I Insisted on a Mammogram at 36 Years Old

“I have healthy boobies. I have healthy boobies. I have healthy boobies.” This was a mantra I silently screamed to myself last Friday during a routine mammogram.

I started getting mammograms at 33 years old at the insistence of my doctor because I have fibrocystic breasts. Or as I like to describe them, “boobs that are super lumpy and dense that hurt like a mofo and become incredibly hard during changes in my menstrual cycle.” It’s totally as fun as it sounds.

With these moody bewbs comes the nearly impossible task of performing effective self breast exams. If I feel around my lovely lady lumps, I’ll feel a whole bunch of scary stuff that I’ll self-diagnose as the unthinkable, turn to Dr. Internet for advice, and start planning my own funeral. Again, totally as fun as it sounds.

To say I’m afraid of my breasts would be an understatement. I’ve lived in fear of these lumpy time bombs since I was old enough to know the signs of breast cancer. As such, I made the personal decision to channel my fear into a proactive stance on breast cancer detection. Hey, it’s better than denial.

When I recently switched healthcare providers and requested a mammogram at 36 years old, I was promptly denied by my insurance company because I was under 40. Oh, because no one under 40 ever gets breast cancer, right? Excuse me, if a woman of any age requests a mammogram, she should have full access to receive one. Hell, imaging centers should roll out the red (or pink) carpet, because people, getting a mammogram can be more than a little bit scary.

It’s not that the mammogram itself is scary. It’s what the mammogram can detect that’s scary. But you know what’s even scarier? Not detecting breast cancer.

Ladies, it’s our responsibility as owners of our bodies to advocate for our health. We have families, we have friends, and we have so much good left to do in this life.

I can’t in good conscious serve as an example of health and well-being for my children if I fail to take care of myself. I insisted on a mammogram for selfish and selfless reasons. I need to see my kids graduate from high school, fall in love, and get married. I need to cook Sunday dinners for my family, be there to offer warm hugs, and tell my kids it’s going to be OK. I need to be around to care for my aging parents, argue with my husband, and write until I run out of things to say.

I’m not done as a daughter. I’m not done as a wife. I’m not done as a mother. I’m not done as a friend.

While we may not be able to prevent breast cancer, we can do our part to detect it. Ladies, as fearful as I am waiting for my results, I’m proud of myself for taking control of my health. I begged my doctor for a referral for a mammogram and got one. I waited a month for my mammogram appointment. And now I’ll have to wait 2-3 torturous weeks for my results. But at least I’m doing it.

If fear is to be the motivator of anything in this life, let it be the motivator for early detection. Let’s not be afraid of cancer, let’s be afraid of not being done on this earth.

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I urge you to make that mammogram appointment. Don’t do it later. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Do it now. Do it with me. And if doing it for yourself isn’t enough, do it for your kids.

When was your last mammogram?

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