Today I had my very first mammogram. Not that I am overly old, only 52, but I still received a few surprised looks and repeatedly asking me the same question, if this really was my first one.

The American Cancer Society recommends women, after the age of 40, should have a mammogram every year. It became embarrassing to share with my friends that I had yet to have one. I feel, however, I did have good excuses. One was that I was technically pregnant the first four years of my 40s (you can still get a mammogram while pregnant) and having my last child at age 44. If I was not pregnant, then I was breast feeding (you can still get a mammogram while breastfeeding) until the age of 45. After 45, I started to say that there is no history of breast or ovarian cancer in my family. I soon ran out of reasons. Was I lazy? No, I don’t think so. Scared? Not at all! It came down to the fact that I really was not that worried about it.

So, what finally motivated me to go, you may ask? Facebook did! Friends that I knew in real life and friends that I only connected with on this social media platform were sharing their diagnosis and journey through double mastectomies, chemotherapy and radiation. Six women I know bravely retold their stories. They shared their personal photos with us. I have seen what cancer and chemo has done to their bodies. I have seen their bald heads and have been witness to their ordeal of being hooked up to their chemo cocktails on a Friday. I also have seen them share quiet, ordinary moments with their children. Sometimes I laughed with them and sometimes I cried. Sometimes I sent them a virtual {{{{hug}}}} and sometimes I was silent. I prayed for each one of them and I thanked them. What hit me the most was that each of these friends had all stated that no one was more surprised then they were of their diagnosis, since none had breast cancer in their families.

I made the appointment and waited a month. When I went into the hospital I handed them my insurance information and was asked to take a seat around the corner in a private room. I was greeted by a volunteer who showed me where to take my clothes off from the waist up and then where to wait for the technician. After a short wait, she came to take me into the mammography room. 

She asked me a series of non-evasive questions (history or no history of cancer, real or fake, any nipple piercings, etc). She then had me stand, undid my hospital gown and proceeded to put these pink metal studded nipple covers on each nipple. I felt a little like Janet Jackson during Super Bowl halftime with her ‘wardrobe malfunction’. My understanding is that these are nipple markers to identify where they are in the mammogram image so as not to be confused with any abnormalities.

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The technologist had a sense of humor and handled my boobs like a pro. No fumbling like my first high school boyfriend, but, hey, I am sure she has had way more practice. She shared that she has been doing this for over 20 years and has seen every size, shape and color.

Yes, she grabbed my boobs. Yes, she pulled them in position. And yes, she squeezed them flat with the machine but not to the point where any of it was uncomfortable, unbearable or embarrassing. The whole time we chatted. Four images in total. Done!

Easy peasy, booby squeezy. 

A 2009 study, shared by the American Cancer Society, stated that only 50% of women, aged 40 - 85, get a mammogram in any given year. I want to help change this to 100%! These six incredibly giving women shared their stories openly so no one will have to go through what they are going through. Let’s honor them during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and make that appointment. Is there really a better time?

Audrey van Petegem is an independent blogger that has been published on a variety of online magazine and blogs such as, Huffington Post, BlogHer, Elephant Journal and Midlife Boulevard. She describes herself as a book reviewer, midlifer and ponderer. As a baby boomer, she will be the first to tell you the good, the bad and the ugly about this stage of life. Follow her on Twitter @Audreyvp.