“HOLD YOUR BREATH!”
The mammographer says.
Her instruction was unnecessary. I was already doing it.
Today, I had my first mammogram.
Although I’m not yet 40 — the age recommended by the American Cancer Society for most women to have their first mammogram — and
I have no acute symptoms, my gynecologist decided it was time to get started. (For women who have a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors, the recommended age is lower).
Once upon a time my main reason for coming into these buildings was for fertility treatments and pregnancy check-ups. This test is the start of another routine that we women must go through — another “rite of passage,” if you will.
Only this one can be fraught with worry and fear. I know several young women battling breast cancer. It’s not just something that older women get.
I walked into the Mills Breast Cancer Institute at Carle not knowing what to expect, although I did ask a few experienced friends for their wisdom. The most practical tip I received was “don’t wear deodorant.” If you do, they give you a moist towelette to wipe it off.
I sat in the small dressing area, my mind going in many different directions. I removed my top and put on a cape — and tried to imagine I was playing superhero dress-up with my girls. I walked into the room, and mammographer Linda gave me clear and direct instructions.
She positioned me (and my breasts) for four different pictures. The positions were uncomfortable and disconcerting, but nothing that caused lasting pain or distress. The room was a bit on the cold side, and she was quick to let me know when I could cover up again.
She told me that it could take at least two weeks before I get my results in the mail; if I receive a call, they may need me to come back in for more pictures. I was told by friends that it is not uncommon for women having their first mammogram to get that call, and not to be alarmed.
Within 10 minutes, it was over. I was free to go.
I guess I should stop holding my breath now.
It’s just a routine.
One that will last for many (healthy) years to come, we all hope.
Laura Weisskopf Bleill is the co-founder and editor of chambanamoms.com. You can reach her at laura@chambanamoms(dot)com.