Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This month you will see pink ribbons, pink pens, pink rubber bracelets, pink shirts…pink, pink, pink. In 1993, Senior Corporate Vice President of the Estée Lauder Companies, Evelyn Lauder, founded The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and established the Pink Ribbon as its symbol; although the Susan G. Komen Foundation handed out Pink Ribbons to breast cancer survivors who participated in New York City’s 1991 Race for the Cure.

Breast Cancer is the most common form of cancer for women, but it is the most treatable if detected early. That is why mammograms and self-breast examinations are strongly encouraged. Most women get their first mammogram at approximately age 40; however, if another female family member has had breast cancer, a woman can get her first mammogram before age 40, sometimes as early as 35.

I am 44 years old and had my first mammogram 2 weeks ago. I was supposed to have it 4 years ago, but kept putting it off. I was afraid. Fearful of them finding cancer and afraid they would pop my breast implants. Yep, I had a boob-job 10 years ago because I was completely flat chested. No joke. I wasn’t even an “A” cup.

I saw my Gynecologist about 3 weeks ago and she was pretty mad that I hadn’t gone for a mammogram yet. She shot daggers at me while telling me I needed a mammogram and that they wouldn’t “pop” my boobs. She handed me a referral and said “GO!” My Gynecologist is a super nice woman—soft-spoken, so when she “demanded” it, I KNEW I needed to follow her instructions. I went home that day and called and was scheduled for my first mammogram the following Wednesday.

The day of my mammogram I was a basket case. I had myself so worked up. I had to remind myself to breathe, to relax, to STOP thinking horrible thoughts…it was awful. By the time I got into the room for the test I was sweating. During the exam I became so lightheaded, I almost fainted! I could’ve just seen it—me hanging from this huge machine by my boob! The technician asked if I needed to sit down. I was bent at the waist, my head down by my knees, my hands resting on my thighs, breathing deeply, telling her, “No, I’m fine.” BUT, I was NOT fine! I was STILL scared to death.

After the test, I was taken to a nice room to sit and WAIT for the doctor to read my results. All I could think of was that the doctor was going to tell me I had cancer. I was berating myself for waiting 4 years to get my mammogram, which wasn’t all that bad…truth be told.

After about 15 minutes, the technician came to me and said, “You’re fine. No cancer. We’ll send you a card for next year.” I felt my body literally relax. It was like weights were lifted off my shoulders!

I went into the dressing room and locked the door and began to cry. I cried because I was relieved I was okay. I cried for all the women who weren’t so fortunate. I cried for my sister-in-law’s mother who died 15 years ago from breast cancer at the young age of 54. I cried for my friend’s mother who is a breast cancer survivor. I cried for my NEW friend who had breast cancer 3 years ago. I cried for ALL my fellow women who go to get mammograms and are afraid…

Please, dear women…do NOT delay. Take your health seriously. Do self-examinations EVERY month. And please, PLEASE, get a mammogram. You ARE important. You ARE worth it. You MEAN something to someone and there are people who NEED and LOVE YOU. But most important, LOVE YOURSELF.

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