My First Mammogram

Color Me Pink:

Men, Mammograms

And Breast Cancer

Earlier this week, I had my first — and I hope, last — mammogram. And I can tell you that my wife has not been completely straight with me, over the years, about this procedure. Whenever I would ask her how it went, she would just quickly say, “It was uncomfortable.”

Well, I’m here to tell you — for me — it was really uncomfortable. Not quite as uncomfortable as, say, when a car, under which you are working, slips off the jack and falls on you.  Well, perhaps I exaggerate a bit. And while you’re “uncomfortable,” the technician tells you not to breathe, not to move. Or, you’ll have do it all over again.

When it was finally over, I complained to my wife, who is a veteran of these procedures. She looked at me, shook her head, and declared me “a wimp.”

I knew that look. It said: This test has proven itself countless times and helped hundreds, no, thousands of women discover the early signs of cancer that allowed them to get immediate treatment and save their lives. Don’t write anything that would scare women into thinking they should avoid this life-saving procedure.

I get it, and I encourage all women who discover anything out of the ordinary after a breast self-exam, and certainly most women over age 40, to get a mammogram and to push the other women in their lives to get the scans, too.

But, for me, this was new territory. A couple of months ago, I realized that my right breast was tender to the touch and was fuller (more fleshy) than the left breast. It would hurt whenever anything touched it, or If I moved my arm in certain ways. I figured I needed to get it checked out, because, in 2008, I’d had a similar experience with my left breast.

Of course, I was worried then, because I knew that the actor Richard Roundtree had been diagnosed with breast cancer many years earlier. He had survived it; is still with us, and still working. So, I knew that it was possible for men to get it. But, I didn’t know of any other male who had the disease, and I was under the impression it was pretty rare among men.

I guess that makes men with breast cancer special, but I didn’t want to be that special.

In 2008, my doctor ordered an ultrasound scan, and it was determined that there was “abnormal” tissue in the left breast under the nipple. I then saw a surgeon, who operated, removed all of the tissue in question. It was sent to a lab for examination and determined to be abnormal, but  not malignant. Thank God!

There was extreme concern on the part of my primary care physician, because my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer three times. After the first battle with the disease, each succeeding occurrence was more aggressive than the previous one. At the last occurrence, she was 95 years old — and tired. She said she wasn’t going to submit to any more surgery and wouldn’t agree to chemotherapy or radiation. She was done!  She added that “God made this body, and if He wants to fix it, He will. Whatever He decides is fine with me.”

She made me and my two brothers promise that, come hell or high water, she would not have to leave her home of 40 years until the end. After several months of in-home hospice care and my brothers there with her, providing around-the-clock care, she slipped away peacefully one night.

This week, after being told the time to show up at the Women’s Breast Center for my test, I was extremely nervous and feeling pretty awkward, too. I had been told to make sure I parked in the “Pink Parking Lot” connected to the medical office building and the hospital. Inside, everyone I encountered was female, the receptionists, technicians, everybody.

When a technician came out to get me from the waiting area, she called for “Mrs. Fuller.” I stood up; she look puzzled, then smiled. I was led to a room, told to remove my shirt, given wipes with which to remove the deodorant from my underarms, and handed a robe. When I sat down to wait for her to return, I noticed the imposing machine for the first time. It was a sobering sight, reminding me of Gort, the huge, humanoid robot protector of Michael Rennie’s character (Klaatu) in the classic 1951 sci-fi movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

One of the difficulties for me — and probably for many men — is that there isn’t that much tissue in the breast area to corral to get a good specimen for the vice, er, arms, er, mouth of the machine. I thought the technician would have to pull the flesh of my chest off the bones. The pressure was enormous, and it was difficult to not breathe or move. But finally, both breasts were done, and it was time for the ultrasound scan, which, by the way, was a breeze compared to dealing with Gort.

Now, let me say that the technicians I encountered were very professional and very pleasant, but they would not give me a clue as to how I did. I tried to read their faces to see if I could pick up any hint of what they had “seen,” but they kept telling me that a full report would be made to my doctor and I would have to see her for the results.

Having never experienced a mammogram, I waited nervously for my doctor to call. Time seemed to crawl by. Then, two days after the event, she called and explained that there was, indeed, a “spot” detected in my chest, but she and the radiologist believe it is an infection, a bacterial infection.

She said it seems to have some sort of fluid in its center. She prescribed an antibiotic I was to start taking immediately. After a month, I am to go back to see her, and then get a follow-up ultrasound to see if the growth has disappeared. If it hasn’t, she cautioned, then we will have to take additional steps, including surgery to remove the growth — and have it tested.

I was relieved, thanked God, and felt a deep appreciation for those friends and family members, who knew about the situation, and who had prayed for me and encouraged me to stay positive.

But, in the back of my mind, I keep thinking, “It’s not over — yet.”

I remember how, when cancer gripped my mother the first two times, we all were so confident that she would beat it. But then, there was that third time …

Because she was/is my mother, she and I, of course, have a lot of things in common. I just hope breast cancer isn’t one of them.

Stay tuned …


God’s not dead; He ain’t even sick

Word, Word, Word for days …

The noted rapper-philosopher, Money Back, takes the stage:

In a world gone mad since  The Big Fall,

You got all these folks talking off the wall:

God almighty don’ give up the ghost.

You believe that rap, you might be toast …

Word — God ain’t dead, and that’s not all,

If you feelin’ me, you’ll heed the call.

Word, Word — Word for days …

With the Right Rev. busy dialing for Dollars,

trying to put a bow on that big ol’ jet … Even he ain’t seen the blue sky yet.

God’s not dead, He ain’t even sick.

The mayor and fire chief battling it out in court — for all the marbles, big and small,

Trying to prove who’s heard the true call …

Word — God’s not dead and He still the judge.

Black men and white cops falling by the side. So much lead and blood, you ain’t never lied.

ISIS chopping heads, dealing out threats.

Word — God’s not dead, and He ain’t finished yet.

Terrorists attack in Paris, France. Tunisia and Yemen, the same ol’ dance.

Gang wars in Sweden, Mass graves in Iraq — and over and under the lip, Netanyahu’s flip-flop-flip.

Boko Haram, Columbine, Red Lake, Aurora, Newtown, Atlanta, G – A …

God’s not dead, and  He’s still on the way.

He’s not resting, not taking a break, not checking out spring on Saturn’s lake.

He rested one day when the world was done. But never sleeps, and He ain’t one to run.

No, God’s not dead. He’s feeling His oats.

With the President  and the Republicans fighting about EVERYthing — and you’d think Hillary’s emails were the holy grail …

But somewhere along that Beltline trail … is that slippery wide road straight to hell.

Word Up — God’s not dead; He ain’t even sick.

Elvis left the building and Michael’s gone, too; No matter how you feel, that’s the real deal. But God Almighty, The Most High, Most Holy — is still at the wheel.

God’s not dead, and that ain’t all…

His reservation’s been set since before Time, and to bet against Him ain’t worth your dime.

Word to the crowd, all out loud: He’s still coming, coming on a cloud,

And not like a child all meek and mild. Not riding in a manger, and not like a lamb…

Coming on a cloud so bright — it won’t even matter if it’s day or night.

You’ll see Him at once — in all His might. And no matter how you run, you can’t run out of sight.

I hope it ain’t winter in June, but — like He said — it could be soon.

Word, Word, Word all night.

GOD AIN’T DEAD ——– Aw’ight!

( Money Back looks out at the crowd, throws down the mic, then Obama-struts off the stage.)

The announcer walks out, shaking his head.  Picks up the mic. “Mr. Money Back will next be appearing in Macon, Peoria, Dallas, Rome and Tel Aviv. Thank you —- and good night.”









The Commander-In-Chief and Me

It goes without saying that there are a lot of reasons why Barack Obama is president of the United States of America — and I’m not.

The list, obviously, is long. But  what has been churning over and over in my mind lately is his seemingly endless amount of patience, which, I guess, springs from a deep reservoir of self-confidence and capacity to forgive.

Despite the way many among the ranks of the nation’s staunchest conservatives try to paint him as weak, slow to act and, often, indifferent, he is a rock, albeit it a thoughtful one, not given to knee-jerk bristling and idle threats, just to appear strong and decisive. When he says he wants to give diplomacy a chance to work, before using more violent methods, he means it.

But, again, his ability to be incredibly patient has me scratching my head. The recent revelation that two senior members of the U.S. Secret Service — one of them the No. 2 person on the president’s security detail — are accused of crashing a car into a White House security barrier, allegedly, after a night of drinking at a local bar, prompts me to write.

The duty of these men and others like them, remember, is to protect the president and his family from harm — from terrorists, crazed fence-jumpers and even, yes, drunks who run into the fence around the president’s yard.

If this were just the first embarrassing lapse on the part of the agency’s supposedly highly trained, dedicated and determined officers, the president’s calm sense of patience, and his continued confidence in the man he picked to straighten out the agency a few weeks ago, would be understandable.

Alas, this is not the first deeply disturbing incident that, I think, has put the president, his family members and others in serious jeopardy. It is likely just the grace of God that something horrible hasn’t happened, considering the apparent ineptness of those who traditionally have been characterized as willing to risk their own lives to protect the president’s. Since Barack Obama has been president, there have been far too many such confounding episodes to give any American citizen the confidence that their Commander-In-Chief and the leader of the free world is well-protected.

Just in the last six months, as a recent Associated Press report will attest,  “several top agency officials, including former Director Julian Pierson, have been forced out amid revelations of multiple, serious presidential security breaches.

“In September, a Texas man, armed with a knife, was able to climb a White House fence and run deep into the executive mansion before being apprehended.” That man, a war veteran, pleaded guilty to charges in the case this week and is awaiting sentencing. Earlier, in Atlanta, agents were surprised that an unauthorized man, armed with a gun, managed to get on an elevator with the president. Fortunately, the man apparently had no intention of harming the president, but, even so, the lapse could have led to tragedy.

Another major embarrassment for the agency, and a black eye for the nation, occurred nearly two years ago, during the president’s trip to attend the Summit of the Americas in Cartogena, Colombia. The trip was marred by allegations of agents and military personnel consorting with prostitutes and consuming copious amounts of alcohol. According to published reports, one local prostitute claimed  she could have easily obtained confidential, and highly sensitive, U.S. information — if she had been so inclined.

A recent internal investigation, according to the Associated Press, concluded that there were, indeed, serious problems in the agency. And a panel of former senior officials determined that the agency was too insular. Given all of that, I was surprised to see the president, on Thursday, following the revelation of the Secret Service gate crashers, calmly insist that he still has full confidence in  recently appointed Director Joseph Clancy, who is, by all measures,  an agency insider.

What’s even more troubling is that Clancy, the man picked to clean up the agency, according to published reports, didn’t even find out about the gate incident until days after it occurred. Does that sound like he’s really on top of things at his agency?

Nevertheless, a White House spokesman quickly confirmed that President Obama still believes Clancy is the right man to fix the problems. “Nobody has higher standards for the Secret Service than Director Clancy,” said Eric Schultz, according to the Associated Press.

OK, OK, I told myself, that’s just for public consumption, right? Behind closed doors, maybe President Obama was jumping up and down on the table in the war room, yelling at the top of his voice and throwing things against the wall to get the point across that he is pissed and isn’t going to take it anymore. I say that, because that is probably what I would have done.

But, like I said, he and I are different. For one thing, Barack Obama is one of the coolest dude’s I’ve ever seen. Just the way he walks — he’s got swagger for days, and the way he talks — he takes cool to it’s outer limits.

Part of me admires his sense of calm, collected control. There is one other man, whom I have encountered in my life, who exhibited that kind of calm at the center of his being; Oliver Tambo, who was president  of the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, during the days of apartheid. I once sat across a table from him during a meeting in an editorial conference room at The Atlanta Journal- Constitution. His sense of being totally centered-down and calm has stayed with me all these years. And from what I’d seen of Nelson Mandela, and know about how he handled his many struggles, he must have been that way, too.

But, I just hope my president, Barack Obama, doesn’t let  cool betray him. Sometimes, you can be too cool.