I have that sick feeling in my stomach. The nervous butterflies have been there for the last few days. Not the good ones either. The ones which are created by apprehension, of unknown outcomes; the ‘what if’ scenarios. Today I am having my yearly mammogram. I don’t have a family history of breast cancer so I keep telling myself I shouldn’t be nervous and that the screening is just routine. We all go through it. According to my GP (when I told him I do drink probably a bit too much wine), the greatest risk factor for me is that I am a woman and I am over 40. There are millions of others in the same boat as me. That fact, however, doesn't stop me from feeling nervous, nor worried about the outcome.
I live regionally and my appointment is in Brisbane so I leave home at
I take my seat and do a quick mental calculation. There are about 16 women in the room at one particular point during the morning. If statistics are correct and 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the time they are 85 that means that 2 of us here at some point in time may walk out with bad news on our side. The odds are low but not low enough in my opinion.
I am called quickly for my mammogram. People often complain that it can hurt. In my situation and in my opinion it doesn’t hurt at all. Sure it is a bit awkward, but I’d take a woman squashing my breast any day over the alternative. As my dad who has recently undergone chemotherapy for prostate cancer said to me: ‘Clare, when you hit 40 it’s all about prevention’. If that means sucking it up for a few minutes to have a mammogram then so be it.
I return to my seat and watch the other women being called in. They all look nervous, a little on edge. None of us wants to be here yet we know that we must. It's non-negotiable. Mandatory not obligatory once we hit a certain age.
Like everyone else, I wait patiently for my results. I am ushered in to see one of the doctors and she runs through the outcome of the tests with me. I am one of the lucky ones. Today, I get to walk out the door, no cause for concern. They don't want to see me for another 12 months. Phew….the butterflies finally subside and know that I can breathe a sigh of relief until my test next year.
My good fortune isn’t lost on me. Literally, as soon as I am dressed and waiting to leave I text a good friend to see how she is. I tell her in the conversation where I am and that I am lucky as all went well. She responds with ‘Indeed. Breast cancer truly sucks’. And she should know. One of her friends is going through it at the moment. Diagnosed only about 1 year ago. A young woman with small children.
Clare Sultmann is a wife, mother of 3 and the founder of Dear Molly.
As a survivor of a catastrophic accident, former barrister at