Nobody likes them. Nobody wants to have them. And I don’t know a woman who isn’t terrified of them. But we have do it. Today was mine. This weekend is also the Susan Koman Race For The Cure Run/Jog/Walk here in New York. Needless to say they have been on my mind.
I was pondering what to write about this and I thought you know I really can’t do better on this topic than I did in my book Between A Rock and a Hot Place.
So I’m doing something I have never done, as not everyone who reads this blog has read my book. I’m just lifting a part of the section on mammogram day.
Hopefully it will make you laugh and if you haven’t made your appointment for this year you will do it ASAP.
All women of a certain age understand the mammogram terror. There is a look we give each other, it’s our secret society of fear look. We whisper under our breath, “Tomorrow is mammogram day,” then the person you have told gives you that hang dog, sympathetic look. “Oh shit, really? I had mine a month ago, thank God it was OK. You want me to go with you?”
Unless you are actually sick there is no other doctor’s appointment or test that people volunteer to accompany you on as often as a mammogram.
“Tomorrow I’m getting my moles checked”
“Really? Want me to come?”
And no one offers to go with you to get a colonoscopy. But because we all suffer from this collective fear, it’s just a given that a good friend or even a not so good friend will go with you if you want them to. And a not so good friend instantly turns into a great friend if they make the offer.
I never want anyone to go with me. My husband offers, and I shoot him down immediately. “If you go then it looks like I have cancer and we’re worried.” If I ever see a husband in the waiting room of my radiologist I know the woman has gone through it and is in there for a follow up appointment or is about to get bad news.
If you take a friend it’s not as bad as a spouse, but it still looks like you’re really afraid or you expect to need her. I don’t want to look like that nor do I expect to need anybody, though deep down I always fear I will.
For me it’s important to march in there despite the fact I’m a nervous wreck and pretend to be strong and fearless. If I act as if nothing is wrong, hopefully nothing will be.
And the entire way there I spend making deals with God. “If you make this mammogram clean I promise to devote more time to charity work. I will not get impatient with stupid people I will. I will. I will do anything you want just give me the word – no lumps in my breasts and I’m at your service.” So you galvanize your internal army of strength, you have a heart to heart with whatever force you believe in and then you walk in the office, and there is everyone waiting their turn- all looking like dead women sitting. And three quarters of them haven’t even been seen yet. Most of the time everyone is fine, but harboring the same fear: this time could be it.
People in this situation don’t really smile or make small, talk, they are too immersed in their individual panic. They pretend to read magazines. I assume they are pretending because that’s what I’m doing. I pick up an US Weekly, and turn the pages, but while my eyes process the photos, the fearful chatter in my brain is so loud I’m sure everyone in the room can hear it: “Look at that, Gwen Stefani’s kid is wearing goofy pants…why would she do that to him…If I do have it, maybe I will have that type that only requires a lumpectomy…Bronx- what kind of name is that? Rock stars should not be allowed to name their children: Bronx Wentz, Brooklyn Beckham; what’s next, Staten Island GaGa?… So you lose your hair, my friend L. looked better with her wig than her real hair. You can get wigs that are amazing…I wonder if Angelina really pays attention to those kids or it’s all a big photo op?… People go back to work with it. Look at Robyn Roberts she was on GMA the whole time she was getting chemo. And she looks great now…When will Kate Hudson settle down? This can’t be good for Ryder, all these crazy boyfriends…They say eighty-percent of all the lumps they find are benign, so even if they find one, that is still a four out of five chance that it will be nothing …George Clooney with another waitress, what is about men and waitress? Even if it is something, almost everyone I know has lived, it’s a manageable disease now…Sometimes…not all the time…a lot of women die…I could die, then I would never see Lucy and Taylor’s children…what if they name one of them Bronx? If I were alive I could stop that…if I live I won’t care, I’ll just call him Onxy…no one in my family has breast cancer…family history is very important…I think Christina Applegate looks better in the dress than Bethany Frankel…Wait, Christina Applegate had breast cancer and look at her and Melissa Etheridge. They’re both doing fine. And Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith. It’s kind of weird when you think all three Charlie’s Angels got cancer and the ones who are alive were the ones with breast cancer. That’s a good sign. I feel badly for Farrah, but if I had to pick between breast cancer and anal cancer I’d take breast…I wonder if their set was near high-tension power lines or something… I mean three people in one show got cancer and the show only had three people in it. You never saw Charlie…wonder if is alive? I thought one in three got cancer, that’s three in three…”
This is the kind of crazy mind journey my brain takes while I’m sitting there waiting for my mammogram.
Today was no different. I had to have films retaken. I had that fifteen – minute wait before they come in and gave me the coast is clear announcement.
I also and this is VERY important for women over forty, I get a pelvic sonogram every year, Despite what any one says it is the only way to detect ovarian cancer in its early stages
Both tests take the entire morning. Both tests save lives. Despite the panic and the nerves and all the rest of it, we have to do it.
One thing you can do is click on the free mammogram button each day. So many women need them but can’t afford to get them.
Hopefully within our lifetime there will be a cure for what is now being called an epidemic.