Her First Mammogram

My friend Heather wrote a story about her first mammogram, and, in the name of breast cancer awareness, she is donating it to me so I can publish it for you. Her words follow, and see that photo to the right? That’s her — the girl I first met when we were something like 25 years old, and, now, we’re something like 40.

Oh, and the “cancer-surviving friend” in the story — that’s me!

My First Mammogram

Heather Dilatush

I just had my second mammogram. I really don’t mind going to the doctor or dentist – I like staying on top of my health, but I did skip last year’s mammogram and I think I know why.

Two years ago, I went for my first “mammo.” People will probably not believe this, but I wasn’t nervous or worried about the pain that sometimes accompanies getting “squished.” I figured that if it hurt, I would take some deep breaths and get through it. As my cancer-surviving friend said, getting squished may hurt, but cancer hurts more.

But first, let me put that time in a little context. I was getting my mammo at the start of a new school year. Although I was heading into my sixth year of teaching, I was thrown into teaching photography. I am a skilled artist, but I confess, I am not a photographer. I don’t even have a background in photography. Zippo, ziltch, nadda. So I was about to learn in front of 16-year-olds. I know, fun, right? It was one of the few times in my life when I felt like I didn’t know which end was up. Everybody kept telling me I was a great art teacher and I would be good. But like all teachers, I like to know my stuff really, super double extra well so that I can teach the hell out of it. Where do you start when you don’t know anything? And another confession: I have no passion for it. I appreciate it; my partner is a great photographer, my dad had a darkroom in our basement, but that particular artform does almost nothing for me. It makes no sense, I know.

So like a good 39-year-old, I went in for my mammogram and was greeted and fondled by a very nice woman. I got squished, and it was fine. She said that sometimes people have to come in a second time, but that 80% of the time it is just to get some better shots. I thought that made sense. And I remember thinking I could never do her job. I am scared to death of my new position, but I could never work as a technician. Sometimes you have to smile at the patient knowing that something is abnormal in those images.

I got the call that I needed to come in for some more images. This time, I was more nervous because I had been trying all week to plan lessons for something I had no clue about. When my students’ film doesn’t come out, why doesn’t it? And if you have ever shot photography, is it me or is learning aperture a little tricky? Oh, and darkroom chemicals, how do those work? I felt like a fraud. Also that week, when I went into our finance office to order some supplies, I looked at Cheryl’s desk full of purchase orders, mounds of paperwork-filled columns and numbers and stuff, and said, “I could never do your job.” She said chuckling, “well, I could never be a teacher, so we’re even.”

I was feeling so scattered that when I showed up for the second mammogram, I realized I had forgotten my wallet when I went to get my money for the co-pay. They took me anyway, and when I was in the room with the technician, she said, “I will let you know that this is not going to be very pleasant.” Ugh, okay. I thought to myself, just breath, it’s all you can do. She was right. It was not pleasant. But it still wasn’t really the worst pain I have ever experienced. I used it as a time to practice breathing.

But it still happened. I panicked. I realized that she was trying to get a particular shot. There was an area of my breast that she kept squeezing the heck out of. I closed my eyes and thought about my breathing. I assume she had no idea that I was concerned. I went back to the dressing room to get dressed and was on the verge of tears. Just as I finished pulling my shirt over my head, a woman with a beautiful, warm face and handshake said in a run-on sentence, “Hi Heather, I am Doctor Bryant we will see you next year everything is fine.” When she left, I thought, I could NEVER do HER job. I went out to my car and wept. I was both relieved and upset about the upcoming year. Somehow I would get through it. Maybe I would use it as a year to breath.

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Port Support

My sister and Danny were with me the day I had my port removed. That surgery signified the end of cancer — the means by which all drugs entered my body was taken away. I worried I’d need one again at some point, and maybe I should just leave it there. But I have not required anything of the sort, and that boy in the photo is now 8 years old!

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Horrible Hair Day

To end the trauma of my hair shedding in clumps on my pillow, in the shower, every time I brushed it, I put it in four ponytails and cut it all off. Then Joey and I buzzed the rest until I was bald. It was one of the worst days of my life.

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Abbey’s Hope

Abbey’s Aunt Shauna is surviving breast cancer, and Abbey, trying to to raise funds to donate to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, has created the limited edition “Hope” necklace for her jewelry line, Sprightly So. The necklace sells for $20, and 50% of the profits will be donated to BCRF. Interested? Know someone who might me? Spread the word, won’t you please?

Abbey’s got lots of other pretty stuff in her shop — take a tour when you can!

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College, Cancer, and Years Gone By

Had John asked me on our first date at Leonardo’s in Gainesville, Fla. what I thought I’d be doing in 10 years, I never would have said, “fighting cancer.” But that’s what I ended up doing, with him (and two little boys) by my side.

It’s been 17 years since John and I first got to know each other at Leo’s, and last night, we reminisced about it over garlic rolls, at the very same table where we sat all those years ago. Didn’t seem all that different. Well, except for Joey and Danny scrounging our food and the fact that we look way old in the hip hangout still populated by spunky college students.

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Creative Memories Giveaway

Got some snazzy supplies up for grabs, thanks to Mischelle at Creative Memories. Just leave a comment and share how you might use these goodies, and you’ll be entered in a random drawing to win them all. Yep, the Punch Ribbon Maker, Pink Specialty Paper Pack, and the Think Pink Embellishment Pack. Together, they total about $40, and, well, what are you waiting for? Leave a comment, like, right now! Well, first, you might want to keep reading for giveaway rules. Then, leave your comment. And best wishes!

  • Leave a comment and tell us how you’ll use your prize.
  • Leave your comment no later than 5PM ET on Monday, October 10, 2011.
  • You may enter only once.
  • Open to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, who are 18 and older.
  • One winner will be selected in a random drawing via random.org.
  • One winner will receive the Punch Ribbon Maker, Pink Specialty Paper Pack, and Think Pink Embellishment Pack (value: $40).
  • Winners will be notified by email, so make sure to check next week to find out if you’ve won!

And finally, if you are so inclined to ever order any Creative Memories products, please consider using my friend Mischelle as your consultant — you can find her at http://www.mycmsite.com/mischellebaluyot. And if you order online any of the items featured in this post, a portion of the proceeds will go to breast cancer research.

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OMP (Oh My Pink)

OMP, it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month! You know what that means, right?

Pink food. Pink drinks. Pink clothing. Pink jewelry. Pink golf balls. Pink baseball bats. Pink mugs. Pink ornaments. Pink sunglasses. Pink pens. Pink toilet paper. Pink … pizza boxes.

You  name it — pink, pink, pink.

And to recap what I’ve said before, there are certain reasons I don’t like Pinktober. I don’t care for turning items pink and marketing them under the umbrella of awareness in order to make a dime. I don’t love it when mere pennies per purchase go toward the cause. And, I am really bothered by how sellers slap pink ribbons on not-so-safe products while claiming to be hunting down a cure (Mike’s Hard Lemonade comes to mind — if you didn’t already know, as little as one alcoholic beverage per day is a breast cancer risk factor for women).

So, those are my beefs with pink. Otherwise, I’m not a hater. I like pink stuff. I have pink stuff. And, sometimes, I give away pink stuff. It’s not all bad. Just some of it.

What’s your angle on October?

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Almost Seven Years

Almost seven years ago, I found a lump in my left breast. It was cancer.

Almost seven years ago, my brother-in-law Jack put on a pink bracelet.

My cancer is gone, but the pink bracelet is not.

Thank you, Jack!

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Attitude is Everything

There once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and she noticed she had only three hairs on her head. “Well,” she said. “I think I’ll braid my hair today.” So she did, and she had a wonderful day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror, and she saw that she had only two hairs on her head. “H-M-M,” she said. “I think I’ll part my hair down the middle today.” So she did, and she had a grand day.

The next day, she woke up, looked in the mirror, and she noticed that she had only one hair on her head. “Well,” she said. “Today I’m going to wear my hair in a pony tail.” So she did, and she had a fun, fun day.

The next day, she woke up, looked in the mirror, and she noticed that there wasn’t a single hair on her head. “Hooray!” she exclaimed. “I don’t have to fix my hair today!”

Attitude is everything.

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The Huffington Post, Published

Never did I think creating this blog would lead to so many great writing opportunities. I really only intended to share my story with family and friends so they could keep up with my cancer-surviving progress. Somewhere along the line, though, my little spot on the Internet turned into so much more. See that yellow “My Work” box to the right? (Scroll down a little.) Pretty much everything there was a result of folks finding me here and asking me to write in other places. My most recent “other place” is The Huffington Post / AOL Living:

Breast Cancer — How I Learned to Cope With Hope

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve retold that same story, from different angles,” I told my writer uncle after he complimented me on this piece. He assured me it never gets old, only gets richer with time.

OK, then. I’ll keep writing.

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