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Saturday, June 22, 2013

"Mammograms are really sort of a gift. You can either catch something early or count your lucky stars because nothing was discovered." ~Charlotte Ross

Yesterday I had a mammogram. I know. Big deal. Women do that annually after age 35 as part of their well care.

But you see, I've never had one. And I've not had a physical since Tabitha was two. I have a lot of fear about being touched.

So for seven years I've worked with Therapist to reach a point where I felt I could have those important things become part of my life. I've made many, many appointments--and canceled them when the time came. But I didn't cancel this one.

You know, mammograms and physicals are uncomfortable, bordering on painful. But for someone like me, the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, they're vital. I started thinking about how I feel when Darrin insists he can't use a Cpap machine, which could improve his life drastically and, ultimately, keep him alive. But it's uncomfortable. It interferes with his sleep. He doesn't like it. He'd rather die???

It makes me panicky because I'm the one who notices the repeated cessation of breathing for up to thirty seconds. I'm the one who feels his abdomen cave in as he struggles for breath. I'm the one who deals with his moodiness, lack of energy, constant napping, and gradual but constant health decline. And I'm the one who moves to the couch because the snoring is so loud my own sleep is interrupted.

I started thinking about how my family feels about my irrational fear. I won't take part in preventative medicine because I'm scared. I have a higher than normal a breast cancer risk. I won't get the tests done that could facilitate early detection and remission because I'm scared...I'd rather die???

I'm guessing there is no one who loves me who, in the event of late-stage cancer detection, would say, "It's okay, Sam. We understand that your fear put your life at risk. We're all right with you taking that risk and it's okay that you're going to die, probably." Nope. I can't see anyone making allowances for my fears when my life is on the line. And it is. This is something I need to take seriously.

When I was tired of being afraid of the person who raped me, I went to lunch with him. It was yucky and I don't want to do it ever again, but I'm not afraid anymore.

So yesterday, I went to the hospital, stripped from the waist up, used a baby wipe to remove any traces of anti-perspirant which would interfere with the imaging process, donned a gown large enough for several people to share, and waited my turn. When I met with the tech who would be doing the deed, she asked me several questions, then asked if there was anything else she should know. I found myself saying, "I'm afraid. I have PTSD because I'm a rape survivor. I've never had this done before because it can trigger all sorts of messy emotional side-effects and I don't want to deal with those. But I'm here. I'm doing this. And I might cry, but it won't because the process is hurting me and it won't have anything to do with you, so don't worry, okay?"

She said, "This is really important for someone with your family history. I'm glad you're here. Let me know if I can help you through this."

And then we went to that hateful machine where she danced me into the proper position, lifted my breast into an impossible angle and let me know the compression plate would stop when the light went on. And it didn't feel nice in the least. We did it three more times in three more positions and then I was done.

On the way home, I felt the flashbacks coming. They were very specific in the memory and content, and it's possible that I actually had them because I know what they looked like, but I'm going to say, instead, that I was able to avert the fullfledged version of flashbacks because in six weeks I will have been flashback free for three years, so I'm not counting whatever happened on the way home. Anyway, it felt nasty, but nothing like what I've felt in the past when flashbacks occurred, so they weren't the real deal.

And when I got home, I sat in my driveway and cried because I'm a coward who can't even have a routine health process without feeling violated and overwhelmed. And I also cried because I get to do it again in 12 months--not a happy thought for me.

But I did it. I think that's something. And Therapist says I rock and he's proud of me.


  1. Sam, I think you rock too! I can totally relate to what you said here because I have a debilitating fear of the dentist because of childhood sexual abuse. I understand the courage it took for you to do that. Way to go!

  2. Yeah...I've been working on that fear of dentist thing for many years, too. My current dentist prescribes and oral sedative for me before he does any work and I usually nap through it. Good thing he's a personal friend or I'd never trust him in such a situation.