My Mammogram (c) Marika Reinke 2015
My Mammogram (c) Marika Reinke 2015

A Rite of Passage

We should celebrate baseline mammograms like a birthday, anniversary or graduation.

Mammograms usher in a new era.  Let’s make it official and celebrate. In this era, I take the bodies of my friends and loved ones who age with me side by side.  A party is necessary.

Technically, I “do not have a history of breast or ovarian cancer” in my family.  This is routine.

But, I have a history of cancer; ovarian, breast or otherwise.

  • I remember the colleague who passed away from breast cancer within a year of our first meeting.  Shockingly quickly.
  • I sting when I think of a younger acquaintance whose breast cancer returned just yesterday.
  • My heart aches for a beloved colleague as she forges her legacy in the face of stage 4 cancer.
  • At 49, my father died of gall bladder cancer. With this birthday I have entered the decade in which he passed.  This does not escape me.
  • And others…

I have a history of cancer.  I own this history.  

This is what I speak of when I say a mammogram is sign of turning 40.  Aging brings the continual pile of stories and we are wise to listen.

So when the technician pointed at her screen and said, “Here, come and look at this.”  I held my boiling feelings in check. She was painfully inscrutable.

I looked and thought how achingly beautiful.   

That was my breast with lovely web-like trestles, like palm prints, keeping history.  That was my opaque muscle cradling it.  That was my story; my puberty, my first bra, my sexuality, the humble pride, my first love, the assault and guilt, the sun bathing, my cleavage, the tight-or-loose shirt, swollen from pregnancy, aching from breastfeeding, my milk-giving children’s body, cradling them then slowly turning away and now my own but never the same.  And now to be examined indefinitely.

We should celebrate a baseline mammogram because left unto themselves, they sting and stench of aging and forgetting.

But if we listen, they tell our stories and we are all wise to listen.

My Mammogram (c) Marika Reinke 2015
My Mammogram sketch (c) Marika Reinke 2015 

I should mention, the technician wanted to show me my pectoral muscle which extends significantly longer than average and revealed my “tremendous upper body strength.” Another story in the mammogram.


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  1. Mark J. Besso says:


    I’m still mulling over the “Love is Not Mine” message; having read it multiple times with wonder on how I could respond to you. It is beautiful, profound, and engaging to read. I was still in that phase as this message arrived.

    Mammograms fall into that ever-expanding category of things men don’t discuss. Certainly not single men–without a significant female in their immediate life who might be of an age to have such a procedure. For that matter–not something men in general will probably ever discuss unless the conversation is initiated by a female so close to them that they cannot avoid the conversation.

    It also served as a reminder of our age difference. I’d forgotten that you’re nearly a generation younger than me!

    I’m going to read “Love is Not Mine” again and re-contemplate what I’d like to respond to you. It’s so good it deserves a response.

    In the meantime–thank you for this message. It’s a very personal thing that you’ve made so easy to appreciate by sharing the thoughts that went through your own mind. As with this particular Rite of Passage, I hope you continue to experience them with such curiosity and willingness to share. I also hope the results are always /good news/.

    Smiles, Mark

  2. Thanks Mark!

    It is funny, I know they are uncomfortable topic but at the same time, don’t care. My mother was a midwife and childbirth educator. By osmosis, this taught me a healthy grounded and functional frame of mind when it comes to women’s bodies. And cancer is almost as uncomfortable for some. So I really picked an uncomfortable topic for this one – didn’t i?

    I believe in stories, they are instructive and discomfort is a place where learning and growth happens. I have a ambitious love of life in part from having lost my father at his young age and I was 23. Not that this is a lesson we all learn when a loved one dies.

    I can’t believe almost a generation? Really?

    Thank you, Marika

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