GET THAT MAMMOGRAM
“Look at that arm flexibility,” Kathy exclaimed in my workout class today. (Dear reader, note the absence of the much used exclamation point and instead the use of the word, exclaimed. You see, I am trying to live up to my new 1941 Royal Typewriter’s writing standard by the use of an expansive and vivid vocabulary rather than the 2018 version of writing in symbols and emojis to express myself. Doesn’t the word exclaimed remind you of a Nancy Drew book?)
Kathy, my fearless workout mentor, was commenting on something I, too, had been noticing in my recent workouts- the lifting of my arms especially my left one straight up over my head each hand carrying a fifteen pound weight. This is a big feat for someone who could barely straighten her arms, but because I like a good challenge, have now succeeded in this movement that used to be so natural for me. I can also place both arms above my head while lying in a prone backside position and can almost touch the back of my hand to the floor. Almost. Slow and steady, the stretching. And each time I get closer to both of them being even, I am in awe of my progress since I am two months shy from a one year mark of my final surgery. It feels longer, but maybe because the first surgery was a little less than a year and a half ago.
Sitting at the beach next to my dear friend, Karen, the subject of my boobs came up as it is often a topic since it is quite obvious to us that the two protrusions coming from my upper body are not the natural ones coming from all of my friends. Mine are straight out, zero sag, firm and sculpted like I have been working on chest presses and push ups on a daily basis for my entire life. There has to be some benefit to a double mastectomy at fifty-two. “Do you have feeling in them?” She asked. “No.” I replied affirmatively. No feeling, but that is not to say no pressure or awareness. It is hard to explain, but if you have ever had an epidural, there was an awareness, a pressure, that you were pushing a 6 pound baby out of your body, but not a feeling. I would compare it to that.
Now that I am blessed with the wisdom of retrospect, kind of like childbirth, it wasn’t that bad. Well that may be pushing the envelope, the time leading up to the double mastectomy was awful, unlike a pregnancy where you actually end up with your future little bean, this time you were waking up with a big minus on your upper half. But now that I am alive and cancer free for now anyway, I can say that it wasn’t that bad. This all leads me to my title today, GET THAT MAMMOGRAM.
Women have a fear of outcome when it comes to mammograms. Add to the recipe the confusion by our illustrious health care leaders on the guidelines as to when to get them and who should be getting them creates an outcome that leads to many women not getting them like they should.
Mammograms aren’t full proof. But is anything foolproof? Not getting a mammogram isn’t full proof either, but catching breast cancer early is the best outcome compared to putting our heads in the sand and pretending like it will go away if you do nothing. It won’t. Breast cancer is a bummer, a major life inconvenience in our endless lists and chauffeuring our children and our lives like we are the organizers of a world leader summit, but there are so many solutions to save a life that are available now compared to even ten years ago. None of us know how much time we have. I write almost daily because it is my therapy on dealing with the stresses I call my own life. My outcome was as positive as it could have been with a diagnosis after playing Russian Roulette in mistakenly not getting a mammogram for four years prior. I am lucky. This is why I am going on trips, buying and learning how to use old school typewriters, baking babka and enjoying my every day.
I refuse to use the words gift and journey as I have stated numerous times, I don’t wish cancer on anyone or any health crisis for that matter. I know that when these crisis’ do hit and it is inevitable that something will hit someone you know if not you personally, it is what we do with the experience. I chose rather than lie down face planted on my pillow (though I did have many of those days) to stand up and look up, arms high above my head towards to glorious sunshine and enjoy the view. This is because I had a mammogram that supplied me with information to make choices that worked for me and me alone. The one month a year that is “breast cancer awareness month,” where the entire world seems to turn pink is not enough. Every day is breast cancer awareness month for me when I look in the mirror grateful to be alive as these two new silicone objects stare back at me. Getting a mammogram is a choice, but know that it doesn’t have to be bad news even when it is. I am living proof of this and for this I feel like one of the lucky ones. Imagine that.