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Archive for Monday, October 1, 2012

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River City Jules: Step up to the plates this month for a mammogram

October 1, 2012

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Now that I am nearly 41, I have noticed the conversations my friends and I carry taking a different turn. Talk about cute sunglasses, high heels and push-up bras has turned to reading glasses, sensible shoes and mammograms.

I’m still in denial about reading glasses and sensible shoes, but I am all too familiar with the mammogram and, as we kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month, want to make sure my sisters pushing 40 will step up to the plate(s) and get squished, too.

We Lawrencians are blessed that we can get screened at top-notch facilities right here in town. None of the three Lawrence Memorial Hospital imaging centers are farther than a seven-minute drive from a celebratory post-squeeze latte, and all of them (and I have been to all of them) are staffed by tremendously skilled and caring techs and radiologists.

I arrived for my appointment last year on a crisp October day. The technician handed me a gown (open in the front) and accessories (you will not find pasties like these just anywhere!) and led me to the imaging room.

A large glass plate waited, on which the technician placed my girls, one at a time, each getting the full press as an x-ray was taken. I have never breast-fed a whale, but for the brief moment I was in the grip of the machine, I imagined this was what it might feel like.

Afterward, I changed into my own clothes, skipped back to the car and headed out for a celebratory pumpkin latte.

The next day, the phone rang.

They wanted to see me again, this time for a close-up technically called a “compression” mammogram.

I did not think any machine or technician could further compress what little mammary gland I still sport after nursing four children, but it turns out they can. Using a super-magnified ta-ta tester (or something like that), the radiologist was able to examine particles within the tissue smaller than grains of sand.

Clearly his near vision is much sharper — and his education much more advanced — than mine, as all I saw on the film was a veiny blob.

Suspicious these particles might be up to no good, the radiologist then ordered a biopsy. Now, “biopsy” is a frightening word. People generally like to hear words like “looking good” or “clearance sale.” Luckily, I knew the odds of any words more frightening coming my way were slim. But, as a precaution I went in for that biopsy, leaving with an ace bandage wrapped around my torso and instructions to not operate a vacuum or lift anything heavy.

Two days later my doctor called with the “looking good” I hoped for. I hit a clearance sale to celebrate, caramel latte in hand.

Most important of all, though, I am heading back for another check this year, and every year after, and I hope you gals (and the gals in your lives) will do the same.

— Julie Dunlap can be reached at go@ljworld.com.

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