I had my first mammogram. At 30. A few months ago, I found a lump in my right breast. It was a random thing. I don’t do monthly breast exams as I should. In fact, when I found it, I wasn’t sure if it was new or if it had been there all along. Of course, I hit up Dr. Google who told me that breast tissue can change with your cycle,, and breast cancer is typically slow-growing, so I decided to wait 30 days to see if anything changed. It didn’t, so I made an appointment with my OB. A quick exam made her think that it was nothing, but she suggested an ultrasound to be sure.
I wasn’t as nervous as I should have been. My best friend and husband both volunteered to come to the appointment, but I figured it was just a formality and went on my own. When I arrived at the Woman’s Hospital Imaging Desk, I was given a number and told to go through a door to a corresponding desk. I sat down at the desk, and the nice lady took my driver’s license and insurance card and told me I could pay for “all, half, or some” of the day’s visit. She then instructed me to sit in the waiting room and I would be called back shortly. Pretty standard.
The nurse called my name and told me that for women over 28, they prefer to do both a mammogram and an ultrasound. She had me pick a locker, undress from the top up, put on a button front scrub-like top, put my belongings in the locker and sit in a waiting area. This was when I started getting nervous. Besides sitting in a room with a bunch of bra-less women, I was by far the youngest one there. One of the other women was talking to the nurse about being in remission. That’s when it hit me that it was possible that my world was about to change.
I had heard that mammograms “hurt,” but since pain is relative, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. When I got in the room, the nurse asked me to point out where I felt the lump and she marked it with a sticker. She had me scoot up to the machine where she maneuvered my breast and arm into position. A plastic plate came down and she told me to hold my breath. Then breathe. It definitely hurt worse than I had imagined. It was as if she had stuffed every inch that she could fit into that machine. Then she told me she wanted to get a little more muscle in. Ouch! After 3-4 scans on each side, I was sent back into the waiting room while my scans were read.
I enjoyed some House Hunters until my name was again called. As we walked the hall to yet another waiting room, the nurse casually told me that everything looked fine on the mammogram. Whew. I didn’t know if I would have to wait to talk to my doctor or if I would find out the results right away, so this was a relief.
A few more minutes of House Hunters in the ultrasound waiting room, and I was called back again. This time, the room looked familiar. Basically just like an ultrasound during pregnancy. She had me lie down, squirted out some gel, and got to work. It was nice to be able to see the screen in front of me as she went through the ultrasound. She explained what she was seeing and what I had felt. As my OB had predicted, there was a spot where all of the tissue came together causing me to feel a hard mass. Nothing to worry about. She confirmed with the doctor and sent me on my way.
While it wasn’t painless, it was an experience I’m glad to have had. I have two family members who have survived breast cancer. While I knew that it was more common in older women, I have heard enough stories of young women getting it that there was always that thought in the back of my head. What if there is something there that no one is looking for? Finding that lump was a bit of a blessing because it gave me the opportunity to find out for sure that there wasn’t a hidden monster lurking in my D cups. It reminded me of how precious life can be and how quickly it can change. So this is your reminder to do those monthly exams. And don’t be afraid of the dreaded mammogram!