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.
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.
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.