Breast Cancer Awareness every month?!
October is breast cancer awareness month and in my humble opinion, every month ought to be breast health month! Your body is such an amazing instrument that when it speaks—like the old *E. F. Hutton commercials used to say—you should listen. The conversation around when/whether to get a mammogram continues to swirl around us, yet the fact remains that far too many of us are dying because we don’t pay attention to self-exams, and small or subtle changes that hint something may be awry. We know our bodies better than anyone else and with the “Girls,” our beautiful breasts, they aren’t just body parts, they feed our babies, bring us pleasure and confidence and a whole host of things. WE MUST TAKE CARE OF THEM AND OURSELVES!
I once had a doctor who didn’t listen—she simply wanted yes or no answers—and told me so in no uncertain terms. I was having womanly-part troubles and I had not taken my medicine correctly. I was feeling lousy and as I kept trying to figure out why, I actually read that little insert that’s attached to your medicine—you know the one we usually ignore. Anyway, about three that morning I realized that my sore legs and racing heartbeat were “side effects” that had developed. If there were ten things that could go wrong, I had 9.5 of them!
I could hardly wait until morning to call and get further instruction. The nurse said see your primary care physician as soon as possible. My primary care physician was new and I was all excited about bonding with her and developing a relationship for my care. I knew explaining what was going on would be important because every indicator said I was dying, had heebie-jeebies, or a million other horrible diseases! Her first questions frustrated both of us– she finally cut me off in the middle of an explanation with “Just yes or no please.” I was devastated and left there feeling about the size of a Wizard of Oz munchkin but here’s what I learned:
A doctor who won’t/doesn’t listen doesn’t deserve my trust, time or money. My “real” doctor took one look at me that Thursday and said “sit down and tell me what’s going on with you.” Thirty minutes and 30 years later she rose, wrote me a prescription for Iyanla VanZant’s Value in the Valley and sent me on my way. No drugs, just this book that gently reminded me it was ok to be where I was. I just needed someone to listen.
Pain is information and prevention is the best cure. This month schedule your mammogram but get your other annual and periodic exams too—Pap smear, eyes, feet, colon—anything you love and that contributes to your quality of life. Most diseases are preventable and treatable with early detection.
Your body is highly sophisticated—don’t even try to diagnose yourself on the Internet! Like new cars and cell phones, your body has tons of intricate bells and whistles you can’t trust to folks who work under a shade tree with two screwdrivers and a wrench. I swear with mammograms they’re just checking to make sure the “girls” are hooked on good, but seriously, a little discomfort now is a pretty small tradeoff for what could happen if you ignore this simple procedure.
There are several sites that offer free mammograms—Google “free mammograms” for a local site. Make it a Girls Day Out for you, your friends, your mom, sisters, aunts—fill in the blank– have lunch, go to the local beauty school for a facial, manicure and pedicure, — so you’ll know that the people you love are ok. Better yet, for your birthday this year sponsor this blessing for a woman at a homeless shelter or someone who might forego this exam because she can’t afford it.
If you take care of yourself first, everything else falls into place. It’s fine if you take care of other folks—bask in the knowledge that you are a selfless soul but be clear that putting self-care at the bottom of your To Do list does not serve you well. You are the heart of your family and we’ll still be looking for you to get up from your sick bed and do whatever it is you always do whether you’re tired, overworked or overrun. Try saying “NO” once in a while. NO is a complete sentence and you won’t be turned into a pumpkin if/when you confidently use it as a self-care mechanism. Like the Nike commercial says “Just do it” and briskly walk away before the guilt patrol descends. And, for those who can’t walk fast: write the word “something” on your calendar at least three days this month, then you simply reply ”I’m sorry I can’t, I already have something on my calendar.”
Like flight attendants tell you in the life-saving instructions before takeoff: “Put your mask on first.” My dears, you are amazing, precious and beautiful! Take care of the “Girls” and the rest of you so we can spread our wings and soar together!
*E. F. Hutton & Co. was an American stock brokerage firm founded in 1904 by Edward Francis Hutton and his brother, Franklyn Laws Hutton. A series of commercials during the 1980s showed the namesake’s enormous influence in a scene that showed everyone stopped what they were doing to hear what he had to say. .The line bragged “When E. F. Hutton speaks, people listen.”