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Southern Eyes: Nothing to fear

I love autumn. I love the cooler temperatures, scarecrows and pumpkins. Bright hues of orange are a pleasant change from the bold summer colors. But the last several years, pink has become a staple of the season, too. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and pink ribbons are the official symbol.

Last month, I attended a class sponsored by Georgia Team Up that focused on breast cancer. It was there that I sadly learned of the high rate of deaths from breast cancer in McDuffie County.

During that class, I heard women ask questions that expressed fears of having a mammogram. Last Saturday, at a summit at the Depot sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the discussion among the women around my lunch table included more mammogramphobia.

This has prompted me to tell my experience. It is well publicized that women should have annual mammograms when they reach their 40th birthday. I always swore I would never go through one. I wasn't afraid of the pain - My mother had been through enough mammograms that I knew the pain was livable. I'm sorry to admit that my fear was humiliation. I had this vision of walking into the room and the mammogram technician would look at my chest and double over with hysterical laughter.

But soon after experiencing the big 4-0, I found myself walking into the room of my nightmares with that dreaded technician. And there it was - the machine that the inexperienced have nightmares about.

Let me be blunt. The technician tells you to hug that machine, places one of your breasts on the bottom plate of a waffle iron and then clamps the top down. Well, maybe "clamps" is too strong of a word, but in that type of situation, the imagination goes extreme.

Let me be blunt again and say it was nowhere close to being the most painful experience of my life. And it was over quickly.

Also, my paranoia of being laughed at was completely uncalled for. Judging from the number of women in that waiting room and dressing room during my visit, and multiplying that number times eight hours a day for 260 working days a year, that technician had no doubt heard it all and seen it all regarding women's breasts. She was very professional and compassionate during the entire process, putting me at ease.

So ladies please, if you fall into one of the recommended categories, I encourage you to have the test. There's no excuse. If you have no insurance or transportation, call the local health department (706-595-1740) for assistance. Don't let the fear of a few moments of bearable pain - or humiliation - cost you your life.

Web posted on Thursday, October 19, 2006

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