I know it's a cliche, but most women really do seem to have the wires crossed in their brains when it comes to putting themselves first. Women take care of their kids, their husbands, their parents. They champion their local schools, the environment, hungry kids in Africa. So often, it's at the expense of their own well-being and sanity. I'm up there with the worst of them, and with all the blogging I do, it's easier than ever to put Health at the bottom of my to-do list. I have to admit, it's not all martyrdom that makes me procrastinate when it comes to making dentists' appointments, or getting a wax at the salon, or scheduling some time with friends -- laziness is a huge part of it. But whatever the cause, I need to get better at taking care of myself.
This pearl of wisdom really hit home when I finally got around to making an appointment with my gynecologist for a checkup (Item #3 on my Forty Before Forty list) and mammogram (Item #4). I knew I should have done this long ago, but I was shocked to find out that it had been almost 3 years since my last visit. Yikes! Where did the time go?
And then my doctor found a lump. Two, actually, one on each breast.
My first reaction: WTF? Where? What? I can't even feel it!
My second reaction: My family's cancer genes have finally caught up with me. My grandmother, my aunt, my great-aunts, my grandfather, my dad... it was just a matter of time.
My third reaction: The karma gods are punishing me. For being lackadaisical in my breast self-examinations. For skipping 3 years of doctor's visits. For idly thinking that if I ever did get cancer, at least I'd lose weight.
My fourth reaction: This is what happened to Elizabeth Edwards. She delayed getting that lump in her breast checked until after the 2004 presidential campaign, and as a result they discovered her breast cancer at a more advanced stage.
My fifth reaction: OH. MY. GOD.
Those two weeks between the discovery of the lumps and my mammogram were the longest two weeks of my life. I knew the odds were in my favor (9 out of 10 lumps turn out to be fine, and my doctor was not overly worried because they were in both breasts), but I was still a nervous wreck.
I wept with relief when the radiologist told me my mammogram was normal.
Then I exhaled, and went back to living my life.
With a few small changes. My Main Takeaway, my Life Lesson, my Pearl of Wisdom from this experience was really that I need to be more proactive when it comes to taking care of my health. I've set up reminders for monthly breast self-exams and annual doctors' visits so I can't use forgetfulness as an excuse. I'm seeing my endocrinologist next week. I'm getting tested for the breast cancer gene. And I'm more inspired than ever to improve my eating habits, sleeping habits and exercise habits.
These past 3 or 4 years, I set about to re-stimulate my intellect, restore my self confidence and renew my sense of self worth. I took care of my mind. Now I have to take care of my body as well.