Just a few hours after I returned home from my annual mammogram came the news that Elizabeth Edwards lost her long and courageous battle against breast cancer. A horrible coincidence but a reminder how deadly breast cancer can be.
I had already planned to write this post before I heard about Elizabeth’s death. I’m sure she isn’t the only woman to die of the disease today considering breast cancer is expected to kill 39,840 women this year but she is the most famous. May she rest in peace.
Because I’m a victim of the economy and don’t have health insurance, I went to the Watts Clinic for today’s mammo. While sitting in the waiting room, a tough-looking and tough-talking woman came in and approached the receptionist’s desk with the grace of a bull.
“Do you still do that thing where they put your breast in a machine and squeeze it hard?” she asked.
After being told the procedure had not changed, the lady said she didn’t want a mammogram because it was too painful.
Being that I find it hard to keep my mouth shut around ignorant people, I said to her, “Cancer hurts a lot more than a mammogram.”
She gave me a who-in-the-hell-are-you look and replied, “Well, I don’t have cancer and I’m not gonna.”
“You could,” I said. “One out of seven women get breast cancer. I’ve lost friends to breast cancer. At least if you get a mammogram…”
She harrumphed as she sat down. I continued to stare at her, hoping my words and my glare would sink in. She stared back at me.
“Early detection,” she said meekly.
“Yes. It’s about early detection.”
“Do you get them every year?”
Now her bravado was gone.
“Yes,” I told her.
“A colonoscopy too?”
I told her although I’m not 50, two years ago my doctor suggested I have one so I did. Now I’m good to go for another several years. She told me she was 51, hadn’t had one and didn’t want one. I explained the prep and the procedure and told her she wouldn’t even feel anything because she’d be out.
“I don’t want anyone digging around in me and I don’t know what they’re doing,” she said, putting on her tough mask again.
I just smiled at her.
“What are they looking for? Cancer?” she asked.
Polyps, I told her, not knowing if that was correct but it’s the first thing that came to mind. By now, I could see she was relying on me and I couldn’t show any lack of education.
The technician then called my name. I stood up to leave, walked to the door and turned back to look at the lady.
“Good luck,” I told her.
I don’t understand women who say they don’t get mammograms because of the pain. They’re not even painful if you ask me. And if you think they are and use that as an excuse, just compare it to radiation and chemotherapy.