I had my first mammogram in November 2009, just 3 months after my mom passed away after dealing with Cancer for 27 years. It was 10 years ago, just months after I surprised her on her 70th birthday.
Katherine Wright Wellness Center
In Moncton, we have the Katherine Wright Wellness Center where asymptomatic women between the ages of 50-74 can call to book an appointment. If you are outside of this age range, you need a referral from your doctor. That’s how I got started when I was in my early 40’s. The clinic itself is not unlike many other waiting rooms that you would go to in any hospital or doctor’s office. With some significant differences.
There may be one or two men, sitting next to a chair that holds a coat and a purse, but mostly it’s a room full of women. You might expect that this would mean you would hear a lot of chatting or see a lot of interaction, but you don’t. There is a tv that no one is watching, and you try not to hear the details of the person who is checking in at the desk. You see women flipping through magazines that are years old, or more commonly now, they are staring at their phones. Anything to avoid making eye contact with anyone else because we are all there for the same reason. Even though we are “asymptomatic” we are all there to be screened for CANCER.
My first mammogram
The first mammogram I had after my mom passed was tough. I knew it would be. It was 3 months after she died, and my emotions were still close to the surface. I cried when I was in the exam room and the tech was going through the survey. I know she asks those questions countless times during the day and the week, but for me, each one was a reminder of why I was here, and why I had started so young.
What has surprised me is that I have cried every year since then. Usually when I am in the waiting area after changing, looking at the door of the room that holds that big machine. It has been years of mom’s birthdays and the date of her passing, but nothing makes me more conscious of her absence in my life than being in that moment. So, I sit, and let the tears come, and try not to freak out the other woman seated at my side.
A technician calls out two names, and you follow her to the locker room. She gives you the spiel about taking off all your clothes from the waist up, removing any deodorant or powder. The “Johnny shirt” that fits no one, fastens in the front. Then you sit and wait again, still not talking. Sometimes a woman who is on her way back to the locker room will smile at you, and say “good luck”. That is because she is done and on her way out.
The procedure itself is as uncomfortable as it sounds. A stranger positions your breast so that it can be compressed between two plates. They will tell you to hold your breath, but there’s no need because you can’t really take a breath anyway. You hear a whirring sound, the plates release and you breathe again. You head back to the lockers and smile at the women who are waiting.
This past year, the radiologist saw some changes, so I had a follow-up ultrasound. I have had one every 4 months since then. Everything is still fine, and I am thankful for that.
Having mammograms is a decision to make after discussion with your doctor and family and is deeply personal. In my case, I am glad that I have made this a part of my health regimen.
I dedicate this post to my friend Line Pelletier, a beautiful, fierce, strong woman who is fighting cancer with all she has. We met at the Atlantic Classic Bodybuilding show in 2015. She was warm and loving, and none too pleased that the announcer had told everyone that she would soon be on MasterChef Canada where she made it to the top 2. Please take a moment to send healing energy her way. Love you, Line.