LuAnne Petramala stood facing the white steel contraption alone, not knowing how a mammogram was done. A chill went up the open back of her cotton gown. The technician walked up behind her, and, offering no greeting or guidance, eased her forward into the cold metallic plates. No one had explained what was about to happen. It was her first mammogram and, after today, she swore in silence, it would be her last.
“Suddenly my gown was lowered off one shoulder, which I did not expect. The steel plates closed slowly around my breast. Are they going to stop, I thought to myself. This is scaring me.”
“They immediately called me back and said that they had found an abnormality. It turned out to be nothing. They told me just wait a few years for your next mammogram. Never again,” Petramala vowed silently.
Then one morning, three years ago, she felt a lump. The lump did not concern her because it was not growing. She told her daughter, Angel, who encouraged her to get a mammogram. But Petramala ignored it — until it started to grow.
Girls’ Night Out
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month last year, the newsletter from Platte Valley Medical Center (PVMC) talked about a “Girl’s Night Out.”
“I thought that sounded like fun so I took my daughter and a friend. What I did not expect was that this social event allowed me to be completely open and talk about it for the first time. We were all talking about our bad experiences with mammograms. Everyone was laughing and having a great time. “One of the staff asked me if I needed to get a mammogram. I nodded yes. The woman who greeted us was LuAnne (Farmer), a Nurse Navigator at PVMC.
“When she told me her name was LuAnne, that was it. I don’t meet many people named LuAnne. I thought, ok, this is an omen. This is God’s way of telling me you’re in good hands.
A different experience
“The mammogram was 180 degrees from my first experience. The setting was very casual, dimly lit. The machine, instead of hard metal, was warmer with more padding. The technician was not clinical but relaxed and very positive about wanting to take care of me. She seemed more like a friend that was there to help. We talked at great length about what she was going to do. For me, it was more like going with her to try on bras.
“I immediately saw the lump on the film and I knew in me heart of hearts that it wasn’t good. They called me the next day and told me I needed to come in for a biopsy. My doctor called me that night and said, ‘It’s a bad one. It’s one of the worst kinds of cancer.’
“All during the chemo, and even after the lumpectomy, I woke up every morning with the cancer on my mind. I didn’t dwell on it, or worry about it, but I did think about it a lot. I guess I have great faith that everything will always work out as it should. My only thought about the chemo was seeing films like The Bucket List where the people with cancer are retching and throwing up constantly. That’s what I expected.
“I haven’t shed a tear over this, not one. I felt it was a positive journey. It changed my life by putting me in touch with a lot of fabulous caregivers. I never once felt that I was in a hospital. It was more like going home and having mom take care of me. You don’t get that treatment very often.
“When this is over, I have this burning desire to go to a beach in Florida and just sit there for a couple of days. Once the final chemo is over, I think I might do that.