Anyone who is reading this blog for the first time, let me start by saying “Welcome”. Also, you should start at the beginning. It explains a lot. But, if you plan to start here, this may be one of the most important posts you will read. In recent years I have become very familiar with my body and it’s parts. The parts that cause migraines. The parts that cause anxiety. They parts that carry babies. The parts that needed surgery.
I had a lump removed from a breast at 21 years old. It came back negative for cancer. What a relief. I wasn’t too worried though because twenty-something year olds don’t get cancer. Except that they do. I did.
At 25 years old I got a strain of HPV that caused cervical cancer. I thought I’d been careful. I hadn’t had unprotected sex. I thought it wouldn’t happen to me. Cervical cancer was something nobody really gets. Well, they do.
Over the years of dealing with this, and with my upcoming hysterectomoy, the topic of cancer and lady-gardens comes up a lot with me. I openly talk about it, hoping that getting it out there will stop some of the stigma of talking about perfectly natural body parts, and convince some people to get screening and take care of themselves. That said, it amazes me how many people I know who don’t go for regular pap tests, or do regular breast self-exams. These things save lives!
So here are some things I know from having cancer, and some reasons you should be trying harder to save your own life:
1. It CAN happen to you. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if you are white, black, purple, green, whatever. It doesn’t care how much money you make or how good of a person you are. Cancer is an equal opportunity attacker, and like a sociopath- it doesn’t give a shit how you feel about it.
2. Early detection saves lives! Having regular pap testing saved my life. I truly believe that. My cancer was right on the edge of my cervix, in the area ripe for spreading into the lymph nodes. My doctors caught it early and removed it before it could spread.
3. Cancer does more than just kill you. It changes your body. My cancer didn’t spread enough to kill me, or even to make me sick. I didn’t need chemotherapy, and I didn’t lose my hair. But sex was painful, and impossible. It has never been the same. I don’t know if I will ever have the sex life I once had, but I do know that for the past few years it is hit or miss because it is either a good night, and the sex works, or it feels like daggers ripping through my flesh and it’s over before it has even begun.
4. I would pick the speculum, every time. Feeling up your breasts every month or so is a pain, and speculums are uncomfortable. Nobody wants doctors poking around at their private areas. Cancer is more of a pain, and more uncomfortable than anything. Cancer interrupts your life far more and for far longer than a simple breast exam or pap test.
5. Ignorance is not bliss. Some people are scared to go to the doctor because they don’t want to be told they have cancer. Well, if you find out early, you can fight it. You can win. You have a chance. If you won’t go because you are scared, that cancer might show up anyway, and you won’t stand a chance. What you don’t know can literally kill you.
6. Cancer infects your brain. It infects your emotions. Once you have had it, you worry you will get it again. I worry about every mole, every bump, every strange tinge of pain anywhere. Could it be cancer? Did I feel a lump? Is that a new mole? I didn’t even have it for very long, nor did I have to go through radiation, chemotherapy, or real sickness. I cannot imagine how much worse I would feel, how much more afraid I would be, and how much more it would infect my life had I not found it early.
What I am getting at here is simple. GET TESTED! GET TESTED! GET TESTED! I cannot stress this enough. Get regular pap tests. Do breast self-exams. As you get older, get mammograms if your doctor thinks you need to. Send in any samples, and get any tests your health care provider asks for in order to ensure you are cancer free. Worst case scenario is that you aren’t cancer free. But you CAN catch it early and you CAN beat it. This isn’t just for the women either. Men, get regular exams. Check your testicles for any changes.
Do not sit there and wait for cancer to get you. Be proactive and protect yourself. Fight for your life.