This month I turned 41, and I know the thing we’re supposed to do at this age is bemoan the quick passage of time and all that, but honestly? Birthdays take on a heightened sense of joy when you’re a cancer survivor.
Last year it was about this time that I was heading into my first mammogram — an event I wasn’t exactly looking forward to. My doctor put the appointment on my schedule nearly a year prior, and I’d forgotten all about it, truthfully.
In retrospect, that’s probably a good thing. You hear the stories, about how your “girls” get squished, the awkward moments with the radiologist, the fretting afterwards — even though you’re pretending you’re not worried about the results. If I’d seen the appointment on the horizon I probably would have rescheduled because cancer doesn’t run in our family. It wasn’t on my radar. But I went to the appointment, and you know what? This girl right here was diagnosed with breast cancer. After her first mammogram. A mammogram she almost rescheduled.
I’m alive because I went to my mammogram appointment. I can’t get over that. That boob-squishing, red-faced five minutes of my day.
Sure, it’s one of the unifying experiences of womanhood: getting mammograms, and hating mammograms. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Maybe they’re just marketing them wrong. How about we call them ma’am-o-grams? And we send each other a special package when your mammogram is due, and in the package is a frilly bra doused with glitter and blinking lights and a button that you press so it plays your favorite tune as you head into your appointment. I mean, that would take some of the nerves out of the waiting room, right? And what better way to say, “Sister, I care about you. Now you take care of you.” Mammograms might sound scary. You may be thinking, “Well if they’re going to find CANCER, then I’m certainly not going.” But take it from me that early detection is less scary than the alternative. In a few short months I went from detection to treatment, and I’m doing great.
So great that I almost feel guilty about it.
When people hear you have cancer, more often than not they’ll ask you with a sad face, “How are you doing?” Like your puppy just died or something.
But this is totally the wrong approach. How about instead you grab my hand and shout with me from the rooftops: “Woo hoo! We made it another year! We’re alive!”
So the next time you see those blinking lights on top of a building, that just might be and my friends sending you a ma’am-o-gram from our sparkly, lit up bras of joy. And please, use that as a reminder to make sure you’re scheduled for all of your health screenings. And remind your loved ones too.
Erin Gadd is the director of public relations for the Parma City School District and writes the “Mommy Wars” column for the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. You can connect with her on her blog at erinlgadd.wordpress.com.