Creating Good Breast Health Habits Now

Postponed mammograms, in Ireland, have given some of us, including me, the push to check our breasts more regularly. Now is the time to practice more self-care and remind the women in our lives to do the same.

It was only the other day that it occurred to me that my invitation letter for a mammogram hadn’t arrived.  Busy with homeschooling and work has kept me from keeping up with the daily news. So with a quick google of the words ‘mammogram and COVID 19’, the HSE website popped up with information on the fact that breast screening has been put on hold for the moment. This made perfect sense, of course, as many of the hospital staff have been deployed to hospital wards and we are still in the ‘stay at home’ phase during these unusual times.

COVID 19 has put a lot of our regular appointments out of sync! Many of you will relate to missing your usual hairdresser appointments, physio, and all the other professional services that make up our everyday lives.  To my dismay, one of my children, recently, complained of a toothache and instead of doing the norm, which would be to book a dentist appointment, we resorted to a few remedies that, to be truthful had been forgotten.  Haven’t heard a word about the toothache since. Fingers crossed on that one!

It just shows that going back to basics can be so beneficial.  How many of us, in the past couple of months,  have used a few of the more traditional methods of fixing things? It’s been good for us!.

Encouraging others to self-check & forming good lifetime habits

Postponed mammograms, along with other appointments are just one of the knock-on effects from the virus and this lockdown period. There is no doubt we will all be back to normal in the near future but in the meantime, there are other things we can do to look after ourselves. For some, being at home helps us to get into the routines that we didn’t have before but always wanted. Isolated at home, this is the perfect time to introduce good habits.

On this note, self-examination of the breast regularly should be part of every women’s routine. One of the most important things a woman can do for herself is to practice self-care.  For the last seven years, since starting Valerie’s Breast Care,  meeting with women in communities and events throughout Limerick and the surrounding counties and talking about self-care has been one of my most favourite parts of the service.  If any of you have met me, you will know this. There is always a lot of laughter and chat over cups of tea and biscuits. Women are supporting women and we share information that helps each other.

Early Detection Saves Lives.  During these events, we talk about looking after ourselves by eating well, exercising and discussing all the things we know we should and shouldn’t do.  Checking our breasts regularly is super important because literally early detection saves lives. It does! At events, women have given me information that has been used, by me, to help others. There is nothing as good as a real-life story. One thing that has come up, again and again, is that we all want younger girls and women to get into the habit of checking their breasts regularly. This was not a subject, that was part of the curriculum, or discussed at school many years ago. We all know so much more now and passing this on to the younger women in our lives is one of the best things we can do. Breast Cancer Ireland is a fantastic organisation that has taken this on board, by actually going into the schools and talking with students. The presentation they give to the girls is invaluable and they have given practical lifestyle information that will help the girls to form good lifetime habits. Knowing your body from an early age will stand to you as life goes on.

If you don’t look after yourself how can you look after others?

My belief in our health care system is good and there is no doubt that we will all have our mammograms as soon as it is possible. While my breast screening invitation from the hospital, is on hold the plan for me, is to consciously increase my own personal breast care routine. Normally pretty good with this, by checking on the first of every month, my intention is, to now check twice a month. It also means watching my food intake, getting extra exercise, and minding my mental health. Easy to type all of this, putting it into practice is not always so easy. There has been a lot of media reports saying that we are eating and drinking more during lockdown. Apart from the fact that we have all had a huge shock to our system, we are also out of our usual routines.  For me, being out of routine, not driving, not visiting my clients, and working very close to my friend, the fridge, has not been ideal. Implementing a routine has not been easy but as the weeks have gone on, it has become easier.

HSE Website Updates 

If like me, you were due a mammogram around now then keep an eye on the HSE website for updates.  The same for anyone that was recently screened. If you need to check that your name  is on the BreastCheck register, this site will help you or you can Freephone 1800 45 45 55

The HSE has expert researchers updating their site and there is a section on self-care of the breast. For self examination they have an excellent tutorial from the Marie Keating Foundation.

How would you like to be reminded to check your breasts? 

  • Breast Cancer Ireland has an app that you can download which will send you a reminder every month.
  • Google Calendar is used by many women to send a reminder.
  • WhatsApp with a group of girlfriends can be a fun way to remind each other.
  • Many breast-related Facebook pages including my own Valerie’s Breast Care page creates a reminder post on the 1st of every month.

My advice is to pick one that works best for you.

Don’t forget to pass on your knowledge to the younger generation. Are the younger women in your life checking their breasts each month? Are they forming good breast health habits? Please remind them that early detection saves lives.

Thank you for reading! I hope you got some value from this. Please share with a friend if you think this might be of interest.

]If you have a story or advice related to this subject please feel free to share in the comments below. Sad, happy or just a little bit out there, all stories are welcome.  There is no better way to learn than through real-life experience. If you would like to contact me, please call on 085 160 1783.  My breast care service is open for consultations via phone, WhatsApp, and Video Calls.

About Valerie’s Breast Care:- The service is an award-winning provider of mastectomy bras, breast prostheses, and swimwear for women who have had breast cancer surgery.  For women who have had a lumpectomy, mastectomy, or reconstruction that would like specialist lingerie. Complimentary home visits for the counties of Limerick, Clare, Tipperary, South Galway, and North Cork. Ask me about a mastectomy fitting at your local cancer support centre. Medical cards and Private Health Insurance accepted.

Awarded Best Mastectomy Products Provider 2020 by Irish Enterprise Awards.

Credit to Allie Glynn – photographer/artist for event photo

Valerie Murphy, Valerie’s Breast Care

Mobile: 085 160 1783


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