My OB-GYN gave me the piece of paper nearly two years ago. Her handwriting scrawled on the top with my name, age, and the current date. Her signature on the bottom. Just a routine formality. I was months away from turning 40. It was that time.
The dreaded mammogram.
But why so dreaded? As I explained to Nick, who waited in a private waiting room, doodling and watching TV, it’s the fear of the unknown. I knew it was no big deal. I have had many friends who have gone for theirs. I was making it a bigger deal in my head than was necessary. I knew all this.
I had run into an old neighbor at our local bagel shop last year, and she had just come back from hers. I mentioned that the piece of paper had been in my wallet for over a year at that point; I kept putting it off. She urged me to go.
She told me, “Really, you’ll be fine!” She even told me to call her when I went and she would go with me and hold my hand if I wanted.
Um, yeah. Because having your boobs on display in front of a stranger isn’t bad enough. I should bring a bigger audience with me. Yeah, no thank you. So it took about another year from that chance encounter for me to actually go, or to follow through with an appointment.
And the real reason I did it? These two.
I have three great fears in life. Getting old. Dying. And house fires. So says the control freak. There’s no shortage of irony in that my three great fears are pretty much things I can’t control.
But here’s the thing: I can sort of control something. Although getting old scares me sometimes, not getting old scares me more. I would hate to have my life cut short because of something I could have prevented. I have so much left I want to do with my life, and so much I want to do, share, and experience with the kids. And I’ll be darned if I’m going let a five minute exam stand in the way of getting old.
These days, we live longer. We live better. We’re better educated. About everything. I went for the mammogram for the kids. And now that it’s no longer an “unknown,” I’ll go every year. No question.
“How was it?” a co-worker asked me when I got back to the office.
“Well, as long as you don’t mind getting felt up by a complete stranger and getting squished and stretched between two pieces of glass, it’s no big deal.”
And, of course, it wasn’t. Whatever scenario we create in our mind is always way worse than the actual event. And that little piece of paper that arrived a few weeks later? Proclaiming a normal mammogram exam? Made it all totally worth it.
Although getting old still makes me a bit uneasy, I’m going to do everything I can to get there. While I was at the mammogram facility, I took picture of some scary statistics and forwarded it to a few people who I knew were behind in going. If those numbers don’t motivate you, I don’t know what will.
In the meantime, getting old is a slightly, ever so slightly, less scary situation.
The folks at Pfizer have a fun web site that they’ve put together if getting old is on your mind too. Did you know that 36% of people are uneasy about getting old? At least my worries aren’t irrational. Or I have great company in them.
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PS – The Weekend Photos in Review will be back tomorrow night.