Thanks for this guest-post to Tracey Jackson. Tracey is a screenwriter and author who blogs on her own site www.TraceyJacksononline.com, as well as guest blogging for HuffPo, Tiny Buddha and Society for Drug Free America, she attempts daily to live as mindful a life as is possible.
It’s been awhile since I did a bossy Tracey posting but I realized today that Breast Cancer Awareness Month is coming to an end and I have not addressed it.
It’s not like me and I have actually had an “in the future posting” on the books since I got my last mammogram.
But the message is very clear and the question astoundingly simple, if you are a woman forty or older or a woman any age with a family with a history of breast cancer have you had a mammogram in the past twelve months? Just like the mole check, I’m not interested in 18 months or 20 months ~ 12 months: in the last year.
Most people think this is a lame question as it is just assumed most women are religious in getting their mammograms: Surprisingly the opposite is true. When I was in for mine in July I asked my doctor the stats on how many women DON’T get checked and she told me around 40% do not get them. And this often times despite what you might think has nothing to do with socio-economic status, it has to do with stupidity and fear.
In the last year alone, especially since I started Between A Rock and a Hot Place I have come across many women whom you would think were diligent about this part of their health care, but some how, some way let it slide.
Well, guess what you can’t “let it slide.” I know it doesn’t help that the insurance companies and various reports keep switching the rules, some say every year, now they’re saying women over fifty only need it every two years. They all say don’t start until you’re in your forties. I think much of this comes from the insurance companies as let’s face they don’t want to pony up the dough.
Breast cancer hits many women in their thirties and some in their twenties. I’ve been getting regular mammograms since I was 35 and there is no history in my family. But my long time doctor Ed Liu said when I hit thirty-five “ The technology is there, why not take advantage of it, it could save your life.” And I’ve been going the same time every year ever since.
I’m not looking for brownie points and believe me I don’t like going anymore than anyone else: But you have to do it. And you can’t say I can’t afford it as there are clinics where you can go that charge small fees and sometimes do it for free. I know this as I have spoken with women who go each year and pay little or next to nothing.
And the real shocker is the high-income, well educated group with insurance who don’t go.
I will tell you a brief story that proves my point.
Last summer we were having people over for dinner. Someone brought along a friend, handsome women in her mid-fifties. It was immediately made known she went to Yale and had a very impressive job that only someone with a great mind and educational pedigree could pull off.
I instantly went to my Oh Christ; this is one of those women who will find me to be the blonde bimbo with too much cleavage who didn’t go to college. So I was polite but went to the kitchen to make some guacamole, for some reason she followed me.
We started talking and within minutes our conversation led to what I did and the topic of the book came out, and menopause and within minutes we were chatting like old friends.
The upshot of the story is this woman is fifty-six years old. She has not been to see a gynecologist or had a mammogram in over four years. I almost dropped the skillet I was holding. “Are you crazy?” I asked her. “ No, just scared,” she said. “It’s been a difficult few years and I think any bad news will make it worse.”
Well, that is one demented way of looking at it. I didn’t say that. But I did say, “If you get news that something that could have been minor is now major it’s going to be a whole lot worse”. She agreed and admitted she didn’t want the doctor to see her because she had gained 40 pounds as well. SHE WENT TO YALE. SHE HAS INSURANCE. When it comes to health often times rational thinking flies out the window.
I immediately gave her the name of my gynecologist Robin Phillips who is a menopause specialist, this woman was suffering terribly from lack of estrogen and I gave her the number of my radiologist. I told her to call in the morning and use my name, as she is hard to get into. I even offered to go with her.
I had come far from being intimidated by her to realizing this very competent women was paralyzed by the fear that her body was somehow a time bomb and that she needed help. She promised she would take care of it all and email me.
I never heard from her again. I know Robin didn’t see her as Robin always writes a thank you note whenever she gets a new patient I send her way. And my guess is she didn’t get her mammogram. My hope is she doesn’t wait too much longer. Eighteen months at her age is a long time to go between appointments, five years is an eternity.
So please, don’t assume all is fine and don’t’ be afraid of them finding something. Their job is to find something if it’s there and get it in time.
The best thing you can do is book your appointment for the same time every year. That way you don’t miss a month and it becomes part of your permanent health care regime. Often times people miss a few months and before you know it an extra year has been tacked on. I’ve heard too many stories of women with advanced breast cancer who “Got so busy they hadn’t been checked in several years.”
The other thing to do is spread your doctor’s visits apart by four months each. By this I mean go see your GP who will give you a manual breast exam, four months later do the annual gynecological visit and he/she will give you a manual exam and then have your ANNUAL mammogram. That way every four months someone in the know is feeling your boobs. It’s important. Your life could depend on it.
The other thing you can do and I do this every day is click on the link for The National Breast Cancer site. One push of the mouse gives a mammogram to someone who can’t afford it.
And that makes every day Breast Cancer Awareness Day.