I had my yearly mammogram on 1 October, the first day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month - not consciously planned, but very appropriate, as this year I'm once again reminded of how the disease hovers around my family, swooping in and picking off (or trying to) relatives of all ages - one cousin was 37 when it struck (she won).
During the first week of 2008, my older sister, who was 49 when breast cancer was first diagnosed, went into the hospital five and a half years after chemo and radiation ended, and almost didn't come out. She was hospitalized for months, including more than a week when a tangle of tubes, including a huge one down her throat and into her chest, kept her alive.
This intelligent woman felt a lump two years before her initial diagnosis, yet fear kept her from confronting it. I thought about this as I had my mammogram, though I had to think fast, as the entire procedure totals barely five minutes.
I have little patience with women who pass on this exam because they say it hurts. Get a grip. They say they don't want to know. Get over it.
Imagine, instead (and I pray that's all I ever have to do) knowing the physical and mental pain of surgery and its aftermath, chemo, radiation, and then relapsing and doing it all over again, all because you delayed having a mammogram. Imagine your family's pain.
Not having health insurance or not having enough is no excuse - it's easy to find a mammogram for free or on a sliding scale. How can you afford not to do this?