That Fateful Mammogram

This essay was originally published on May 26, 2015.

May 24, 2014 was the day I had my first-ever mammogram at age 47. I was flip about it. I told my Facebook friends I was going to do battle with the “hamburger press” for the first time, and afterwards, I said it really wasn’t a big deal. I went for coffee with a new friend. I got a frantic phone call from my doctor at eight o’clock that night advising me to go for more screening. Here we are.

Now that a complete turn of the calendar has passed, I find I’m less inclined to look back upon those first few weeks of dealing with the specter of breast cancer. The number of times I said, “I just know it’s cancer”, either out loud or to myself, is not something I ever want to re-live. The terror I felt when I met with the radiologist after the second mammogram and ultrasound, and saw in her eyes that she knew, without having to perform a biopsy, that the news wouldn’t be good, is a look I never again want to see.You get where I’m going.

These days, I like to focus on everything I’ve learned over the past year. I’ll never consider myself an expert on breast cancer, but my knowledge level has increased exponentially. I’m grateful for that; it’s almost as if I took another graduate-level university course in what could potentially kill me.

Instead of writing a 25-page paper, I had to endure surgery and treatment, and everything else that goes along with those processes. The blog entries have helped me deal with the side effects, but I’d have much rather written a doctoral thesis about something pertaining to Shakespeare, Milton, Donne, or maybe Dante, just for shits and giggles. Twisting just my brain into knots would have been more enjoyable than what cancer treatment did to the rest of me.

My goal is, was, and always will be to have other women benefit from my experiences. Many of us are blindsided by our diagnoses, and feel very alone in facing them. I’ve been very lucky to have one person who is, was, and always will be my staunchest supporter. I count on many more people for electronic support, and a small group in the medical community who continue to treat me with the respect and dignity we are all entitled to. If you do have to go through something like breast cancer, having these elements in place makes it easier. And that’s saying a lot.

I wasn’t convinced that marking the year was a good idea. Then I thought, why not? I won’t be mourning the passing of my breasts, even though they were taken from me on July 3, 2014, which makes the occasion kind of hard to forget here in America.

I won’t be setting off fireworks to commemorate anything, but I will forever remind anyone who reads my words to never turn a nose up at learning something new. Education is life – literally. It might not make you an Internet celebrity, or earn you six-figure bank, but it is important. No one will be clicking “Like” or giving you the thumbs up when you’re dead.

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