It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness, I thought I’d share an older piece I wrote. Please share if you feel so inclined.

The Mammogram Experience

One of my summer rituals is going to the gyno for my yearly check-up, and then following up with a mammogram. About a month ago, the day had finally arrived for the annual event. There are so many things to worry about on this day. What do I wear that is easy to get on and off? I almost wore a dress, but then realized I would be unnecessarily naked for my mammogram. Shorts – I need shorts. What shoes should I wear so my feet don’t stink. Seriously, that’s a thing. How long will I have to sit there covered only by a sheet before the doctor wanders in?

I won’t go into the details about the gyno visit because that’s just gross. Who really wants to hear about the stirrups, rubber gloves, and the cold, metal devices? I will only say that when I am in that very humiliating position, I always wonder what makes someone choose to become a gyno? As my doctor is examining me, I am suspiciously  looking at him thinking What kind of person are you to want to do this every day?

Next, it is time to go across the road for my mammogram. Since many of you haven’t experienced this, I thought you should know what it’s like. First of all, I am certain that as a petite person, my experience varies from that of a  normal-sized woman. This particular breast center has tried to create a spa-like atmosphere, and I appreciate the soothing colors, comfy furniture, and trickling fountains. Once we are called back, we are ushered into a nice dressing room to undress from the waist up and put on a pink, fluffy robe. No paper vests here. We then move on to the “Robe Room.” It’s quite nice really. All of us just sitting around in our pink fluffy robes looking through out-dated magazines.. Occasionally I say a little prayer that everyone has secured their robes so nothing falls out.

And then I hear my name. The mammo lady guides me back to the semi-dark room with the imposing machine, the vice if you will. It is about to get real. She maneuvers me up to the vice, asks me to take one arm out of the robe, and proceeds to manhandle me. Seriously, her arms are everywhere; I don’t know how to stand because it’s awkward as hell; and she is trying to get my little boob in that vice. This is tricky. Mammo lady begins, “Turn your toes that way, but your shoulders this way, put your chin up, and your arm over there.” What? And I am petite. This is no lie, in order to get the required goods into that vice, I swear she pulls skin from my belly and neck. My entire midsection is trapped in that damn vice. And then she begins cranking it closed. Tighter and tighter it pulls all my skin. It is so tight my knees no longer sag. Then she looks me in the eye, gives me a little smile, and gives one more turn. Crap! I am now hanging from this machine by my boob. I am certain the vice is cutting off circulation, and soon my boob will fall off.

She casually walks over to her computer area as I am on my tippy toes trying not to fall because, really, if I did fall, I’d rip my boob off. And then she says, “When I count to three, stop breathing until I tell you you can breathe again.” Shit. I stopped breathing five minutes ago. I have one arm on top of the machine, the other dangling at my side, I am twisted up like a contortionist, and now I have to continue to hold my breath.

The machine begins to make a whirring noise. It oh so slowly makes a revolution while capturing pictures of my neck and belly skin. My neck is pulled so tightly I begin to feel like I am suffocating. And then she says to relax. Sure. Relax. Until you grab up all the skin from the other side. She releases me, and starts over on the left side. One would think I’d have it down by now, but it is no better. The arms. The toes. The neck skin. The twisting and turning and smashing. This is not the spa experience they make it appear to be. This is a medieval torture device. It’s 2017; there has to be a better way.

Mammo lady finally gets the left side of my body into her vice. Crank. Crank. And just one more…crank. I am now secured in the machine, again on my tippy toes. Deep breaths; now hold my breath. I can do this. I’ve survived childbirth three times, and the teenage years with three daughters. I can survive this machine. Just hang on to that machine, keep my balance, and do not think about all the skin clamped in. And…we’re done. Mammo lady releases me, and although smashed, everything appears to be in place. My skin slowly begins to return to its intended position as I do neck stretches and arm circles. Until next year, Mammo Lady!

Early detection is so very important in the fight against breast cancer. Men and young people, though necessary, mammograms are not something the women in your lives look forward to. To make it more pleasant, you could have chocolate and wine waiting for us upon our return. And, husbands, please keep your hands to yourselves on mammo day.

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Here I Go Again…

Menopause. It’s a rite of middle age. Actually, post-middle age because I doubt I will live to be over 100. I’ll probably drown in a puddle of sweat in my own bed. Menopause can make life pretty tough, especially when in my head I am still young and thin. Unfortunately in the mirror I am aging and chubby. I volley back and forth between acceptance and disbelief. Somedays I think I’ll just roll with it and buy bigger clothes and invest in better wrinkle creams, and other days I just want my old body back – the one that didn’t sweat profusely several times throughout the night, and fit nicely into skinny jeans. The body that could run a decent pace and could do – and enjoy doing – burpees.

I thought I understood hot flashes until I actually had one. When I was young and birthing children, I thought what I experienced was hot flashes, but I was just hot most of the time. A menopausal hot flash is different. It always awakens me as I begin to get restless. Then when I am awake enough to fully experience the heat, I can feel it start at my core, and then it spreads throughout my extremities until sweat is pooling under my boobs and my hair is wet. I kick the covers off, or at least attempt to. Two dogs sleep with my husband and me, so sometimes kicking covers off means sending a dog sailing off the bed. I’ve found they don’t appreciate waking to my flailing arms and legs as I work to extract myself from the sheet and comforter that suddenly feel as if they’ve caught fire.

My nightly hot flashes became so regular that my husband bought a king-sized bed. Not only do the dogs keep me from cooling off, but my husband feels like a furnace when I am already hot. One touch of his hand makes my arm feel like it’s melting.

Another effect of menopause is weight gain. For me, this is much more difficult to deal with because I’ve been petite my whole life. It took no time after having a baby for me to get back to my pre-baby size, and I didn’t exercise back then. I thought the weight gain was bad in my forties, but could still control my weight with exercise and sensible eating. Now, however, it’s getting out of control. I find myself buying only loose-fitting tops and dresses and I finally gave in and bought a larger size pant. I don’t want to just give up, but damn, I can’t eat anything good. And when I am trying to avoid crap, every other commercial is for Blizzards and Monster burgers.

So, how am I going to combat menopause? Wine is an excellent option. But it also has a lot of calories. I do believe that menopause is the reason so many middle-aged women enjoy a glass or four of wine regularly. If we can’t be skinny, we might as well have fun. Drink enough wine and you won’t notice those wrinkles when you look in the mirror and you’ll be happy to wear leggings and a tunic (Thank God for that style!). My dear friend got me a wine Tervis that says, ‘This wine is making me awesome!’ Yes. Yes, it is. But I still need to workout because I can’t drink wine every day.

To try to get in somewhat decent shape, I am going to run two half marathons this fall. I had about given up the idea of distance running because it’s just getting harder and harder, but rather than quit, I am just going to have to accept that I will never run a half marathon in close to two hours again. I will have to accept that I might even have to walk a portion of the course. I’ve completed 13 half marathons so far, and I’ve never regretted any of them. I hated a few of them (Hoosier Half in April – 20 degrees and hills!), but I was always glad I finished. I am going to run the Monumental Half in November with my daughter Bethany, and before that my husband and I are going to run the Purdue Half in October. It wasn’t in our plans, but we will be there that weekend for his class reunion, so why not? My training for the Monumental had me running ten miles that weekend, so I might as well add three point one and get a medal. I hope the medal goes with the dress I’m wearing to the reunion.

So, menopause sucks. I can’t find one positive thing to say about it other than every woman seems to survive it. It would help if I had some sort of timeline. If I knew there were an end in sight, I could suck it up and take one for the team. I could promise my husband that this craziness would end soon and he would get his wife back. But no, there is no timeline. This crap can last years. I really wish Eve hadn’t eaten that damn apple.

 

Too Many Young Lives

I haven’t written anything about school shootings because, frankly, it’s difficult to put those emotions into words. As a junior high teacher, I’ve felt a plethora of emotions, from sadness to anger to fear to frustration. Why have our children become so violent? Why do these kids hurt so badly that they think shooting up their schools is the only answer? Will I have to face this one day? What if I can’t protect those children in my care?

Since the most recent shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, many questions have weighed on my mind, but one in particular. Please note that this blog is not meant to judge anyone. We are all trying to find answers that don’t seem to exist. We’ve heard suggestions of more gun control, tougher security in schools, cracking down on bullying…all reasonable points. Why does no one ever seem to ask what families are doing? What can we do to support families? Why are we asking our schools and our government to fix this, and we aren’t demanding families do anything? Perhaps someone somewhere has begun studying these shooters in order to find common denominators, but we don’t hear that; we hear that we need tougher gun laws. I want to know what these kids have in common. I want to know where society, whether it’s school, government, or family, fell short for these kids.

As a mother, I cannot fathom finding out one of my kids was responsible for killing someone, let alone several people. That pain is unimaginable, so I am not blaming the parents, but rather asking if they noticed their kids were hurting or angry? Did they spend time with them or try to get help? I would think I know my girls well enough to know that they have crossed over to a very dark place, but do any of us know our kids as well as we think we do? Did these kids associate with their family? Were they often alone? Are there mental health services in all communities? Is it accessible to all families?

Most of the shooters have claimed to be bullied. I know bullying is a huge issue, but folks, it’s nothing new. I graduated over 30 years ago, and I can still tell you kids who were bullied, but I don’t know that we had ever used the term bully at that time. And there certainly weren’t school shootings. I used to read my third graders a book called The Hundred Dresses, written by Eleanor Estes in 1944. Do you have any idea what it’s about? Bullying. A young poor girl was made fun of because of her dresses. In 1944. Were there school shootings in 1944? What has changed? I don’t think we can just blame it on the accessibility of guns; farm kids have always had access to guns. How can we give kids the skills to cope when things don’t go their way? How can we teach them to stand up for themselves without hurting others? How can we teach bullies to treat others with respect? How can we help families model that behavior?

Social media and video games. What role do they play? Violent video games have also been blamed for the increase in violence in our kids. While I’m not a fan of those games, and don’t see what good can possibly come from playing them (trust me, I just see kids falling asleep in class because they’ve stayed up all night playing these games), I really don’t know that they’ve impacted the number of school shootings. When we were kids, we played cops and robbers, and kids played soldiers and pretended to shoot one another in play. Heck, I remember in first grade we played cowboys and Indians in gym class, with each group trying to capture the other. That would be completely politically incorrect in 2018. My own grandsons, who are four and six, love to play soldier. Their dad was in the Army, so they know our soldiers are heroes, so they love to pretend they are American soldiers, and can turn most anything into a gun. Do I think they will parlay that play into something deadly? Absolutely not.

Social media is something I really question. Kids read about other shooters, and their teenage mind sees them as heroes – kids who are now infamous, but no longer have to face their problems. They can “follow” anyone, anywhere, including people who might encourage immoral behavior. Social media has made bullying easy, and adults are none the wiser. Where do we draw the line between giving our kids some privacy, and knowing enough about their lives to keep them safe?

One thing I think we’ve lost in recent years is a sense of community. When I was a kid, all the moms and dads in our neighborhood had authority over us. If a neighbor corrected me for doing something wrong, my mom backed the neighbor up. The parents looked out for all of the kids. Now we don’t dare correct someone else’s child for fear of being sued. What happened to wanting the best for all of our kids? If we had that sense of community, would more kids feel loved and cared for? Would we be more likely to notice when a kid is so angry that he’d shoot up his school?

I wish I had answers rather than so many questions. I feel fortunate that my school and my community is being proactive. My school has made several security upgrades, and will add a resource officer this fall. I’m glad I teach at a small school where I know almost all of the kids. I pray for the future of our schools and our nation’s children. They should not have to be afraid to go to school; I should not have to be afraid to be their teacher.

Love your kids, love your nieces and nephews, love your neighbors’ kids, love the kids in your community. Compliment kids when they do something good. Say hello to a kid who looks lonely. Ask the neighbor kid if he or she is doing okay. Pay attention to kids. I don’t think our government or our schools can “fix” the problem; they can only try to keep the shooters out. But us? We might be able to fix the problem by noticing our children, by making sure every one of them feels loved.

 

4 Days Until the Mini!

I’m four days away from running the Indy 500 Mini, and those crazy thoughts are starting to creep in. As I’ve gotten older, it is so much more difficult to run without some ache. I’ve already had knee surgery after an IT band issue and some arthritis. I’ve also been to the chiropractor and physical therapist because of hip pain. Right now — and this could change tomorrow — I have no major issues, but I have had some soreness. I’m praying that I can make it through Saturday with no pain.

It was five years ago that I began having IT band problems. I fought through training, getting cortisone shots to get me through the Kentucky Derby Half Marathon, but it didn’t work. At about mile eight, as I was attempting to run through Churchill Downs, my knee just gave out. I had to call a friend to come get me. Though I knew it was certainly possible that I wouldn’t finish, I was crushed. I had helped several friends train for their first half marathons that year, and I was the one who couldn’t finish. In the whole scheme of life, I’ve learned that there are so many worse things. So, I didn’t finish a race. There would be more races. After therapy, rest, and surgery, I ran that race the next year, and I finished. No one is exempt when it comes to the possibility of injuries. And sometimes we just have to listen to our bodies and acknowledge that we just can’t do it at that moment.

I’ve tried to determine my goals for this race. I’d like to finish without walking, but I am not going to beat myself up if I have to walk. I’d like to place in the top 100 in my age group (I think there were over 800 in my 50-54 group last year). If I don’t, it’s fine; I will get my medal regardless. Saturday is my nephew’s birthday; he would have been 33. He died almost seven years ago, so this race is for him. I will run in gratitude that I am able to do so.  I will run knowing that my nephew and my dad are cheering me on.

Although the race is my husband’s and my main reason for a weekend in Indy, I am also looking forward to a little shopping, and to seeing Wicked on stage Friday night. Staying out late the night before the race might not be the smartest idea, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Set some goals, Folks! Do something that makes you uncomfortable. Be nice to those who are hurting. Stand up for those who are mistreated. Remove the people from you life who only bring negativity. And most of all, love yourself!

Over 50 and Training for a Mini

I haven’t blogged about running in quite some time, and there is actually a reason for that. Throughout the winter, I was a slacker. Like most slackers, I have a host of excuses, and some pretty valid reasons. Both my brother and my mother became ill at the same time. Trust me – I have told them how much I appreciate their timing. My brother was in the hospital an hour away for 27 days, in a rehabilitation facility for 10 days, and then he lived with us for four months. My mother hasn’t been hospitalized, but has had numerous doctor appointments, also an hour away, and I was her transportation and her advocate. I was exhausted, and despite the fact that exercise probably would have done my emotional state some good, my time was limited.

Before all of this, I had quit teaching Tabata Bootcamp classes at the gym. After four years of early morning classes, I just couldn’t do it anymore. Two mornings each week of getting up at 4:30 seemed to set the tone for the whole week, and packing all of my gear so I could get ready for work in the locker room became tedious. I had no idea what Tabata had done for my body until I was no longer doing it. Although I don’t really weigh any more, I have lost all muscle tone, and my abs are now buried under a roll of flab. I have back fat that hangs over my sports bra, and flabby arms. And my clothes no longer fit.

About a month ago, I had a dressing-room meltdown – at a most inopportune time. My husband and I had taken a romantic weekend away, and had a great time – until my meltdown. I decided to try on dresses at Banana Republic for my daughter’s upcoming graduation from college. Last kid – Mom deserves a new dress. I knew my clothes had been snug, so I grabbed a size larger than I had been wearing. Still didn’t fit. Not even close. And everything looked awful and seemed to accentuate my gut. I cussed. I fought back tears the rest of the day. I was grouchy. My husband knew not to say much, so his only response was “I guess we aren’t going to the Loft?” Hell, no, we aren’t. And that day I decided I had to make some changes. I had to take time for myself, and apparently I needed to stop eating.

I had registered for the Indy 500 Mini back in the fall, but because I hadn’t really run much all winter, my running sucked. I had pretty much decided I wasn’t going to run the race. But then I had my meltdown, and decided that I needed to run; I needed incentive to get out and train. The last few half marathons I ran were for other people. I ran my nieces’ first half marathons with them, and my daughter’s with her, and I ran the St. Jude Half with my friends. I needed to run the 500 just for me. After months of caring for others, it was time to care for myself.

I began to make exercise a priority again, but gosh, it was so much more difficult. I had not stopped running over the winter, but had run less. As I tried to increase my miles, I realized I was much slower than I had been, though I had never been very fast. I began to wonder if at 51, I should just accept that I am going to gain some weight and get flabby, and if I should just be glad I can run, and not worry about my pace. That’s all pretty difficult to accept. And I’m pretty stubborn.

So it began. Long runs on the weekends, and more consistent running during the week. My long runs have been less than impressive, partly due to the extended winter, and partly due to my being out of shape and slightly lazy. I have continued to push through, and this past weekend I ran 11 miles – without walking! That was a huge boost to my confidence. It was really slow, about an 10:53 pace, but I didn’t stop, and I felt great after. This will be my 13th half marathon, and I have run anywhere from a 9:04 pace to a 10:35 pace. I’d like to run around a 10:10 pace, but I would have to knock a lot of time off, and I should probably focus on just finishing without injury. A 9:04 pace? That was the one time I ran a half in under two hours, and it will be my only time. I still don’t know how I pulled that off, though I remember I had to go to the bathroom most of the race, so that might have contributed to my speedy time.

As I was running my 11-miler, I listened to a podcast to occupy my mind. When I train alone, I listen to podcasts rather than music. I’ve found it keeps me more entertained, and I focus less on minor discomforts. I had chosen the “Another Mother Runner” podcast. I’ve read Sarah’s and Dimity’s books and blogs, and have followed their podcast for a long time. I enjoy their honest, down-to-earth look at running, and have learned a lot from them.

As I was running and listening, I thought about how many of their topics don’t apply to me as much since my kids are grown. They talk a lot about juggling raising kids and working in runs. I am busy with teaching and extra-curriculars, but it isn’t a big deal for me to find time to run. I find my challenges have more to do with aging at this point in my life. I wish there were a podcast for runners who share those challenges, and even considered started some type of social media group or webpage for ‘older’ female runners. I’ve seen pages for females who are mother runners, runners who went from being over-weight to fit, runners who are in phenomenal shape and share workouts and nutrition information – everything but over-50 females who are now facing empty nests, menopause, grandkids, and aging parents.

So where do I go from here? I don’t know how to start a podcast, and don’t know that I have time to add something else to my schedule, but I’d consider it. I could start a Facebook group, but how do I get others interested? This blog is already up and running; I just need to write more often. I’ve been writing, but not for the blog. If you are a middle-aged female runner, share your thoughts. What would you like to see? What type of format would you be most likely to follow? Please share this with your friends, and let’s get the conversation started. How can we best reach and encourage middle-aged women who run?

The 500 Mini is in less than two weeks. No matter the outcome, I plan to have a fantastic weekend. My husband and I are going to Indy the day before, staying in one of the best hotels in downtown Indy, and we have tickets for Wicked for that night. I want to enjoy the moments without worrying about the finish. I want to take in the views and admire each step as we run around the 500 track. I want to embrace that I have legs that will carry me 13.1 miles.

Again, please give me your feedback, and share this post. Thanks for reading!

Everyone’s Grandma Betty

Every once in awhile, God places angels right here among us. Grandma Betty, as she is affectionately known, was indeed an angel. I recently read a quote that said, “Your smile is your logo; your personality is your business card; how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark.” Betty shared her logo with everyone with whom she crossed paths, and one always felt better after spending time with her. She had the ability to make everyone feel loved and appreciated. She made others feel better about themselves simply by being Betty. That is truly a gift.

Going out shopping, to an auction, or to dinner with Betty was always an experience. She knew everyone, and it seemed that everyone was her cousin. Her family seemed to blanket Perry, Breckinridge, and Hancock counties. I often wondered if all of these people were actually her cousins, or if Betty just had so much love in her heart that she wanted everyone to feel like family.

I still remember the day I first met Betty. We had just moved into the house across the street from her, and she and Dorothy, another neighbor, came over to introduce themselves. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.Over the years, Betty became part of our family. She was a second mother to me, offering her wisdom and love whenever it was needed, even times when I didn’t know I needed it. She became a grandmother to my daughters, sharing her love of baking and of laughter with them. They loved walking across the street to Grandma Betty’s. I loved having someone who would share both my joys and my tears. No matter how down I might feel, talking to Betty always made me feel comforted. And when I had good news, she would end up being more excited than I was.

About 18 years ago, when my daughters were young and I was working full time as a hairdresser, I began to consider going to college to become a teacher. It was an intimidating decision, and I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. Betty encouraged me, never doubting that I could do it, and shared her stories of nursing school. She let me know that she would be there for me, and when I finally began classes, she even kept Addie while I went to school. It was during this time that Addie started her coffee addiction. “I just give her milk with a little coffee in it,” Betty would laugh. Addie and Betty had their routine; Betty let Addie watch her shows on Nickelodeon, cooked her better lunches than she would ever get at home, and they would swing. We all have such fond memories of the swing in Betty’s yard. And her yard…that lady could grow flowers. I will never look at an iris without thinking about Betty.

She took great pride in her flowers and in her home. She and I shared a love of decorating and of antiques. We’d go to a shop where she’d purchase some treasure, usually saying, “Don’t tell anyone how much a paid for this!” Every time I went to Betty’s house, something was new or rearranged. Her table was always set, and there was always candy on the bar for all of her kids. One always felt welcome in Grandma Betty’s home.

Betty spent her life helping others. Whether it was raising her six children or nursing ill patients, teaching school children or rocking babies at daycare, so many in our community were made a little better by a hug or kind word from Betty. As we all say our final good-byes, we need to take a piece of that with us and love fully just as she did. We need to pay attention, and when someone needs a lift, provide it. We need to make every child who crosses our paths know that he or she is loved and cared for. We need to encourage those who come behind us on this journey to chase their dreams, just as she chased hers to become a nurse.

And we should all thank Betty’s children for sharing their mother with us. She was so proud that each of them had gone to college, and she was proud of the caring adults they all became. So thank you, Donna, Doug, Debbie, Lorie, Lisa, and Janet. Your mother was a gem and she will be missed by so many. We all have an emptiness in our hearts, yet our hearts are also more full because of the love Betty shared with us all. Until we meet again…

 

The Vice

One of my summer rituals is going to the gyno for my yearly check-up, and then following up with a mammogram. About a month ago, the day had finally arrived for the annual event. There are so many things to worry about on this day. What do I wear that is easy to get on and off? I almost wore a dress, but then realized I would be unnecessarily naked for my mammogram. Shorts – I need shorts. What shoes should I wear so my feet don’t stink. Seriously, that’s a thing. How long will I have to sit there covered only by a sheet before the doctor wanders in?

I won’t go into the details about the gyno visit because that’s just gross. Who really wants to hear about the stirrups, rubber gloves, and the cold, metal devices? I will only say that when I am in that very humiliating position, I always wonder what makes someone choose to become a gyno? As my doctor is examining me, I am suspiciously  looking at him thinking What kind of person are you to want to do this every day?

Next, it is time to go across the road for my mammogram. Since many of you haven’t experienced this, I thought you should know what it’s like. First of all, I am certain that as a petite person, my experience varies from that of a  normal-sized woman. This particular breast center has tried to create a spa-like atmosphere, and I appreciate the soothing colors, comfy furniture, and trickling fountains. Once we are called back, we are ushered into a nice dressing room to undress from the waist up and put on a pink, fluffy robe. No paper vests here. We then move on to the “Robe Room.” It’s quite nice really. All of us just sitting around in our pink fluffy robes looking through out-dated magazines.. Occasionally I say a little prayer that everyone has secured their robes so nothing falls out.

And then I hear my name. The mammo lady guides me back to the semi-dark room with the imposing machine, the vice if you will. It is about to get real. She maneuvers me up to the vice, asks me to take one arm out of the robe, and proceeds to manhandle me. Seriously, her arms are everywhere; I don’t know how to stand because it’s awkward as hell; and she is trying to get my little boob in that vice. This is tricky. Mammo lady begins, “Turn your toes that way, but your shoulders this way, put your chin up, and your arm over there.” What? And I am petite. This is no lie, in order to get the required goods into that vice, I swear she pulls skin from my belly and neck. My entire midsection is trapped in that damn vice. And then she begins cranking it closed. Tighter and tighter it pulls all my skin. It is so tight my knees no longer sag. Then she looks me in the eye, gives me a little smile, and gives one more turn. Crap! I am now hanging from this machine by my boob. I am certain the vice is cutting off circulation, and soon my boob will fall off.

She casually walks over to her computer area as I am on my tippy toes trying not to fall because, really, if I did fall, I’d rip my boob off. And then she says, “When I count to three, stop breathing until I tell you you can breathe again.” Shit. I stopped breathing five minutes ago. I have one arm on top of the machine, the other dangling at my side, I am twisted up like a contortionist, and now I have to continue to hold my breath.

The machine begins to make a whirring noise. It oh so slowly makes a revolution while capturing pictures of my neck and belly skin. My neck is pulled so tightly I begin to feel like I am suffocating. And then she says to relax. Sure. Relax. Until you grab up all the skin from the other side. She releases me, and starts over on the left side. One would think I’d have it down by now, but it is no better. The arms. The toes. The neck skin. The twisting and turning and smashing. This is not the spa experience they make it appear to be. This is a medieval torture device. It’s 2017; there has to be a better way.

Mammo lady finally gets the left side of my body into her vice. Crank. Crank. And just one more…crank. I am now secured in the machine, again on my tippy toes. Deep breaths; now hold my breath. I can do this. I’ve survived childbirth three times, and the teenage years with three daughters. I can survive this machine. Just hang on to that machine, keep my balance, and do not think about all the skin clamped in. And…we’re done. Mammo lady releases me, and although smashed, everything appears to be in place. My skin slowly begins to return to its intended position as I do neck stretches and arm circles. Until next year, Mammo Lady!

Early detection is so very important in the fight against breast cancer. Men and young people, though necessary, mammograms are not something the women in your lives look forward to. To make it more pleasant, you could have chocolate and wine waiting for us upon our return. And, husbands, please keep your hands to yourselves on mammo day.

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