One of the scariest phrases that a woman can hear is "It's time for your annual mammogram." Women ages 20 to 39 are recommended to receive a clinical breast exam every three years. Mammograms and clinical exams are required to be done annually for women over 40. No matter how many times you get a mammogram, the anxiety it brings never goes away.
Marilyn Kuffel, American Cancer Society volunteer at Lake Regional Cancer Center, knows what it feels like to put off that dreaded mammogram appointment. Kuffel waited over 30 years to get a mammogram, but when her close friends found out, it was just a matter of time until she made an appointment. "I had not had a mammogram for about 30 years and I confided this in some of my friends including my volunteering partner Carol Moellenhoff who had just went through breast cancer and Carol said, 'Oh no, we don't accept this,' " she said.
Kuffel then made the appointment and made plans to meet her friends for lunch. Little did she know, lunch would turn into an adventure. "We went out to lunch before my appointment. As I'm leaving the restaurant and driving to the hospital, out of my rear view mirror, I see Carol's car with one of her friends in it. I thought, 'They don't trust me.' When I pulled up to the hospital, I said, 'You don't trust me.' She said, 'No.' They sat with me while I waited and we laughed the entire time. Then, we all left together," Kuffel said.
She contributes the appointment to her friend's prodding. Kuffel said that if her friends had not pushed her into going, she probably would not have gone at all. "If nobody knows, nobody shames you, nobody follows you, you won't do it," she said.
Kuffel continues her yearly mammograms since the first huge push from her friends. She now expects Moellenhoff to prod her. "Oh, I'm scared to death of her," Kuffel said of Moellenhoff. "I have get a note from the tech every year." Moellenhoff admitted to using tough love, "I nag."
Early detection is key. Meollenhoff learned that first hand. She was diagnosed with breast cancer through a mammogram. Her diagnosis was a mild case of non-invasive breast cancer, stage 0-1. If it had been caught later, she would have had a severe case of invasive cancer.
Meollenhoff's friends stuck by her side during her treatment. She knows how important support from friends and the push to get a mammogram is. That is why she pushed Kuffel.
The two cancer center volunteers have been friends for about ten years. "When you have a good group of friends that make you laugh, it gets your mind off your problem," Kuffel said. After spending a few moments with the pair, it is obvious that they aren't ordinary friends, they are sisters.
Sisters love one another when they need love and nudge each other when they need a push. Do you have a friend or a sister in need of a push? They may not enjoy the tough love at first, but when it saves their life, they will be forever grateful.