I have a confession to make. When it comes to breast cancer, I’ve always been one of those people who assumes it’s not something I need to be too worried about, a.) because I’m only 36 and it’s not a major concern until I reach my 40s, and b.) because I don’t have a history of the disease in my family. And that’s why when I found myself driving down the highway on my way to get my very first mammogram a couple of weeks ago, I suddenly felt scared, nervous, concerned — and like I’d been slapped in the face with a dose of reality I hadn’t wanted to face up until that point.
Ever since I can remember, the thought of having a mammogram has absolutely terrified me. And it’s not even because there’s the chance that the scan could detect a lump in my breast that could potentially turn out to be breast cancer. Nope — it’s the mammogram itself that has always made my stomach turn — because I’ve mostly heard people compare it to having your boobs flattened into a pancake — something that isn’t remotely pleasant any way you look at it.
Back to why I wound up having my very first mammogram at 36 instead of the magic age of 40, which would’ve given me a few more years without having to face the dreaded squish machine. Even though I was scared to death to have one, I know I’m not alone, and there are plenty of other late 30-somethings in the same boat — and I thought maybe conquering my fear would help them muster up the courage to do the same. And that’s why I immediately answered with an enthusiastic “yes!” when I was asked to partner with Hanes and the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) in an effort to remind women how important early detection is in the fight against breast cancer. This is Hanes third year in partnering with NBCF, and since 2009, they’ve made cash and in-kind donations in the excess of $1 million in the hopes of encouraging women to get mammograms, and to become “comfortable with the uncomfortable.” In addition to donating $50,000 to NBCF this year, Hanes is also being kind enough to donate an additional $1,000 in my name to the cause, which is an honor — and very humbling.
Did you know that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in her life? Yes, one in eight. Think about that statistic for a minute the next time you’re out to dinner with a group of friends, or at a Zumba class full of women, or attending your monthly book club meeting. It’s pretty damn significant, to say the least — and that’s why we have to make it a point to commit to doing self-exams and getting mammograms — because early detection of breast cancer is our first line of defense against the disease.
And mammograms are essential as far as early detection is concerned — which is why the NBCF has made it their mission to provide free mammograms for women who cannot afford them. (How cool is that?)
Back to my experience.
I can’t lie — I didn’t sleep much the night before my appointment, and I can honestly still feel the butterflies in my stomach simply thinking about walking into the mobile Mammovan Unit that was sent from St. Vincent’s Hospital in Bridgeport, CT — where I took a deep breath, changed into a paper gown, and prepared to do something I 100 percent had no desire to do.
To give you an overview of my experience, here’s a “Mammogram Monologue” I made. As you will see, my emotions after the fact were not even close to what I expected.
No, I’m not kidding people — it was such a piece of cake, I still can’t believe it! Yes, it was scary when I first went in, but I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am of myself for taking the plunge, and for beginning my journey to getting regular screenings from here on out to increase my chances of living a happy, healthy, and breast cancer-free life — and being there to watch my son grow up every step of the way.
A mammogram is NOT something that should be feared. Again, breast cancer is a whole hell of a lot more terrifying than a mammogram. Remember that. I promise you won’t regret having yours done — and I’ll be shocked if you aren’t blown away by how painless, easy, and non-threatening the whole procedure is.
Doing anything for the first time is intimidating. But once it’s over, you’ll never fear it again. Schedule your mammogram today. And make sure to remind all of the women in your life how important it is for them to do the same.
Has anyone in your life been affected by breast cancer? Have you had a mammogram yet?
*Disclosure — I partnered with Hanes and NCBF to participate in this campaign, but all opinions expressed about my experience are my own.