This month is breast cancer awareness month. People everywhere are wearing their pink to show support for breast cancer survivers and sufferers, as well as to remind women to be proactive in their fight against breast cancer by engaging in regular self-examinations and mammograms. This is an incredibly important issue, and one that is dear to my heart, as my childhood best friend’s mother passed away five years ago from breast cancer. It’s an important concern, and I believe that everyone should support the cause any way they can.
That being said, I hold breast cancer awareness responsible for one of my most embarrassing moments of the last year (I have to qualify that, because I’ve had a lot of most embarrassing moments in my lifetime).
I can be a bit of a hypochondriac (thank you, Dad), and I am (and always have been) a hard and fast rule-follower. Taken separately, these characteristics can be amusing and somewhat obnoxious, but fairly easy to handle. Taken together, I turn slightly obsessive in my fight against all possible medical conditions. As a result, when I heard that women should perform self-examinations regularly, I took it to heart. I’ve always been a girl who likes to do well on her exams, but an exam that can lead to better physical health and to early detection? This is the kind of exam that I aim to ace.
And so, for the last several years, I did my part and engaged in self -examinations. Regularly. With great passion and enthusiasm. If there was a cancerous cell lurking in my body, I aimed to find it. Just like the ads and the doctors and the women in my life told me to do.
Not terribly long ago, it was time for my latest annual exam (sorry, guys, I know this post is a little lady-heavy). These appointments are the worst. I absolutely dread them, and they’re always just so awkward. For me, the worst part is the breast exam, because it’s the only part of the visit when you’re in a compromising position and actually have to look the doctor in the eye. This particular visit was the first time I had ever seen this doctor, so my discomfort level was alrady increased. Luckily for me, he had a great sense of humor (which I respond well too), so I felt a little more relaxed and settled back in my chair waiting for the exam to begin.
In the course of our conversation, he asked if I was married or single, and I said single, and we talked about the plight of the single girl. It finally came time for the breast exam, and as he was doing his thing, he asked me if I ever give myself self-exams, stating the importance of engaging in that behavior. Always aiming to please and pass my exams, I said with much enthusiasm, “Of course I do! Regularly!” Just like the ads instruct. I’m such a good woman.
“How often is regularly,” he asked me.
“Every morning when I take a shower,” I responded, feeling a little smug that I was such a go-getter and overachiever.
My smugness sooned turned into humiliation, however, as the doctor immediately stopped the examination, looked me in the eye and said, “Really? Every day?’ “Yep!” “Erin, you’re only supposed to do it once a month. Otherwise you aren’t always able to tell a difference. Promise me that from now on, you’ll stop examining yourself everyday.”
Oh the horror. I hope you never have to experience the mortification of having to hear your ob/gyn tell you to stop feeling yourself up on a daily basis. I can tell you from personal experience that it does some major damage to your self-coolness factor. My face turned bright red, and I made some lame joke about getting cheap thrills anyway you can (way to make it worse, Erin!), and then promised that I would limit myself to one time a month.
You’ll be proud to know that so far, I’ve be successful in this attempt.
While I have a few other stories related to breast exams up my sleeves, I can feel my parents and close friends cringing at the fact that I just posted a story about an ob/gyn visit and my zeal for self breast examinations, so I better save those for a different time.
In the meantime and in honor of breast cancer awareness month, I’d just like to take this opportunity to remind you ladies (and to tell you fellows to remind those ladies in your life) to be sure to check yourself regularly. Just not every day.