A few weeks ago, I did something I hadn't planned on doing until I was at least 40 years old or so. I had my very first mammogram at the ripe old age of 36.
And even though I knew getting screened was something I'd eventually have to deal with down the road, I would've preferred to procrastinate and live out the remainder of my 30s not worrying about breast cancer. It's not something anyone really has to be concerned about until they hit the big 4-0, right?
I'm not proud to say that was my philosophy -- up until the moment I entered the mobile mammovan unit and proceeded to strip from the waist up and put on what can only be described as a thin paper sheet. (Which I ripped and had to sort of hold up with my armpit, but that's beside the point.)
And as the technician led me toward what I like to refer to as "the dreaded squish machine," my anxiety shot straight through the roof -- because of the negative preconceived notions I'd always had about mammograms.
I'd heard they were painful. I'd heard that they basically flattened your boobs into a pancake. And I'd heard the word "uncomfortable" used as a description on more than one occasion.
More from The Stir: 6 Reasons Having My First Mammogram Terrifies Me
After the technician positioned me on the scanner, I took a deep breath -- and told myself over and over again that it would probably be frowned upon if I vomited all over the place from the pain.
And then she said, "Ok -- all done! Now we're going to set you up for your side-view photo ..." I was all, "Huh? It's over? You already took the picture?"
I'm not lying in the slightest. I didn't feel a damn thing. I mean, it wasn't even uncomfortable, let alone painful. At the most, it was a bit awkward, simply because of where you have to position your arms in order to get a good picture of your boobs, but other than that? It was, like, 1.000 times less invasive than a pap smear.
Yes, I'm totally serious. It was a piece of freakin' CAKE, people!
And now that it's over, I realize the only thing I really had to fear was my own imagination -- and I will never hesitate to get a mammogram in the future.
I'm happy to report that my scan came back normal, though because I have "young, perky breasts" (my coworker's words, not mine) -- I do have to get an ultrasound next because I have dense breast tissue. And while I'm confident that everything will turn out ok, having a mammogram was still the kick in the pants I needed to remind me that I cannot take my health for granted.
Having breast cancer, or any kind of cancer for that matter, is much more frightening than a simple procedure that's over in five minutes.
Don't be afraid of having a mammogram -- be afraid of what could happen if you don't have one.
Have you had your first mammogram yet?
Image via Helen King/Corbis