Young Women Get Cancer

I mentioned casually to a friend recently that I have several
friends who are either currently fighting cancer, in remission or have passed
away from cancer.  She looked at me,
shocked.  She wanted to know how many
people we were talking about.  2?  4?  I
thought about it and realized that I have way more than that.  She acted as though this was quite surprising.  I don’t think it is anymore.  Young women get cancer. 
My cancer was discovered much later than it should have
been.  My presenting symptom (TMI ahead!)
was blood in my stool.  But I had seen three
doctors about it over ten years (TEN YEARS!!) and until I was diagnosed, was
basically told to eat more fiber.  I knew
something was wronger than that, and I honestly put off pushing for diagnosis out
of fear and embarassment.  (You haven’t
lived until a doctor is closely inspecting that area of your anatomy – bucket list
alert!)  I don’t live in the space of
blame, but I deeply regret not advocating more for myself, and wish I hadn’t
been so embarrassed to discuss a little blood in my poop. 
That regret and deep desire to help others avoid my mistakes,
I believe, is part of the significance of my adventure with cancer.  Those feelings are difficult to live with,
but I feel propelled by them in a positive way. I think I can make a difference
by broadening the scope of topics that are ok to discuss.  Think of it this way.  20 years ago the term “breast cancer” was
whispered shamefully.  We didn’t talk
about diseases that kill us and we didn’t talk about our boobs!  Now, you have NFL players sporting pink shoes
and there is a line of products with the phrase FEEL YOUR BOOBIES splashed
across them.  It’s ok to talk about
breast cancer.  Say what you want about
Susan G. Komen (many survivors do not love this organization) but they nailed
it in terms of social marketing.  They changed
the game. 
I want to change the game, too.  I want to help people do three things:
1.      Be more aware of your body – are you having
symptoms?  What are they?  Where are they?  How long do they last?  I want to end this mentality of “If I ignore
it, it will go away.”  That’s how people
die.  Early detection is KEY.  Cancer treatment is changing.  Sooner is better.  Waiting gets you a big fat NOTHING. So…CHECK IT.  
2.      Get over the fear of bad news.  Look.  “Bad
news” is a DIAGNOSIS.
  A diagnosis is
GOOD.
  Does anyone want to hear they have
cancer?
  Nope!  But right now, if I could go backwards in
time to 2005 and get a Stage 1 cancer diagnosis instead of what has become a
Stage 4 diagnosis, I would be thrilled to be told I have early stage
cancer.
  Overjoyed.  You can’t fight what you don’t know.  So…CHECK IT.  

3.   Get thee to thy doctor!  Scared of your doctor?  Find a new one.  I went through many crappy doctors before I found
my guy.
  Dr. Martin Seltman at Metro
Family Health Center in Edgewood/Regeant Sq.
 
He treats me with respect and dignity and as a partner in my care.  If it wasn’t for him, my PCP, I would never
have gotten to a specialist who diagnosed me.
 
He’s my hero because he was a safe enough person during routine sinus
infection visits for me to finally whisper my terrible secret.
 I recently wrote him a note because I thought
I should tell him how much his kindness and professionalism have impacted my
life.
 So…get a good doc NOW and CHECK IT.  

Check your boobs.  Check your butt.  That weird bump?  Check it.  Checkity check check check.

I’m featuring some friends in coming blog entries who are
fellow cancer fighters.  Warriors.  Bad Asses.  Diligent checkers.  First up is Katy Ursta.  
Katy is a
mom of two, wife of a great guy (who I happened to babysit many moons ago!) and
a top notch Beach Body coach.  She has
created a business that allows her to share her passion for fitness, transformation
and helping others, and allows her to work from home.  Katy was in great shape, active, happy and
enjoying a busy, productive life when she noticed a couple of odd
symptoms.  Her lymph nodes were enlarged
and her legs were dry and itchy.  She was also weaning her son and had some issues that presented as mastitis in her breast.  Smart
lady that she is, she went to her doctor and it was quickly discovered that she
had Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a blood cancer that causes tumors throughout
the body.

Katy wasn’t about to take this lying down.  She went straight into chemo and continued
working out daily, dedicating her workouts to fellow fighters.  Example: 
“Today, we’re sweating for Jessi.” 
What an inspiration!  I know that
while we were in the chemo trenches together, she would spur me on to get
active even when I felt my worst.  Katy
has used her unique position and experience to develop a platform for speaking
and helping others get in shape.  She is
partnering with me in raising awareness among young people to not ignore those
symptoms, not fear diagnosis and get to the doctor.  Katy is a beautiful spirit who I am proud to
know.  She is generous, fun, friendly and
full of energy.  If she doesn’t inspire
you, no one will.  I encourage you to
check out her blog.  If you are looking
for a compassionate, supportive person to guide you in an effort toward better
health, she’s your girl.  Check it:    www.onefitfighter.com

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