Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bare Your Chest

Since yesterday’s post was so juvenile, I thought perhaps I should be a little more mature today. I don’t FEEL very mature, but I’ll try. Several folks have been posting this month about breast cancer awareness. I’m jumping on the bandwagon because I really care about this issue. Swamp Witch has a good series about her battle against breast cancer. You should check it out. Television is full of stories about survivors and treatments. It’s a regular mammogram fest on the morning news shows this month. And that’s a good thing, because some of you out there are still not taking the time to get the boob squash. As women, we often spend so much time taking care of those around us that we put off preventive health measures for ourselves, especially the tests that aren’t exactly pleasant. Can you say pap smear? I just had my mammogram, and it really was not bad. I swear. I don’t know why there are so many horror stories about those things. Granted, having your ta-ta pressed between two plates while holding your breath and standing perfectly still is not exactly comfortable, but it’s not THAT bad. I promise. Just close your eyes, bare your chest, pretend that you’re a twenty year old on spring break and that a crowd of bodacious, hot men are cheering you on. Ignore the fact that you are so old you have to lift your skirt to show your boobies. Or that you need reading glasses to fill out the paperwork. Just do it, and if you’re really good we’ll go for ice cream afterwards.

A couple of years ago, my mother got a call from a woman she had been BFF with since they were very young. Helen had been very sick for a few days and wanted mama’s help in getting to a doctor to see about her flu-like symptoms. Mama, a retired nurse, drove to Helen’s house and started helping her to get dressed. When Helen’s robe fell open a large lump in her breast was visible to the naked eye. Mama was alarmed and quizzed her about it, but Helen brushed it off and changed the subject back to her stomach. Mama told her she wasn’t nearly as concerned about the stomach as she was the lump and drove Helen directly to the emergency room. The ER doc had the same reaction when he saw Helen. Within two days Helen had been diagnosed with breast cancer and undergone surgery. It seems Helen had avoided regular check-ups and getting the lump checked out because she didn’t have health insurance and couldn’t afford it. In the weeks following her surgery, she fretted more over the cost of her treatments and how she would pay for it than over her body. She was sick with cancer, but she was made sicker by the worries over cost. The cancer had too big of a grip on her by the time they had found it. She never responded very well to the chemo and within months Helen was dead.

I could go on an on about the cost and quality of health care in this country and how the poor and middle class suffer because of it, but that’s a rant for another day. Today, I’m pitching the importance of preventive care. Thousands of women are diagnosed each year with breast cancer….and survive. But usually it’s because they caught it early through self exams, a visit to the gynecologist or mammograms. I can’t help but think Helen might be alive today if she had been to the doctor much earlier. So ladies, I encourage you to tie one on (a pink ribbon that is) this month and schedule your mammogram if you haven’t already. When you get to the boobie smasher, close your eyes. Envision yourself on a balcony in the French Quarter. It’s Mardi Gras, and the crowd below is shouting at you. Go ahead, fling open your robe with gusto. Just don’t expect the nurse to throw you any beads when it’s over. Hmm. That was almost mature, don’t you think?


rain said...

Beads! I'm not going unless I get beads!

Jason said...

Helen's sad story is so similar to my own mother's sad story. She had been feeling sick for a long time before she went to the doctor. When she did, her breasts were as hard as rocks, her bones were overtaken, and she had a 9 inch tumor in her abdomen. The really sad part is that she had a mammogram a year before and something looked suspicious. But my parents never did anything about it because they had no health insurance. So thank you for your post, very much.