The year I turned 40 was a year of new beginnings. My daughter started kindergarten, my son graduated from high school, I got a promotion at work and new and exciting things were coming my way.
I went to my annual check up, my family doctor handed me a pink piece of paper and said, “Now that you’re forty, it’s time to start getting mammograms.” I felt two things – first, wow! How did I get so old? Second, well, now I’ll be joining the reluctant club of thousands of women who get their boobs squished once a year. I was NOT looking forward to it. So, I do what I usually do when don’t want to do something – pretend I’ve forgotten about it…
…Until January of last year when a high school friend lost her battle with breast cancer, leaving behind a loving family and beautiful teenage daughter. This woman was the most outgoing, friendly and loving person you could ever meet. The kind that would do anything for a friend, who always had a ready smile and a fantastic, contagious positive attitude – despite, or perhaps in spite of, the hell I’m sure she was going through. We lost touch after high school, but became “Facebook Friends” in recent years.
When I heard she had passed away on New Year’s Eve, I made my first New Year’s resolution ever – to start getting mammograms every year on her birthday, January 17th. I booked my first appointment immediately.
I don’t really know what I was expecting but it certainly wasn’t awful. It was very simple to book the appointment and not much of a wait to get in. When I arrived at the Screening Mammography program at BC Women’s on the day of my appointment, I was greeted by a friendly receptionist and was ushered in a few moments later. I was taken to a change room and asked to remove my bra, but to keep my shirt on. I’d remembered not to wear deodorant or powder – yea! The room was a little chilly (!) and I was nervous, but the technician made me feel quite comfortable. She was matter of fact and efficient, which I really appreciated. It’s not every day that you let a stranger lift and tug at your breasts. One squish horizontally, one squish vertically and it was over and done in a matter of minutes. So what had all the fuss been about? Simple, fast and relatively discomfort free.
A few weeks later, I received a letter from the Screening Mammography Program indicating that my exam was normal and to come back in one year. I am so grateful that this wonderful program is available to us here in BC free of charge and thankful that it saves so many lives.
I’m so sorry that my friend Shawna lost her life to this dreadful disease but I know she would be thrilled that she was the catalyst for so many of her friends to begin having their annual mammograms. My next appointment is booked for January 17th. Join me in honouring the legacy of any one of our sisters, friends, mothers, grandmothers who have suffered with this disease and book your mammogram today.
From the Screening Mammography Program website:
Screening is for healthy people who show no signs of illness, but can be at risk. By age 50, women should make screening mammograms part of their regular health routine.
- About one in nine Canadian women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. One in 28 women is expected to die from the disease.
- Screening mammograms are the international gold standard for detecting breast cancer early.
- Mammograms can usually find lumps two or three years before you or your health care provider can feel them.
- Finding cancer early can mean more treatment options and a better ability to recover.
Melissa Watt, WHRI Research Coordinator
For more information about breast health and prevention, please visit www.smpbc.ca