Rosser Miller: Mammograms save lives

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and regardless of where we find ourselves on the calendar, I am always hyper-aware of breast cancer. As a middle-aged woman, it looms in the background with each passing birthday and with each friend or acquaintance diagnosed. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least 15 of my friends and family who have battled breast cancer. It feels ubiquitous and overwhelming.

As I imagine most women do, I have a complicated relationship with my breasts. Mine came very early— like third grade early, which was mortifying.

I have few vivid memories from that year. One was watching The Challenger explode live on TV. The second was weeping in front of the whole class while my teacher, Mrs. Templeton, read aloud the ending of “Where the Red Fern Grows.” And the third was this jerk kid named William.

It was recess. We were playing four-square in the hot Texas sun. And that kid pointed at me in front of everyone and heckled, “YOU need a BRA!”

Like my breasts, my habit of not doing what men tell me to do started very early. Thus, I refused to wear a bra until my mother insisted when I was in fifth grade.

As I got a little older, I was less mortified and became more comfortable in my own skin. But I think I’m like most women when I say that the breasts can be a mixed bag. They’re great if you need to fill out a nice cocktail dress or feed a baby, but they can sometimes get in the way of being taken seriously or maintaining eye contact.

And oh, the internal dialog: Are they big enough? Are they too big? Did I cover up enough? Tread lightly, Holly, lest you venture into thoughts on society’s constant shaming and policing of women’s bodies. I’ll just save that for our legislators.

So yeah. Boobs. You spend your adolescence being simultaneously embarrassed yet thrilled to be growing up. You spend early adulthood being feminine and feeding your babies, and then you eventually start wondering if the breasts you’ve been lugging around all these years might eventually turn on you.

I got my first mammogram a couple of years ago, and it is way past time for me to go in for the second. Since early detection is key to survival, encourage the women in your life to not let this one slide. Thankfully, many of my friends and family are still around because of it.

Holly Rosser Miller has lived and worked in Muskogee for 20 years.

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