Note: Written by NBCF Data Analyst, Christina Montague
I was reading an article about self-care recently and among the uncommon things referred to as “self-care” was going to the doctor for a routine check-up. That was not something I expected at all. Because, well, I hate going to the doctor. I really do. It’s uncomfortable and inconvenient. I’ll take the extra dose of “me time” before and after the appointment, but that’s not usually enough to make a doctor’s visit appealing.
Frankly, scheduling routine check-ups is not at the top of my to-do list. I have a job that demands my attention, a house with 3 humans and a dog depending on me, and all of the emotional and unseen labor associated with that, especially during a pandemic. I don’t want to have to make time for check-ups that I dread.
Navigating a world with COVID-19 and stay at home orders has allowed me to free up some time to think about what I needed to make a priority in my life. I took action – I started getting outside more, kept up with working out, and focused on doing things for my well-being. This extra time at home made me realize how much my family needs me to be healthy.
As this realization was weighing heavy on my mind and heart, my boss at National Breast Cancer Foundation told me she went to have a mammogram recently. In solidarity, and in spite of my hesitation, I decided it was time for me to have my first mammogram at 41 years old.
Working for National Breast Cancer Foundation has opened my eyes to the fact that I should make getting a mammogram a priority, even if it’s just for peace of mind.
Since medical offices were opening up slowly, I was able to schedule an appointment online. The week leading up to my mammogram I tried my best not to think about it too much, but it was always in the back of my mind. I wasn’t as worried about the actual appointment, as the “what if” scenarios that uncontrollably popped into my mind.
The day of my mammogram I was anxious, but not overly nervous. When I arrived, I put my mask on, filled out forms, was asked to use hand sanitizer for safety protocols, and had my temperature taken.
After the initial intake, I was escorted to a changing room. I was given a loose fitting top with buttons on the side to change into and a locker to keep my things. To my surprise, when I went into the changing room, there was a mirror with a bunch of inspirational messages all over it written by other women who were having the same experience as me. I would have added to the hope-filled mirror, but it was completely full! I really loved it. There was so much positivity present in a space where there could’ve been overwhelming fear.
Now, I was fully ready for my mammogram. I was taken down the hall to the screening room. Everything went very fast after that. The mammography technician was nice and friendly, making me feel more at ease as we talked about how awkward face masks are. She explained the mammogram process so I knew what to expect: the machine had plastic cups she would place my breast into, it would squeeze down slightly to flatten the tissue to get an accurate image, she noted this would be uncomfortable, but not painful, then she would scan the top and the side of each breast while I held my breath a few seconds for each scan.
After she explained everything and I felt comfortable, we began my mammogram. It was about five minutes of discomfort and that was it! After the scans were done, she told me it would be a few days before I had my results.
Over the next few days, I was admittedly jumping at every unknown number that called and refreshing my inbox more than usual. I was experiencing what I hear women describe all the time and what I inherently feared – just wanting to know that everything is okay. I was contacted the next week with the news that my mammogram was normal. I now have a baseline mammogram that my doctors can refer to when I get future annual mammograms.
So, there it is. My experience with getting my first mammogram during a pandemic! My biggest takeaway is that it’s okay to take time for your health, your peace of mind, and for you. You need to be your best self to be able to take care of those you love and who love you most. And sometimes that means doing unpleasant things like getting a mammogram or scheduling a check-up.
I urge you to make self-care a priority today. If you’re due for your annual mammogram, schedule it. If you’ve never had a mammogram and you’re over the age of 40, make the appointment. If you are in need of financial assistance or support, National Breast Cancer Foundation has programs that can help and a team dedicated to compassionate support.
You’re worth it!