When you're forty, you don't want your boobs doing weird things, and two months after you lose a dear one to breast cancer is not the best time to find a mass in your breast, even one that's almost certain to be a benign condition. Because even when your doctor says that it seems to be fibrocystic and that most breast lumps are not cancer, and even if you already knew that before you walked into her office, here's what happens over the week you're waiting for that mammogram: "What if?" starts hovering like a pesky mosquito. "What if?" is a sly sneaky creature. It likes the "almost" in "almost certain." Preys on the "1-2 percent chance." You can swat it away but pretty soon it's back, buzzing and whining in your ear: What if it's me this time? What if I do have a serious illness? How will I manage? What would happen to my children if, God forbid, I died? Not that I'm going to, you say to yourself, but what if? See that's the part that gets me...my babies. Who would raise my precious babies? I can spin down that spiral real fast. Not a good idea to go there.
Actually, "What if?" is not a bad game to play. It jolts us out of our comfort zone and reminds us that we can't predict all of the turns in the path. But play "what if?" with your head. Be reasonable. What if I did die tomorrow or next week or next year? What if loving husband becomes seriously disabled and unable to work? Do we have a plan in place? Playing "what if" helps you to remember to be patient with your precious treasures, to kiss your babies twice instead of once and to watch them sleep.
I'm really not a drama queen, except for my too-vivid imagination late at night. I didn't have a brush with death, or even illness. I had a brush with discomfort and a little anxiety, that's all. But it made me think. Finding a breast lump is frightening because even if we are ninety-five percent certain that there's nothing to worry about we also know what is at stake. By the time you're forty(ish), it's likely that you know of someone who has been lost to breast cancer; you may have lost a friend, a relative, a neighbor. It's always in our faces: pink ribbons on bumper stickers, articles in magazines, posters in the doctor's office, specials on the nightly news. And thank goodness for that. Thank goodness for breast cancer awareness and education. Thank goodness we know to do monthly self exams. We know that if we feel a lump we should call the doctor to schedule a visit. We know we should be getting our mammograms. If the price of awareness is a little anxiety, it's worry well-spent.
My mammogram was fine, by the way. Now I can check it off the list for the year.
Life is good.
One last word: Ladies, schedule your mammograms. Don't put it off because it's uncomfortable, inconvenient, frightening, not at the top of the priority list.