Recently I made a joke about making all my neglected doctor visits now that my youngest is in school three days a week. The schedulers call and I’m all proud, like:

“Do you have anything Monday, Wednesday, or Friday?”

Turns out, turning 35 is no joke.

I’ve been to the dermatologist, the gynecologist, and the general practitioner, who noted my family history and declared it was time to get a baseline mammogram. 

Two weeks later, the hospital called and asked me to come back for additional imaging. I was assured this was pretty common.

But my mind, as the minds of mothers do, started spiraling. 

“If it’s bad, I’ll get my breasts removed,” I thought.

“If I die, maybe someone can still get my books published.”

“I’ll write letters and make videos for the kids, so they know how much I love them.”

THE KIDS. 

I prayed to God, just please let me stay here and be their mommy.

Over the next two days until my appointment, I went back and forth between trying to carry on like something might not be wrong and imagining all the crazy scenarios in which things could go really wrong—like if my mammogram, pap, and skin biopsies ALL came back cancerous at the same time.

(These were the thoughts I was actually thinking.)

It made me realize how lucky we are to live in a place and time where we can even know about these things and take the necessary steps to fight them. Maybe there’s a reason people used to have babies at 14 and only lived to be 40 years old—there were no machines to tell them they were sick and no medicine to make them better. 

It also made me stop and appreciate the mundane tasks of mothering that aren’t really so bad, after all. I almost cried making PB&J and picking up the million LEGOs and putting tiny white socks on the tiny baby feet because every one of these tedious little things we do is an act of the biggest love there is.

And it’s gonna take a lot more than a repeat mammogram to tell me I don’t get to do them anymore. 

On the day of my ultrasound, tears fell from my cheeks onto the crisp hospital pillow. All I could think about was the incredible responsibility and joy of being a mother, and how the pictures on that screen could change all of our lives in an instant.

My results were good this time—but it could just as easily have gone the other way. Having a healthy awareness of my health and wellbeing is a privilege I won’t take for granted. 

So ladies (and gentlemen), don’t put off the tests because you still have little people at home with you. Find someone to watch your kids and GO TO ALL THE APPOINTMENTS.

Let us not forget, in the everyday madness of all the little things, we only get to be here to take care of them if we first take care of ourselves.

This post originally appeared on the author’s blog

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Ashley Kahn Salley

Ashley Kahn Salley is writer, dance partier, wife of a pilot and mom to three smart and funny kids. She writes about motherhood and marriage at FlightyMom.com