Breaking the Mammogram Waiting Room Code of Silence

BlogHer Original Post

We all know that we need to get our yearly mammogram. None of us “want” to get it, but we get it anyway because we know how important early detection is in the treatment of breast cancer. However, there is something that most of us don’t do when we go to get our mammogram that I think we should be doing, something that the doctors and technicians don’t tell us to do. I’ll warn you now...this may be hard for some.

Let me start off by telling you that I had my mammogram recently, it was what they call a “diagnostic” mammogram, as opposed to the normal yearly “routine” mammogram. You get a diagnostic mammogram when they find something that doesn’t appear normal...At this point it is still more likely than not that you don't have cancer, but it could turn out that you do. I know cancer is a scary word, but we really need to get over it. Cancer is not a four letter word that we can’t talk about, in fact we actually need to talk about it. Because, the more we talk about it, and the more we understand it…the less scary “it” will be. Like everything in life - Knowledge is power.

So, let’s get back to my mammogram. I was sitting in the waiting room...Did you ever get in an elevator with four or five other people and feel uncomfortable by the total silence? Well that is kind of what it is like in most mammogram waiting rooms, only we are there for much longer than the standard elevator trip. This was my forth visit to this particular waiting room, in a year. Each time between two and eight other women would be sitting there in various stages of the process of getting a mammogram. You know…Some fully dressed with forms to give to the technician, some waiting in their little hospital gowns for the technician to give them their mammogram, and some waiting for the doctor to say it is o.k. to leave or that they need more films. It’s an eclectic group to say the least, and for some reason we all just sit in silence. Why is that? We may not have anything in common besides getting a mammogram that particular day, but we are all women…Why don’t we talk to each-other?

The last time I had been in this waiting room, I was feeling really stressed and scared. I would have loved it if even just one of the women would have talked to me. Not about the mammogram really, just about anything at all, just to pass the time. Even so, this time when I went in, I had no intention of breaking the “code of silence”. But, I happened to have a cough, and I wanted the other women (in this somewhat small area) to know that I wasn’t sick, that it was just my asthma acting up. You know how it is now-a-days, we don’t want to be too close to anyone who might be “contagious”. In this case especially, since we could be in a room where someone might be getting treatment for cancer already, and their immune system could be compromised. So, I did it. I spoke. I told the four or five women in the waiting room the reason I was coughing. Essentially, breaking the ice.

A few moments later I noticed the woman across from me was wearing a very pretty pair of shoes. So, I just came right out and told her that I thought so. Then the woman with nice shoes and I began to talk, and before I knew it…all of the women in the waiting room were making small-talk with one another. For the next hour or so women were coming and going, and all were being engaged in some sort of communication with each other. I even found out the proper way to cook Mahi Mahi, and I had been wanting to know that for some time (really). Anyway, we talked, we laughed, we cried (well, we didn’t really cry), we had our boobs squished (yup), and passed the time in a more interesting and less uncomfortable way than usual.

That brings me to THE ONE THING WE NEED TO START DOING WHEN WE GO TO GET OUR YEARLY MAMMOGRAM. We need to start talking to each other. We need to get to know the woman sitting next to us in the waiting room, even if it is just for a few minutes. It will make the time pass more quickly, and maybe reduce our stress and anxiety too, or the stress and anxiety of another. Either way, it's better than just sitting there in uncomfortable silence.

So, give it a try...kindness is contagious. And let me know how it works out for you. Spread the word that it is now o.k. to talk to women in the mammogram waiting room. And if you are really daring…try talking to someone in the elevator too!

Also see: Blogging Our Health -- Breast Cancer and Beyond

Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan
also at Women 4 Hope and


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