It has been seven years since my shocking diagnosis. Seven years since I faced the unimaginable. Breast cancer, or any cancer really, is a devastating and life-altering journey that changes you forever. Now, just one week before my annual mammogram, I look at the date and my pulse quickens. My breath is evasive and a surge of adrenaline burns through my chest. It is time. What will they find?
Before cancer, I was not dependent on anxiety medication or antidepressants to get me through doctors’ visits. I went to my annual appointments with confidence and a pen ready to check the box. That was the before. The time when cancer happened to other people.
Presently, my doctor prescribes fifteen little pills per year. She instructs me to take one before even setting foot in the car to go to my appointments. The post-traumatic stress the “c” word has introduced in this “after cancer time” cannot be dismissed. I know I am not alone because according to Breastcancer.org, “about 80% of women have PTSD symptoms after breast cancer diagnosis”.
The click, click, click of the MRI or the smashing of the mammogram brings me back to that day where, at just thirty-seven years of age, I am forever changed.
In order to prepare myself for another round of tests, I attempt to balance the day with something positive by scheduling lunch with an old friend or visiting a favorite store. Anything happy to keep my mind at ease.
Often, I listen to women lament mammograms because they hurt or are inconvenient. My lament is for the anxiety and paralyzing fear that each brings. The quivering of my fingers as I write these words because it is with visceral trepidation that I walk into the next week.
Though the journey has not been easy, I am grateful for early intervention and access.
So I ask you my friends, have you had your mammogram?