I won’t lie. Going for my very first mammogram was nerve wracking. At 39, my doctor advised that I get a baseline mammo, which made me feel older than I am. Oh well.
I didn’t want to freak my mother out, so I asked a colleague about the experience and what to expect. She said it wasn’t “that bad.” This is very subjective. I was not looking forward to it.
So, on a hot summer day, I ran out of work, went home, took a quick shower, and headed over to my appointment. To my surprise, I was called in just a moment or so before my scheduled time, so the experience was off to a good start.
The technician was fantastic. We were about the same age and she had small kids and we chatted about our families. It took away some of the awkwardness of “take your top off.” Then I looked at the machine in horror. It was large and white and could have been some high-tech binocular from Star Wars.
But it wasn’t so bad. The plexiglass panels were surprising gentle as the technician flattened me into screening position. I sort of felt like a car being jacked up on a lift, but her pleasant demeanor and the idle chit chat really helped me feel more at ease.
A few weeks later, I got a letter in the mail explaining that I had healthy breasts. While I had no reason to worry, it was a relief to get that letter.
A few weeks after that, I sat in on Borough President Oddo’s breast cancer roundtable, an annual meeting he holds at Borough Hall with breast health practitioners representing all phases of diagnosis, treatment and support on Staten Island.
The professionals around the table enthusiastically reported that mobile units are plentifully available for screenings (in many cases free to those who qualify) and hospitals and radiological facilities have appointments immediately. What’s more, the American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery program can also facilitate getting women to their appointments if transportation is a problem – so there’s really no excuse not to get a mammography if you are of age and haven’t had one in the last year. And as I have explained, there’s no reason to fret – it doesn’t hurt, it’s not super embarrassing and the odds are, you’re just fine. And if you aren’t, it’s better to known sooner so that you can make the appropriate treatment decisions to continue on with your long, healthy life.
On the flip side, if you want to get involved as a volunteer for any of the American Cancer Society’s local programs, please contact the Staten Island office at (718) 987-8872. And if you need support or guidance any time day or night, call (800) 227-2345.