Archive for the ‘breast cancer’ Category

Mammogram–It’s That Time Again

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Face the machine. Stretch your arm across here. Lean in a little bit further. A little more pressure. That’s it. Suck in your tummy for me. Is that uncomfortable? A little closer now.  Hold your breath. Stay still. That’s it.

Next breast. Arrrrgggghhhh

I dislike going for my annual mammogram. I hate having my breasts put in a vise grip. There must be a kindler, gentler way to see into a woman’s breasts. (Where are the feminist inventors when you need them?)

mammogramBut I’ve put the exam off for longer than I should. I almost turned around this morning when I found myself stuck in morning traffic trying to get to the breast clinic. But I pressed on.

A line from the book of Song of Solomon  came to mind.

“We have a little sister, And she has no breasts; What shall we do for our sister On the day when she is spoken for?” (Song of Solomon 8:8).

And then there are the statistics:

**1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.

**African American women are more likely than white women to die from breast cancer.

**Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among African American women, exceeded only by lung cancer.

You may dress now, Ms. Weems. The doctor will examine your film after lunch. If there’s a problem you will hear from us and your doctor immediately, otherwise we’ll send your results in the mail.

Did I mention that I dislike mammograms? But I do want to live. Plain and Simple. It helps knowing that God too has breasts. LOL.  Or, at least there were those in the world ancient world who thought so.  After all, one of the meanings of the divine name El Shaddai is  “The Breasted One.”

When was your last mammogram? When is your next mammogram?

A Poem for a Woman’s Body

God, this is MY BODY.
She is an expression of Genius.

This is MY BODY.
She is more than fatigue, infirmity, soreness, cellulite, estrogen loss, and drooping breasts.

Lord, I want to LIVE in my Body.
Cleanse me of every thought that makes me
shame of my body and slow to take care of it.

Help me to experience LIFE
in my heart,
fingers and toes,
breasts and legs
arms and thighs
buttocks and uterus
lungs and belly
ignite a quickening fire in every cell of my body.

For I am
a woman in a Body.
My body.

A body that has breasts
That must be smashed, and
A uterus that must looked into
To live.

There is Life in my Body.

May I never again be ashamed
For this is My Body which is

A Gift of God
A Sanctuary of my Divine Purpose, and
an Expression of the mystery of God.

This is My Body.

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

If the woman in Luke 8 who’d been hemorrhaging for twelve years lived in the U.S., she would have been dropped by her insurance company by the time she met up with Jesus. You can bet that she would have been fired from her job for taking too many sick days. And if after her miraculous healing she had applied for health insurance she probably would have been turned down flat. Prior or preexisting medical conditions make you a bad risk in the eyes of insurance companies. Of course, it’s possible that she might have qualified for partial coverage. That means, every thing except the uterus is insured.

In case you didn’t know: health insurance in the U.S. is for the healthy. You better suck it up and keep going.

Researchers estimate that some 16% of the people in this country are walking around with no medical insurance coverage. Do the math: that means that nearly 47 million people live on a wing and prayer everyday. If they do get sick, hopefully it’s nothing an over the counter purchase at the drugstore won’t cure. Who are these uninsured people? They are the people who hand you your burger and fries out the window at the fastfood restaurant. They are the people who “sit” with the elderly through the night or escort special needs clients to the movies and mall. Who are these uninsured people? They are the workers manicuring the lawn and flowerbeds where you work. They are the beauticians (excuse me, hair stylists) who do your hair. They are your unmarried, pregnant niece and your uncle just laid off from his job of 18 years. Who are these uninsured people? They are the thousands of self-employed workers and the millions of people who work for small businesses that can’t afford to offer insurance for their workers. Heck, who are we fooling? Get real sick – for a long time– and you’ll see. Who are these people who can’t afford health care? They are you and me.

A friend of mine leaves this week for a vacation in Cuba. “Pray that Fidel doesn’t flatline while you’re there lounging on the beach,” I tease. “You’ll be joining Assata Shakur in exile and won’t be getting back to the States for a long while.” She laughs. “Well, at least I’ll be in a country where if I freak out and lose my mind, there’s free health care on hand in Cuba to see that I’m nursed back to my senses.”

I have only a few fears in life, and growing old, black, female, poor and without insurance is right up there at the top. There, I said it.

Every woman who has a breast oughta feel passionately about health care reform in this country. Every woman who has ever bled. Every woman who has ever had to care for an elderly parent. Every woman who knows what it is to walk the floors at night with a sick baby. Every woman who knows what Fannie Lou Hamer meant when she said, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired,” ought to be paying close attention to the stump speeches and visiting regularly the websites of each of the presidential candidates to see what proposals they are making for reforming health care in this country.

But here’s something proactive that you and I can do right now.

In an insane and inhumane move, insurance companies are trying to make mastectomies an outpatient procedure. There’s a bill called the “Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act” which will require insurance companies to cover a minimum 48-hour hospital stay for patients undergoing a mastectomy. It’s about eliminating the ‘drive-through mastectomy’ where women are forced to go home just a few hours after surgery, against the wishes of their doctor, still groggy from anesthesia and sometimes with drainage tubes still attached. Lifetime Television has put this bill on their Web page with a petition drive to show support for the bill. It only takes 2 seconds to sign and say “no” to the insurance companies.

Think about it this way: just in case Jesus is not passing through her town today with a miracle, let’s give the woman who’s just had a mastectomy the chance to recover properly in the hospital for a minimum 2 days after surgery.

First, You Feel

Monday, July 9th, 2007

I thought I felt a lump in the right breast. My gynecologist was convinced it was the left breast. After scribbling some words on my chart, my gynecologist looked up and sent me scurrying off for a bi-lateral mammogram and ultrasound.

When was your last mammogram? November 2006. And before that? Every year for the last 10 years.

Does your family have a history of cancer? No. Yes. No. Does an older brother dying of lung cancer last year after 40 years of smoking count?

Have any women in your family had breast cancer? No. Wait, what was it that my mom’s sisters died of? I’ve lost contact with that side of my family. I guess I’d better drop my cousin on my mother’s side an email and inquire.

Do you have a living will? Yes.

Face the machine. Stretch your arm across here. Lean in a little bit further. That’s it. I know it’s uncomfortable. Suck in your tummy for me. Hold your breath. That’s it. (Where are the feminist inventors when you need them? This is a torture machine. There must be a more ergonomically comfortable way to x-ray a woman’s breasts!!)

Next breast. Arrrrrggghhh.

The wait between the mammogram and ultrasound is nearly an hour. In the meantime, the six of us sit waiting, chattering, exchanging stories, all of us naked from the waist up with hospital gowns barely concealing the topography of our chests. One woman in her 60s who’s had breast cancer already is here for a bi-annual exam. Another offers to show the results of a lumpectomy when someone expresses curiosity. Another woman in her 40s has been waiting for 2 hours for her results and worries whether she’ll be done in time to beat the traffic. One young woman in her 30s routinely comes in because the disease runs rampant in her family. Another in her 20s is here because her gynecologist thinks it’s a cyst, but wants to make sure. I am the only one who isn’t talking.

I am too busy rehearsing the statistics in my head:

**1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.

**African American women are more likely than white women to die from breast cancer.

**Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among African American women, exceeded only by lung cancer

I hear my name called.

The last time I had an ultra sound I was pregnant. There are two technicians on hand to do the ultrasound for my breasts. It must be bad, I think. Open your gown and lie down here on the table. The jel the technician applies is warm, not cold like it was when I was pregnant. Thank God for small favors.

No one speaks. The eyes of the technicians stay glued to the machine. The ultrasound of my breasts looks to me like the ultrasound of my womb. The wave pattern is the same. Both look like what the meteorologist on the Weather Channel says is the inside of a hurricane. I glance at the technicians’ faces for a hint. Like a baby looking at its’ mother’s face for reassurance or a warning. Nada. Both are expressionless professionals. Not even a smile in my direction.

A line from the book of Song of Solomon comes to mind: We have a little sister, And she has no breasts; What shall we do for our sister On the day when she is spoken for? (Song of Solomon 8:8)

You may sit up now, Ms. Weems. We’ll take these films to the specialist and be back in a few minutes with your results.

A few minutes feel like hours. The longest wait of my life. I brace myself. I’ve accepted the fact that I have cancer. Or, at least I think I have. I am not one to live in denial. I try to savor the last few moments before the technician returns. Before the news. Before my life is turned upside down. Remember: this is what before felt like. Brace yourself.

From all indications, everything is fine. We didn’t find any evidence of a tumor.

Numb. I dress and take the elevator to my car. It’s not until half way down the road on the expressway that I remember to scream with gratitude.

Have you had your annual mammogram? Are you in the habit of examining your breasts on a regular basis? How much do you know about your family’s health history? Did you know that men die of breast cancer too?