Mammograms…living in the land of de Nile.

Even though to myself there are a myriad of things that I am only mediocre at doing, there are a few things at which I excel. Avoiding mammograms is among those few things at the top of my list. I just don’t like to deal with unpleasantries.

About two and a half years ago I had a questionable x ray. I put off having a more detailed examination for about a year. I then had a diagnostic mammogram and it was recommended that I see a surgeon. I had what is known as cancer-in-situ or stage 0. I again put off doing anything about it for another six months. I had a European trip to take first. I think I was finally “guilted” into having a lumpectomy.

Before they did the lumpectomy, they did a needle biopsy. The radiologist showed me the place on the xray. It looked so small and insignificant but, because of my mother, I decided to go ahead with the surgery.

My mother, according to what I have been able to piece together from snippets of conversation, discovered a lump in her breast while she was pregnant with me. Now supposedly it was predicted after she delivered my sister that she probably would not have any other children. I have no idea why. She walked into her doctor’s office five years later when she was thirty-nine and said, “Guess what?” From what I understand, there are some people still guessing what.

After I arrived, she went to the doctor and had a mastectomy. This is where things get a little fuzzy because getting my aunts to talk to me was a very iffy thing at best. At one point I think Aunt Bessie said she found the lump and thought it was nothing and waited. Another time she said she was always so angry at the doctor because he said it was nothing to worry about. Somewhere in there I decided to arrive on planet earth. I don’t know if the lump was evident before she got pregnant with me or not. I do know, obviously, that she waited for the surgery until after I was born. Had she had a masectomy while she was pregnant, i probably would not have been here. Surgery was pretty primitive back in the 40s for pregnant women.

Fast forward to January of 2009. I was in and out of surgery and home again before 2:00 pm the same afternoon. The biopsy, according to the pathology report, had removed all but about 2 mm. of cancerous cells. The surgeon basically just did a clean up job.

After a little bit of thinking, I decided to end the treatment right there. I opted not to have the radiology or the chemotherapy. I was told that there was a large area of clean borders removed from all around the site. When I visited my OB/GYN doc, he said I made a reasonable decision. He claimed it was no different than having a very small skin lesion excised. It wouldn’t have changed my mind, but it made me feel better knowing that at least one other person agreed with me about not putting myself through any extra medical care.

I was supposed to go back a year later for a diagnostic x ray. That was last January. I put it off until today. Why, you ask? I can’t give you an answer. I guess avoidance of the issue is the main reason. I simply refuse to think about it.

The place I go is a women’s health center. My appointment was at 1:30 pm. Within ten minutes to fill out paper work, I was escorted back to the dressing room where I put on a pink top. I was pleased that it tied securely in the front and was not your typical hospital gown. I then entered a room where six other similarly clad women sat reading magazines. No one was talking. I guess that is one area where everyone’s thoughts tend to stray to other topics.

I grabbed a magazine and began scanning some of the articles. One kind of gets a hint of getting older when there are more “stars” mentioned that you don’t know than those that you recognize.

I was called back and the mammogram expert did her thing. The plates weren’t as cold as I remember other places and she didn’t squeeze them together as much as they have been in the past. The instant images were clear. The five pictures were done in less than ten minutes.

I again waited in the waiting room and was again called back to the radiologist’s office. He sat there in the dark looking at my films. He reported he saw nothing but healthy tissue.

My mind strayed for a moment but I at least I bit my tongue. My immediate thought was, “What a job! Sitting in the dark looking a pictures of boobs all day long. Some men would kill for such luck.” I refrained from saying anything.

He said I should come back in six months again. I questioned that because I was told last year that I only needed to have diagnostic x rays once a year for five years. He replied, “Six months is what the current recommendation is post lumpectomy.” Then he added, “But if you were late by a couple of months, I don’t think the wait would be significant.” Gotcha, doc. I looked at my watch as I left the building. I had been in and out in one hour. That’s a pretty good record from beginning to knowing the results. I used to have to wait at least a week or more to hear anything.  Now I can put this topic back on the shelf for another year.

I guess I’m a traitor to my other breast cancer surviving relatives and friends. I don’t get out there to walk on annual walks. I don’t wear pink. My cousin says I count as a survivor, but I choose to just treat the whole time as an inconvenience rather than a medical problem. I can’t deal now or ever with losing my mother to cancer. I can’t deal with having the possibility of having it myself. So I don’t.  Namaste. Attic Annie


1 Comment

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One response to “Mammograms…living in the land of de Nile.

  1. Yeah, it’s an irritating, uncomfortable procedure (so I’m told), but as they say, the alternatives are a heck of a lot worse.

    My wife got caught with a Stage II (I is least worrisome). What followed was a year of treatment and recuperation. She’s been in remission for 5 or 6 years (maybe more). (They like to say “remission” rather than “cured” because sometimes it comes back and sneaks up on you (like a saber-tooth tiger).)

    What gets to me is the number of women who get cancer of one thing or another. Evey now and again, we read in the gossip magazines (prominently displayed at the checkout counter) of the latest “star” to fall. For every one of them there’s a thousand or so “lesser lights”.

    Life is such a delicate balance. It’s a wonder we live so long. I’m glad you got a good report from the doc. (Who’s probably really bored from “looking a pictures of boobs all day long”.