Be your own advocate & pay attention to your body; you know it better than anyone else!
How many times have you heard this one? It seems obvious, but in my journeys of meeting those with cancer, I have heard their stories repeatedly of how they had symptoms, but ignored them. Remember that our bodies are very smart – when something isn’t right, it talks to us. We just need to learn how to listen. I recently heard the story of a beautiful young lady at age 42 that had declining health issues that went on for almost two years before she felt the need to share with her family what was going on and then go see a doctor.
Her story starts with something we have all experienced – fatigue. She is a mom of young children, works full time and just couldn’t seem to get her energy back. Most of us can identify with that one, right? Then it went into allergy symptoms (or so she thought) so she started using Advil and over the counter allergy medicine to treat the symptoms. It then went to ‘off and on’ flu like symptoms that included body aches, high fevers of 102-104, nausea and insomnia. Even these she “covered” for and treated again with over the counter flu meds. It then started to affect her bowel movements and she would not be able to go for up to two weeks (?!?). So, that made her think that the symptoms were related to the constipation, and so you guessed it, she treated herself to more over the counter meds for constipation.
By now, I’m sure some of you are thinking that you would never do this, but it happens so often that I know we have all pushed aside symptoms before. Maybe it was out of need (no time), fear (might be something bad and if I don’t go, I won’t know) or finances (don’t have insurance or money to go see a doctor).
By the time she finally shared with her husband, it had been two years of symptoms and feeling “crappy”. She made it to a doctor appointment where she was diagnosed with colon cancer with a 10-inch tumor that had been growing for a long time. She had to have surgery to remove the tumor, her rectum and several inches of her colon and ended up with an ileostomy bag for a period. This is where they make an opening, known as a stoma. And then a special bag is placed over the stoma to collect waste products that usually pass through the colon (large intestine) and out of the body through the rectum and back passage (anus).
She shared that it grossed her out so much and she was so sure it would do the same to her husband, even thinking that this would scare him off. But to her surprise, not only did he NOT leave her, but he ended up being the one that helped her through it and even changed out the bag.
The BIG lesson here is: LISTEN to your body, it WILL tell you when something is not right. DON’T ignore it. Our bodies are “wondrously” made, so listen and take care of yourself!