I wrote a play, club termina, about women who had died of breast cancer passing through a nightclub in the clouds. Each woman performed an act, a song, monologue, skit, before she was free to become—What? A new person, I guess.
Today is the end of National Women’s Health Week—observed every year, apparently, for a week after Mother’s Day, to encourage women to take care of themselves with the same enthusiasm with which they show up for others.
COVID hasn’t helped matters: Nobody wants to go to the doctor’s office. This year, I had to bribe myself to go for my mammogram—even though I know how critical it can be.
I got breast cancer at 38. I am lucky I can write this. I was young for the diagnosis, which was confounding to my doctors, and terrifying to me. I had several friends also in their thirties diagnosed. I am the only survivor.
Lumpectomy, radiation, and a new form of chemotherapy. I did all of the treatments and at the end of six months of chemo, the protocol I had done was FDA approved as a CURE for early Breast Cancer.
But for two years I looked behind my couch for death, who I was afraid might be hiding there.
I found out I had cancer because when I went to my doctor and told him my family history, we agreed that I would come in quarterly for screenings. I was paying for health insurance, and I used it. That’s why I’m alive.
One day my doctor said, “go down the hall to the breast surgeon.” The surgeon did a needle biopsy. I got the results and hell was mine for the taking.
I keep thinking this week about the fact that many health guidelines suggest women get their first mammogram at 50. Fifty! I would have been dead for 10 years.
Preventive care is only good care if we’re empowered to access it early.
Please don’t wait until you’re 50 to get a test. Get yourself checked, or try palpating your own breasts—you use your fingers in a circular motion to feel for uninvited guests in your breasts by lifting one arm overhead, then switch arms and do the other side.
And let’s keep fighting, too, for more equitable and comprehensive care for all of us.