It’s been an expensive few days for the Widrick household…on Sunday, I tested my emergency reaction skills by taking Junior in for sedation and stitches.
Dumb dog somehow tore a big hole in his side while in our backyard. I love that stinker, but for what I paid to have him fixed up, I could have adopted four replacement dogs.
Ugh. (The best part? I spent so much money on his treatment, only to show up at Publix to have his antibiotic prescription filled. The price? FREE. It’s the little things, people.)
And on Friday, I had the first of many future big girl moments when I underwent my inaugural mammogram.
I’m 31. I figured I had at least another 10 years until I was subjected to the squishing machine, but when your doctor says the follow:
“Your breasts feel a little funny. I’d like you to get checked out by a specialist.”
Ya get checked out.
Why am I sharing this with you, my beloved readers?
- Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States.
- In 2007, 202,964 women in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer.
- In 2007, 40,598 women in the United States died from breast cancer.
- I, like so many of YOU, have cancer in my family history.
- If I can convince even ONE of you to start regular self-exams, schedule an annual well visit/physical or have something suspicious checked out, it will be worth it.
A brief bit of personal history. I have dense, lumpy breasts. They’re also quite large (remember what the kids teased me with in middle school?).
(Boys, I’d apologize for not warning you that this was coming, but seriously — if you’re bothered by the words breasts, boobs or anything else that is used to describe the parts that make up some of your favorite people, you need to man up.)
I also have breast cancer on both sides of the family — most notably, my grandmother. She died earlier this year after a return of her previously-in-remission cancer.
So I get my regular well woman visit every year, and all of the tests that come with it. Better safe than sorry.
This year, the doctor thought there might be some irregularities, so she sent me in for a mammogram and a breast ultrasound.
It was…bizarre. But not painful, not scary and certainly not something to put off.
I was asked to take off everything above my jeans, and put on a gown. Then I was escorted to the mammogram machine. A mammogram is an X-ray of your breasts, and the machine basically flattens your breast and takes pictures. In my case, each breast was shot twice — once sort of horizontally squished, and one more vertically.
The mammogram took about 5 minutes total, did not hurt (I would say it was more uncomfortable than anything) or make scary noises.
From there, I was led into a room with an exam table and an overhead projector thing (it reminded me of going to the dentist’s office). The technician was wonderful — she explained exactly what she would be doing before and during the procedure and made me feel completely comfortable. After spreading lotion on each breast, she used the ultrasound machine to gently roll over different areas of my chest. Each breast got three inspections — from the bottom of the breast to the top, from the outside in and from the inside out.
This did not hurt at all — the lotion was cold and sticky, and there was a small amount of pressure during the procedure. But again, nothing to be scared about.
10 minutes after the ultrasound, the doctor came in to discuss my results.
I have a clean breast bill of health. And I am so relieved! While my scans show no suspicious or malicious areas, I will have to get regular exams, and most likely, annual mammograms (maybe every other year). I need to continue to be vigilant, doing self-exams once a month, but I now have a baseline X-ray set that should help doctors track any future concerns.
If you do not do regular exams (and dudes, you need to watch yourself, too…), here is a good diagram of what to do.
You should do your exam the week after your period ends. The closer you get to your new cycle, the more dense and sore your boobs can get, due to normal hormonal changes.
The body is a beautiful, amazing thing. Had the results come in with bad news, I would be devastated but I WOULD BE PROACTIVE. Now, I can take a deep breath and hope that no other 31-year-old women go unchecked because they’re nervous.
Do you get regular checkups? Has a health scare ever made you go into action?
P.S. I would be remiss if I did not also mention that part of the reason I wanted to share my experience was that I’m inspired by Susan of The Great Balancing Act and Rachel of Celebrate Everything. These ladies are bravely battling cancer and using their journeys as teaching tools for readers.