Mammograms and other Woman Stuff
Women are advised by doctors to get a mammogram annually starting at age 40. In the absence of problematic warning signs, this is the standard for early breast cancer screening along with self-breast exams and monitoring. The medical community and breast cancer survivors agree that early detection is the critical key to victory if cancer is detected.
I recently had my first mammogram. I have never been fond of medical procedures, so the horror stories I’ve heard about the test did not ease my apprehension. As a woman, discomfort becomes a regular part of life to which we learn to adapt. Monthly self-breast exams, annual gynecologic tests and the over-the-hill mammogram are just a sample of what women deal with to maintain our health.
Over the last several years, I’ve had my share of medical issues, so getting a mammogram took a back seat to more pressing stuff. From fibroids to heart failure, it is an understatement to say that I am over lab tests, blood draws and scary diagnostic procedures.
If I had to demonstrate the silver lining that every story is supposed to have, it would have to be growth. My patience for things of low tolerance (like needles) has improved. I have learned how to ask the question to get the understanding I need to comprehend what I’m going through. I have learned how to read my body and sense reactions before the symptoms get loud and intrusive. I like to pretend that I handle each procedure or test better than the last, but I won’t go that far.
After everything else calmed down a little, I decided to move forward with the breast cancer screening. It is no big deal to many women I’m sure, but when multiple problems are showing up at the same time, something will get put on hold. At least, that’s the case for me.
The procedure itself was not exactly what I expected. The technician who took the x-rays was helpful, gentle and kind. The discomfort came from the awkward positioning required to put curvy fleshy body parts into square metal objects. The good news? NO PAIN!
The technician advised me I would get a letter in a few weeks unless there was a reason for my doctor to call me earlier. No news is good news in this case. Too preoccupied to think about it after leaving the lab, I went about my way.
Then one night I checked the mail, one of many activities I do close to the midnight hour. Unable to tell if it was a bill or a letter, I opened it hoping for the latter. The relief I felt surprised me to the point it seemed surreal.
What I experienced was a variety of mixed emotions:
Gratitude for a normal scan,
Relief that I didn’t have to deal with another major issue on top of the heart stuff,
Joy that I can celebrate a normal result,
Shame for being so excited knowing someone else got bad news or was enduring treatment,
Humbled that I was granted grace in the midst of my storm.
To finally have a test come back normal left me speechless.
To celebrate, I did what I usually do when I worship God alone. I prayed, sang, and wrote about it. For me, writing is part of my worship and that’s what felt natural and normal to me. Of course, what you are reading now is an essay designed for publishing. The original stays between me and God.
A normal mammogram is a huge deal when you’re constantly hearing about the increase in breast cancer diagnosis each year. I’m reminded that God won’t put more on us than we can bear.
Thank you, Lord for giving me the strength to endure the process to healing. I’m still dealing the issues of my heart and facing another surgery. I wanted to take a moment to encourage the women who are facing their first mammogram in the hopes that it eases any apprehension.
The test takes about ten minutes or less. You spend more time registering and getting undressed than you do on the test itself. Go ahead and get it over with. Early detection is the motivation. Remember, you are not alone. Every day, women are going through the same thing and the results will vary. But whatever the case, I’m convinced God will walk through the process with us.
Take care of yourself and be well.