Thursday, February 20, 2014

Squished and Squeezed

I can tell you, one of the things I didn't look forward to with my most recent birthday was starting mammograms. As for me, that's what turning 25 meant. I believe the most current recommendation is for all women to do monthly self-checks and have their breasts checked with each yearly physical and then start mammograms at age 40.  Well, I have a significant history of breast cancer so I am to start mammograms at least 10 years prior to the youngest relative having cancer. As my Mom was my nearest relative and youngest who had cancer, I don't know all the details about who and when should start mammograms. I just know what my doctor told me. I decided to start a few years earlier than recommended because of my mom and both grandmothers having a history of breast cancer. 
From: -
I thought I would share a little bit about my story and the story of my family and why I'm becoming an advocate for mammograms and breast cancer. 

I was in fourth grade and had just gotten home from school when I knew something was wrong because Dad was also in the house. This rarely happened. They shared the news with us that the doctors had found a lump and it was cancer.  At that time my mom was 37, I was 10. I challenge you to think back to when you were 10. What was your biggest worry? What friend you would sit by at lunch? If the boy in you class would pick on you at recess? If your boobs were big enough to start wearing training bras? Right? Not anymore. Now I began to worry about if my mom would be there when I graduated high school or college, when I got married, when I had kids. My mom's mom (My grandma) didn't get to see some of these. I didn't get the opportunity to meet my grandmother because of breast cancer. Thankfully, I wouldn't have to worry about that. 

My mom had a mastectomy, 4 rounds of chemo and radiation.  In honesty, I don't remember all the details. Something I wish I do but also something that we can happily put in the past and move forward from. I do remember the chemo making all her hair fall out and shaving her head... I was so embarrassed when she wouldn't wear her wig and just wore a turban.  Now, I realize how little of an issue that was and have thought of how likely I'll just go without if that every happens to me.  When her hair came back in, it was as soft as a babies and curly.  It all came back in the same grey color she had before. 

I remember waking up in the middle of the night, hearing mom get sick again and again. Praying for God to provide healing and to make it stop.  I remember going to Grammy & Grandpa's after school to go visit mom in the hospital a few times.  I mostly just remember it was a long process and recovery.  The good news is the doctors and herself, caught the cancer early enough so recovery was able to be made easier.  The difference with her treatment is the advances that were made since her mom was diagnosed.  With that being said I encourage all women to talk with their doctors on when they should start mammograms.  Regardless of when mammograms are started, women should do self breast exams monthly.  Finding those bumps and lumps is what saves many lives, we touch ourselves everyday. We know when something isn't right. So, when you feel something that isn't right, take it to your doctor. Schedule a mammogram. Do something. 

If you don't know how to do a self breast exam, let me know. I'd be happy to walk you through it if the pictures don't make sense. I can't seem to find a picture I like but the National Breast Cancer Foundation has good information on their site. Here  The most important thing, is to make sure you feel every area, so do it consistently, and in an organized way.  Also make sure you check the 'tail' up towards the shoulder/armpit.  
I also wanted to go into a little of what a mammogram is like. 

So you're asked to undress from waist up, with a gown that closes in the front. You move to the mammomat room.  The tech takes three pictures of each breast, one at a time.  Your breast tissue will be placed on a ledge of the machine and a plastic piece pressed over top.  It's not really painful, more of discomfort. Almost like when the blood pressure cuff is squeezed too tightly on your arm.  Now. you will be put in awkward positions so that every angle is taken.  Easy enough. Honestly not that bad.  It's now about 2200 and mine was at 1500.  I still have some discomfort in one breast, like I'm getting a bruise.  I do bruise easily though, so I wouldn't be surprised if one forms.  Sensitive skin and like a peach. :) Reality is, the outcome is far greater than the pain I'm going through. I've been in pain before and today felt minimal. Again, more of an uncomfortable feeling.  

Alright, that was long enough, my apologizes. Also, I know it's not breast cancer awareness month but I feel as though this is something that needs to be talked about all year round.  Please please feel free to ask me question or anything. Or if you are wanting to chat about something let me know. I have pretty good resources when it comes to cancer. :) 

Stay safe out there! 

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