Wednesday, March 10, 2010

An anchor's story: Why I had my first mammogram on television

Editor's note: This morning Harry Smith shared his colonoscopy with a live national television audience on CBS. I give him a lot of credit. However he's not the first news anchor to share a medical test on the air. Neile Jones of KNWA-TV in Fayetteville, Arkansas included her viewers in a very personal moment: her first mammogram. In this essay she writes about what the experience was like before, during, and after.


I went to my boss a few years ago and told him I wanted to get my mammogram on television. At the time, I'd never had a mammogram and, with my family history, I knew I needed to get one. I was so nervous I even asked my friend, and Komen Ozark Affiliate Director, Alison Levin, to come with me.

In my mind, all this time I'd been doing stories with men and women who were sharing personal experiences with cancer in order to help others. I figured the best way I could forward that effort would be to take KNWA viewers through the screening mammogram process. I thought if I could get a mammogram with a photographer in the room, then maybe someone else might be inspired to get the screening mammogram that just might help save his or her life.

I have to admit I had some concerns as I walked into The Breast Center of Northwest Arkansas. My grandmother had breast cancer at a young age, and I knew that I might not get good news as a result of the screening. She was the reason I first became involved with Susan G Komen. She didn't have the options we have now. As I thought about her and all my friends and family, I quickly decided that the alternative, not knowing if I had the disease, would be even worse.

So the station called our sister station in Little Rock, and a female photographer came to Northwest Arkansas and went with me for my appointment. You know, it's not the most comfortable way to meet someone, but she quickly became a friend. We filled out paperwork, then I changed into a drape-type garment that would allow the person taking my mammogram images to shift the cloth so my breast could be placed into the necessary positions. I was given a robe to walk from the changing room to the room where my mammogram images would be taken.

Soon I was being position by a person I'd just met. She was very kind and respectful, always telling me why and how she was doing things. She adjusted the paddles that would hold my breast in place, and I was told to hold still as a beeping sound came from behind me to tell me the images were being taken. I was positioned several different ways so my doctor could see what might be necessary to inform me about my breast health.

I can't say the paddles or even the slight squeeze hurt, but I can say having someone shoot video of all this was uncomfortable. I knew I was exposed, no pun intended, and I pretty much couldn't wait to get myself wrapped back up in my robe again. I moved so much we ended up shooting at least one of the images again. That was probably because I wouldn't stop talking because I was nervous.

The whole process happened so quickly. I mean, the screening itself only took 10 or 15 minutes. Because the Breast Center knew we were doing a story, the doctor met with me immediately and explained my results to me. On that day, I got a clean bill of health and walked away feeling better because I was now armed with information I didn't have before the screening.

As we came back to the station, I couldn't wait to see the video and start piecing this story together. The photographer had been so careful you really couldn't see anything inappropriate, so my editing didn't take long at all.

I know a lot of people who think I was crazy to share this experience, but for me it was a way to show people how easy getting a mammogram is and why this screening is so important. I guess I felt it was a small way to show support for those fighting breast cancer and their loved ones. I still get teased sometimes, I've even been called "Mammogram Jones" by a few coworkers, but it's all in fun.

We all know someone who has fought or is fighting cancer. Sure I was uncomfortable, but that's nothing compared to what so many people deal with day in and day out: chemo, radiation, mastectomy, lumpectomy... the list goes on and on. I guess I just wanted to help where I could by sharing information that might somehow help save a life.
Neile Jones is primary co-anchor of the evening newscasts at KNWA-TV in Arkansas. 

She works closely with the Ozark affiliate of the Susan G. Komen for The Cure Foundation. Neile received National recognition from the Susan G. Komen Foundation for her efforts and was awarded the 2005 Cameo award for her volunteerism. In 2008 Neile was named a Yoplait Champion for her efforts in the fight against breast cancer.
She continues her efforts with an annual live broadcast of her local Race for the Cure, to donate to her team click here.

Neile has a dual Master's degree in Human Resources and Development and Management from Webster University.

1 comment:

  1. A clean bill of health! What a wonderful foot note to a great story -- and a brave one.

    Stay well and keep up the good work!