My First Mammogram

I’ve had many firsts in my life, to the point where it’s become a first that an experience I should have for the first time is not a first. For example, I had a colonoscopy done when I was in my thirties. Unpleasant, but it was necessary.

When I bump into something I haven’t done before I get excited, and I tend to ask a lot of questions. I tend to interrogate health techs, nurses, and some doctors. They are all quite kind to take the time for me.

Recently I had a bit of a health thing that scared me. I set up an appointment with a Personal Care Physician in my network to have my heart checked out.

I had open heart surgery as a child, a common surgery, but lately I’ve been reading a lot of articles that suggest I have an EKG done, that a lot of the patients had issues later in life and weren’t aware of them because “they” hadn’t studied the full effects of this surgery on children. That was super condensed, sorry.

Anyway, I went in to the appointment and the doctor was super kind. We did an EKG right in the office, and he noticed a small blip, one that’s common in people who’ve had the surgery. To be on the safe side he ordered an Echocardiogram. I was good with this order. Then we got down to the nitty gritty stuff I dislike about doctor appointments.

“So, you’re forty now,” he says with an expectant tone in his voice.

(Quick break here. There’s been this tendency lately for people to tell me how old I am. I know how old I am. I may not look my age but you can trust me 10000000000% when I say I feel my age. Yes, I get it, I look young, so people think I must think I’m young? I don’t know, but I wish this trend would die a horrible, nasty death)

“So you’re forty now, when was your last mammogram?”

“My last what? Doc, I’ve never had one. Do you see these boobs? *points to chest* They’re tiny. When I’ve asked about that before, they generally do the touch test and call me good. Is this something I should have done?”

“You’re going to the imaging center anyway, let’s do this.”

*Sighs* “Fine. I hear it’s unpleasant.”

“You’ll be fine. Say, what kind of insurance do you have?”

I tell him, and the words “gold plan” are right in it. “In that case …” and the man starts scribbling down more orders. I walked out of there with referrals for a dermatologist, dietician, counselor, OBGYN, and I’m sure there are more, but I’ve lost track since.

The mammogram and Echocardiogram were my priorities, so I’ve been ignoring the other tests, but I’ll get to them.

I have a friend. A guy friend. He’s been in and out of my life for 16 years officially. We met in Phoenix, and now he’s in Waco and I’m in Orlando. A fun ride. He was in town recently with his family and I missed seeing them, which bums me out, but there will be other times.

My friend is one of the 5% of breast cancer screenings where a male finds a lump. It’s in his honor, and my own, and in honor of aunts that I have that I’m writing this article.

I can’t highlight this enough: Breast screenings for women and colon screenings for men are the most important thing you can do for yourself this year, and the next, and the next … 

detection

We’ve all heard the horror stories – our precious boobies being pushed and pulled and pressed into a machine that reminds me of the vice press in car mechanic’s workshops – I wouldn’t have been surprised to smell motor oil or antifreeze – all so they can take pictures your own mother wouldn’t want to hang on the fridge.

I am a B cup, an A on a bad day. I don’t know if that makes it more uncomfortable or less. The tech was helpful, and kept chatting so I wouldn’t feel all weird. Most importantly, the room was warm.

I wish they would do something about hospital gowns. I’m not saying they need to dress us like we’re going on an expedition to the arctic, but if I’m going to be in this gown for more than five minutes, something thicker than paper would be great.

Each boob was smushed twice, to end with 4 photos a doctor would eyeball at their convenience. My poor girls were sore for about an hour, tender for the evening, and then it was like the experience never happened at all.

Unfortunately there is a wait for results. Mine was three-four days, but they sent me a card in the mail letting me know I was golden. Woohoo! And that they’ll see me next year. Woohoo?

I spent those three to four days in a weird sense of anticipation. Like it wouldn’t have surprised me if they found something (there’s family history here), but I was sure they wouldn’t.

How would I react? I walked myself through the paces, and I was okay with what I saw there, so that helped the anxiety lessen. I know the research and treatment has grown exponentially better, and continues to do so, and that knowledge helps as well.

Ladies, it sucks, I know. We don’t want to have to worry about the results for those four days, and it’s easier to “forget”, but please don’t. If you haven’t been performing self-checks, start today. Self-Check for Breast Cancer and please, please schedule your mammogram. You won’t regret it.

As a side note on health insurance here. If I didn’t have insurance with the words “Gold Plan” directly in it, I wouldn’t have walked out of that office with all of the referrals I needed. I say this as someone who has been on every side of the health insurance affordability spectrum.

I’ve been so broke I was on food stamps, but made too much money for medicaid, even with the ACA. I’ve had good insurance through government jobs, decent insurance through private jobs, and now I have the gold standard.

know people are treated differently based on what they can afford, and based on what their insurance will pay. This needs to end. We’re all people, equal underneath this blue sky. If someone needs an MRI on their shoulder to fix a rotator cuff so they can go back to work? They should be able to have it, no questions asked. How does it do anyone any good to have people who want to work but can’t because they’re injured and can’t get it fixed? These are the things that hurt our economy and our morale.

The women who don’t have insurance, who make too much money to go on medicaid, can’t get breast exams unless they go to private or charity funded organizations like Planned Parenthood. It is in all of our best interest to expand that program, and help more women be productive members of society. It is not in our best interest to have them being called derogatory terms for using a clinic for it’s intended purpose.

How does trying to prevent breast cancer make a woman a slut or baby killer? I mean, my goodness, not everyone is in there for an abortion.

My apologies. I should probably delete those last couple of paragraphs, but I refuse to. In fact, let’s add to it. Donate to Planned Parenthood’s Action Fund

Regardless of your politics, please take care of your health, and have your check-up as soon as possible. You’ll feel better for knowing.

 

One thought on “My First Mammogram

  1. Glad you are ok, AK.
    Had my first endoscopy–down my throat and into stomach at around 30. my first colonoscopy before 40. everything has always been fine. the only depressing thing was one doctor who treated me for 10 years died of cancer before 45. the specialist who gave me my first endoscopy, gave me a colonoscopy at 50 and died of cancer less than a year later.
    now i’m at the age where i get yearly ‘probe’ exams.

    Liked by 1 person

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