#CheckMoreFearLess: The Skinny on My First Mammogram

#CheckMoreFearLess: The Skinny on My First Mammogram

"I'm only 35, I can't have cancer."

Published October 6, 2015

It was 8:45 a.m. and I felt a pain that I hadn’t ever felt before.

But in true Kellee “I don’t have time for this” fashion, I ignored it and focused on the fact that I had to be on set all day for my film-directing class. But later that night when I got home and laid my head on the pillow, the fear took over. 

I’m only 35, I can’t have cancer.

This can’t be happening to me.

I am really terrified.

The next day, I made an appointment with a health clinic with a breast and cervical cancer screening program for low-income and uninsured women like myself at the time. And I was told that I most likely had cystic breasts, also called lumpy breasts, which was common among women my age and not a health risk. They gave me a referral to get an ultrasound, but believed that everything was fine and that I shouldn't worry. 

It was a relief, but then I did something stupid. I put it off. Thinking, "Oh, well, it’s just cysts, it’s not that big of deal — I can just wait." And that’s exactly what I did for almost a year and a half. And then my beautiful cousin by marriage Cynthia died earlier this year from breast cancer and I knew I couldn't be so complacent anymore, especially since my cysts were acting up even worse than they were before. 

The only way to know if I was really OK was to get a mammogram.

And being a health writer I knew that despite having a family history, I was still at risk. Past research has shown that younger Black women were more likely to be diagnosed with more aggressive forms of breast cancer. This wasn't a game and I knew better. 

So after some serious talks with myself, I went back to my doc, got another referral and made an appointment for a few weeks later.

Thankfully, I was surrounded by my parents, friends and the women at my former job who talked me down from crazy and encouraged me to get this done. Those same women at work shared with me their own stories and I felt like I wasn't alone.

Now I won’t lie, getting in that robe, being naked and standing in front of this huge device was really intimidating. I got really emotional and cried a little, but the technician was sweet and walked me through every step of the way.

And the pain? Not as horrific as I thought. Yes, the machine does flatten your boobs like pancakes, but the pressure is tolerable. It's the nerves that get to you, because after each photo is taken, there is this voice in your head that tells you that they found something.

When it was over, the doctor reviewed my X-rays and revealed that there were two tiny masses on the left side of my breast that for now looked normal. But to make sure they stay that way, I have to go back every six months to get them monitored for the next two years.

Granted, I wanted to be told everything was great and that I didn’t have to come back until I turned 40. But I am grateful. Yes, I worry about those two tiny masses and pray that they stay normal as can be. All I can do now is pray, exercise, eat better, lose weight and hope for the best.

Looking back, I am glad that I finally bit the bullet and got my mammogram. Yes, it was scary, but now I know and, let me tell you, it's like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. #CheckMoreFearLess

Breast cancer survivors share their story. Watch below!

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(Photo: Isaac Lane Koval/Corbis)

Written by Kellee Terrell


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