advice about getting a mammogram which is DO NOT WEAR A DRESS TO YOUR MAMMOGRAM.

I had almost worn a dress to work that morning, and I was SO GLAD that I had worn a skirt and a blouse instead, because, had I worn the dress, I would have had to take the whole dress off and I would have been standing there, waiting for my mammogram in nothing but a half-hospital gown and my underwear.

Frankly, with all the distress I was already in, I don't think standing there in nothing but my polka-dot-panties would have done anything positive for my frame of mind. So, I was very glad that I was able to keep my skirt on.

The tech took me into the mammography room and asked me several questions about my health. The strangest question she asked me how many pregnancies I had had, and then the next question was something like, "have you ever given birth to a living child?" And I looked at her thinking, "boy, that could really be an incredibly painful question for some people" - and then I realized that I hadn't answered her, and she said something like, "well, women who have had successful pregnancies have lower rates of breast cancer than women who haven't" and I thought, "wow, that kind of adds insult to injury, doesn't it?" but what came out of my mouth was "I have one biological child and one adopted child." And that seemed to satisfy her.

So, I guess my next piece of advice, is be prepared for the fact that they might ask some questions that will rip your heart out if you've ever had the occasion to have your heart ripped out before...

Next, we walked over the machine, and she took a heating pad off of the mechanism (so the plates were warm) and she, basically, put my "girls" in-between the plates one at a time, and squished them and took radiographs (??pictures??) of them at various angles, and that was it. It didn't really hurt much at all. In fact, it hurt my armpit more than anything else, because there was one angle that she needed that was awkward.

I will say that the radiographer told me I had "perfect breasts for a mammogram" and no I am not making that up. Evidently, 'perfect breasts' for mammography purposes are that they are "not so small that it will pinch" and "not so big that they overflow the plates". So, there you go, for once in my life, I can say, categorically, some part of my body is, in fact, perfect. :-P

It was much much much less awful than I anticipated. And I was much relieved a week later when I got a letter that said that my mammogram had not shown any abnormalities.

Now, I now that mammograms are not fool proof. And it's important to go to your yearly exams and keep mindful of changes in your body. But, the bottom line is, if there's a referral for a mammogram floating around in your glove compartment - go get it, call the lab, make an appointment, and GO. It's not so bad. Really. And it just might save your life.



Blogger Leslie & Shaune said...

i went for my annual mammy on thursday :)
like you i have a family history of it (my mom and 2 of her sisters too) and it is freakin' scary. i would go every 4 months if they would let me.
i didn't know that about deoderant, lotions, perfume, etc on your upper body. i've never been told that. Canada is always a few years behind you = they'll tell me that in 2-3 yrs time ;)

i am 36. i have been going for mammograms and ultrasounds since i was 32. fun. but very important.

Saturday, May 03, 2008 4:23:00 PM  
Blogger Law Student Hot Mama said...

My mom had breastcancer, though I was adopted so I don't know anything about my genetic propensity for the disease. Which is scary! And also I think my ta-tas are too big for the mammogram machine.

Oh, and I like the term "tatas." But I like "rack" even better.

Saturday, May 03, 2008 9:25:00 PM  
Blogger Chel said...

I'm so glad it came out okay. And that it didn't hurt. Mammo-grams were starting to rank up there with root canals, colposcopies, and other unpleasant things.

The worst thing in regards to breast cancer awareness was when people were doing the whole "boobie-thon" for breast cancer- they'd send their nude (faceless) photos in to some website and supposedly it was for charity. I just didn't get how showing all those bare breasts would comfort someone who was battling breast cancer or perhaps had lost their own breasts to the disease. Maybe I didn't get the point, but it always seems so very tacky to me.

Saturday, May 03, 2008 9:41:00 PM  
Blogger Nicole - Raising Animals said...

I'm so glad that you went! I've been getting the touchy-feely exams at my yearly since I was 20. When my time comes for a mam- you better believe that I'll get it. I'm 99% sure I will get breast cancer....My goal is to catch it in time. :-)

Congrats on conquering your fear!

Sunday, May 04, 2008 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Good for you for getting your rack squished! I was also told 35 for a baseline. That's 4 years off for me, but I know it'll be here, like, tomorrow. I have virtually zero family history of breast cancer, but of course I always remind myself that family history has to start with someone. I guess I'll just add it to my family's already lengthy list of health woes. Fun times.

Sunday, May 04, 2008 9:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Seriously? There is a 'save the ta-tas" campaign? Tacky. I think it would be much better if they called it "heart your hooters". *snort* I'll admit I've been putting off reading this post for days because I'm, well, older than 35 and have never gotten squished. There is something about that pinching that just doesn't appeal to me. Trust me, I do not have the perfect breasts for a mammogram.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008 9:53:00 AM  
Blogger Michell said...

So I'm just wandering around blog land and stumbled across yours. Great post. It's nice to know what specifically to look forward to. I did have my OB last year recommend one at 37 since if I managed to get pregnant it would be a couple of years before we could get a good look at them. And I was bad and didn't do it. Maybe I will this year.
Oh and I'm ok with ta-tas but prefer "the girls"

Wednesday, May 07, 2008 12:08:00 AM  

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