Once you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s hard to look upon the annual mammogram as just another diagnostic breast exam. At least that’s how it’s been for me. Today was the day, and I started getting nervous about it a few days ago. It turned out fine, but here a few strategies I’ve developed in the past ten years to help me cope with the dreaded day:
1. Keep your mammograms in your possession. I am the holder of all my mammogram records. This puts me in charge, especially if I want to change radiologists for any reason. I won’t have to sign any release forms or have other people send my records anywhere. And I always know where my records are--in my closet. I’m on my fourth radiologist in 11 years--the first one didn’t give me good service during my breast cancer experience, the second terrific one retired, the third one was very competent but it was a big hassle to get an appointment with her, and the fourth one, whom I met today, seems promising.
2. Don’t leave without getting the results verbally. When you make the appointment, make it clear that you expect the doctor to discuss the results with you before you leave. There is no reason to wait for days in a heightened state of anxiety. If the radiologist won’t grant you this simple courtesy, find another one.
3. I go alone to the appointment. And I don’t tell anyone who doesn’t need to know until it’s over. For me, taking someone along always brings back bad memories of the cancer experience--medical consultations where you need an extra set of ears, chemotherapy sessions where you want support and company, etc. Also, I’m so nervous while I’m waiting that I prefer not to have to talk to anyone. And, unless you want to have to call your mother, your sister, and your friends after the appointment, it’s best not to tell them anything in advance.
4. Bring plenty of reading material. There’s nothing worse than nervously waiting for test results without anything better to distract you than a dog-eared copy of House & Garden. Bring your own newspapers, books, or magazines.
5. Take a moment when it’s over. When you get good news, which I define, in this case, as the absence of bad news, take a moment to enjoy it. Stop for a cup of coffee on your way home or sit on your couch and reflect that your annual mammogram is clear, and at least until further notice, you’re healthy.
What are your coping strategies for getting through your annual mammogram? Tell us in the message boards.
Published On: September 01, 2006