In the last year, I have been to more medical appointments than I have in my entire life combined. I went from being completely oblivious of most procedures to knowing them and the medical facilities in town quite intimately. Lame AF.
At my last mammo-slam, the radiologist who told me everything was good (still woo hoo!!) was also of the opinion that I shouldn’t have found the irregularity on my own. He believed that this was something that routine screening should have caught. For someone like me, routine screening didn’t exist. I am not in an age category that would warrant diagnostic imaging and there’s no genetic history of breast cancer or any other risk factors. It was my own awareness of my body and a dream a couple of months earlier where I was told I had cancer in my upper body that rang alarms for me and got me in to see someone when I found Lumpy. Obviously I didn’t mention the dream to the doctor when I saw her initially as I didn’t want her to think I was bat shit crazy, but she didn’t need to know about the dream to know there was something wrong.
The comment about screening from the radiologist bothered me. If I were the kind of person who put all of my faith, power and decision making in the hands of someone else’s recommended approach I could have been in huge trouble with this (and with melanoma!). I completely appreciate his perspective being that the healthcare system should be doing better with screening recommendations but I found this comment to be potentially dangerous. Dangerous because our health and our advocacy is our own responsibility and not that of our doctors.
How many of us know someone (or are someone) who dismisses random lumps, bumps, moles or pain and says “I’ll just wait till my annual exam and bring it up then” – that is, if you even have an annual exam. How many us don’t check our own bodies for irregularities? Both men and women blow things off as if we might be hypochondriacs or we’re “too busy” to take care of ourselves. How are we too busy to take care of ourselves? Like it’s some badge of honour to be soooo busy. This is insane – and I’ve done it too! What’s even worse than neglecting ourselves is buying in to the dangerous mentality that our doctors are the only people who know if anything is wrong and we give that power away. We responsible for ourselves – nobody else is the boss of us!
Doctors are a hugely important piece of helping us overcome potentially life threatening diseases, and I am immensely grateful for every single one of them that I have dealt with through this experience. What I also know for sure though, is that we should all make a conscious effort to know our bodies better than anyone else. Our bodies are communicating to us all the time, we just need to listen and honour them. And when they present us with lumps, leakage and bleeding from random orifices we need to get our asses to a doctor AND continue to be active participants in our own well being. We’re not meant to be bystanders in our lives; we’re meant to be advocates in them. Own. Your. Self.