Saturday, January 3, 2015

Make a Promise

Merry Christmas!
On December 16th, during a routine visit, my doctor informed me that he found a lump in my left breast.  I didn't want to ruin the holidays for the family so I kept it to myself and was scheduled for a mammogram and diagnostic ultrasound - after the New Year - how stoic of me.  No time for tears, the holidays are busy times.

They say you should have your first mammogram at age 40 - I was busy.

All through my 40's I found excuse after excuse to avoid it - I was just too busy.

Every once in a while, I'd do a self-exam. - pressing in concentric circles - and anytime I felt something unusual, I'd quickly switch to check the other boob - my rule of thumb was as long as I have a matching set, I'm good.

Very scientific. Who needs a medical degree - I'd know if something was wrong - right?

So, yesterday I went to the hospital and had my very first ever mammogram. It wasn't comfortable, but it's not painful. These boobs were ironed horizontally and vertically.  Then they were drenched in a gallon of goo and ultrasounded thoroughly.  I watched the screen as if I knew what to look for.

When it was over, I asked the Radiologist, "Well, did you see anything?"

"The doctor's going to look at these now and then she'll talk to you about what your next steps will be." .

I realize that's a stock answer but those are some terrifying words.  And then she left me alone.
Did you know...
Over the next 20 minutes, I  tried to recall all of the women I knew who'd been touched by breast cancer - the aunt in Florida who had a mastectomy about 10 years ago, a friend who had a lumpectomy. Both still here, both survivors.

Then, I remembered Judy.  We met as co-workers when I was in my early 30's.  Judy was about 15 years older - a vibrant, funny woman with an infectious laugh. You couldn't find two more different women.  Judy was a southern black woman raised in South Carolina - now a single Mom raising her teenage children in a small apartment in downtown New Haven.  I was a young white suburban wife living the dream as a new homeowner and the mother of a toddler.  We shared the same last name and quirky sense of humor - we bonded instantly.

Judy was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer while still in her 40's.  By the time they found it, it had spread to her lungs.   The last time I saw Judy, she told me she knew the lump was there for a few years.  She didn't feel sick, so she ignored it.

She was too busy.

By the time she began to feel sick, it was too late -  6 months later, she was gone.

And now, I was trying not to panic as I waited - wondering how long this thing had been inside me while I'd been too busy.

When the Radiologist came back, she was smiling. "You're all set - we reviewed the mammogram and the ultrasound and we didn't find anything."

That's when the tears came.  And being the perennial optimist, I asked, "Are you sure?"

She laughed and said "Yes, we're sure - we're very sure. You're all clear."
Ladies -

We put so much effort into taking care of everyone else, that we often set aside our own needs for the sake of family, husbands and children.  But the very best thing we can do for them is to take care of ourselves.

I have a son whom I adore. And I plan to be around to embarrass him for many years to come. I make this promise to him and I advise all of you Ladies to do the same for the ones you love.

I love you, Son O'Mine - and because I love you - I promise to take care of me. 

Make that promise - and keep it.

Happy New Year!

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