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October 23, 2008

Go Pink: Join An Army of Women

3 Six years ago I finally agreed to have my first mammogram.  I didn't have much choice because my doctor said I had stalled long enough.  She said she wanted to have a baseline to compare with future results, so I gave in.  The technician tried to make small talk, but I was past any hope of being put at ease.  I didn't have any reason to be nervous, but I was.  I had heard horror stories about mammograms - how uncomfortable the positions were and how bruised your breasts felt.  Then there was the question of what the test would show.  I hadn't felt anything unusual, but what if something abnormal showed up? 

The actual mammogram was not as bad as I expected it to be and did not take long.  I didn't have to wait long for the results either, which weren't results but instructions to have another, more detailed mammogram done at a different hospital.  What concerned me more than having to schedule a second mammogram was the note that came from a breast specialist that said I could call her with any questions.  Questions?  What could I possibly ask that would allay my fears?  I didn't want the test in the first place, and now I was in no position to back out.  What if there was something wrong?      

It took longer to get the results the second time because the radiologist who needed to read the films was away for a few days.  I talked to friends who had needed a repeat mammogram, and they reassured me that it didn't necessarily mean that I had breast cancer.  I knew strides had been made in research and that women survived breast cancer.  I waited.

I was lucky.  There were no abnormalities.  I still didn't like the idea of getting a mammogram, but I grumbled a bit less the next time.  I know I am fortunate that the news has always been good.    

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  I've always wondered if there was more I could do.  This month I heard about Dr. Susan Love's Army of Women, and I joined.

The idea behind An Army of Women is to create a database of one million healthy women, who have not had breast cancer or who have been cured of cancer, from all age groups and ethnicities.  It takes seconds to sign up as a volunteer; as of this writing over 200,000 women have joined up.  Volunteers will be notified when there is an opportunity to be part of a study, which will usually mean giving a blood, tissue, or urine sample.  It is up to each woman to decide if and when she wants to participate.  For more information go to Army of Women.org.

Sharon also blogs on her personal site at http://www.owlinmaine.blogspot.com/.

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