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Get Your Mammogram – A Personal Story

by Michele on October 21, 2013

breast-cancer-symbol-of-pink-ribbon-picture2

I intentionally waited until late in the month to write this post because I was concerned about breast cancer awareness burnout on the part of readers.  I though that maybe by waiting, I’d have the opportunity to make one last push to motivate all you ladies who haven’t been to the doctor this year to test those ta-ta’s.

In case you’ve missed all the whoop-la (in which case I’m pretty sure you’re a recluse),  October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Now I’m not saying it’s something to be excited about – but it is something to help you remember the importance of breast health.

I know no one likes having mammograms.   Like pap-smears, there’s just no way to make them fun.  I’m sorry, but a poster of the latest hottie on the gynecologists ceiling does not make you forget the fact the the doc is headed toward your hoo-ha with an ice cold speculum.  Likewise, all the pleasant chitty-chat from the tech can’t eliminate the anxiety you feel as the giant robotic boob squisher bears down.  Nevertheless, both are necessary to maintain optimal female health and early detection is critical to survival.

This year, the necessity of that less than pleasant appointment was driven home.  I work in an art center and one of our Artist Network Members was diagnosed with breast cancer in July.  She was gone by late September because she couldn’t afford her annual mammogram. After her breast was double in size, hot and swollen, she finally made it to the doctor and discovered she was stage four.  It was simply too late.

Here is the ultimate irony – our art center has an annual fundraiser to support our mammogram fund that could have saved her life.  The fund works with the local hospitals to get mammograms for those who can’t afford them.  Obviously, she didn’t know – and didn’t think to check with the hospitals.

Thankfully, the Affordable Care Act allows for an annual mammogram with no co-pay or office visit for anyone with insurance.  Even though new recommendations on the frequency of mammograms is in flux, talk to your doctor about what’s right for you and  please – take advantage of these new health benefits.  Remember too, to take your health into your own hands and do your monthly self-exam. Your ta-ta’s will thank you later!

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Garlic_Press_and_GarlicWe’re animal lovers. In fact, we’ve become those people.  You know the type – empty nesters who have unwittingly replaced their children with pets.  We haven’t gone completely bonkers and completely filled the house with playful paws, but we have filled the gap with a dog and two cats. Compared to many childless couples and other empty nesters, we’ve actually been quite responsible.  None of our pets are forced to wear Halloween costumes or pose for pet portraits for our amusement – although we have been known to wrap the occasional pipe cleaner around a cat tail for our own entertainment.

That said, it should come as no surprise that we’re diligent about the health of our pets and do our best to keep them happy and feeling well.  Last week, though, we learned a hard lesson about cats and garlic.  I’ve been a cat person my whole life.  I can still remember my first cat as a child and as an adult, I went through a time when I had four cats through a gradual process of adopting the local strays.  I never knew, though, garlic is toxic to our feline friends.  I knew dogs shouldn’t have onions, chocolate or grapes – but I had no idea the havoc garlic could wreak on the health of a kitty.

“Beanie” which came from “Mini Bits – Bean Toes – Baby Bean and then Beanie”  (her given name is Georgia O’Keefe :) )  is a tiny little squirt.  She’s still technically a kitten, but at about seven months old, she’s still only five pounds.  Beanie will play with just about anything and has a particular fondness to knocking things out of the fruit and veggie bowls on the counter.  Last week, she decided that a bulb of garlic was her new favorite toy.   It makes a good noise, slides across the floor well, is easy to pick up and breaks into small, individual toys that can be carried around by mouth.  We didn’t think anything at all of it and just let her play.

About four days after the garlic fun we noticed Beanie acting punky.  She had a little blood on her chest, which we chalked up to to her being a klutz and the crazy kitten antics she gets up to with her sister.  Soon, though, she was bleeding from the mouth, vomiting blood and had blood in her stool.  Her normally pink nose, toes and lips were pale and pasty and she had bruises in her mouth and ears.  Baby Bean was seriously sick.  The vet had no idea what was bothering her.  Apparently it’s very rare for a cat to become anemic and display signs of hemophilia.  Dr. Robin prescribed a regimen of Vitamin K and sent her home to hope for the best.

Watching Beanie and not able to shake the feeling that she’d gotten into something, we started to brainstorm what she’d been exposed to of late.  She’s an indoor cat so that made it much easier.  Chemicals?  - no.  Other cats? – no, Dog bite? – no….and then it occurred to me that the only thing out of the ordinary was all the garlic cloves she’d carried and hidden around the house.  Dr. Robin confirmed that exposure to the stuff could cause Beanie’s symptoms and the Vitamin K was still the proper course of treatment.

I’m happy to report that our Mini Bits is starting to feel a lot better.  She’s playing a bit again and she’s started to pink-up in all the right places.  She’s convinced we’re trying to kill her every time we give her a dose of her vitamins, but I’m fine with a pouting kitty as long as she’s healthy.

Here are the signs of garlic toxicity in cats.

  • Drooling
  • Nausea
  • Oral irritation
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal pain
  • Elevated heart rate and respiratory rate
  • Weakness
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Collapse
  • Pale gums

For more information on pet poisoning, visit the Pet Poison Helpline.

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