Your Check Engine Light is On

Remember that time you knew a girl who was 28 and diagnosed with cancer?

Remember how she found a lump and realized something was off and then went to the Doctor, who confirmed her worst fears?

It may not have been a fun day, week, month or year but it was a necessary situation; you are responsible for your health.  You are your number one advocate.  As much as we would like all Doctors to be omnipotent, they honestly can’t know it all about every little symptom and ailment and weird rash.  And they don’t check on you 24/7; but you do.

This is your reminder, folks, to all of you who made a new years resolution to take better care of yourself: I’m checking in to make sure you’re following through.  Did you sign up for that gym membership?  Did you get that constant headache checked out?  I know in my house there are a few people (hm, Sean?) who have avoided the constant maintenance of being a human.

It would be so much easier if, like our cars, humans came with a check engine light to let us know when maintenance is needed.

But we don’t.

To avoid it all, we have to do the things that are not our favorites: eating veggies over fast food, going to the gym or getting some kind of exercise; making time for sleep; getting the weird aches and pains checked out even when our lives are constantly “too busy.”

I once prioritized my life by family, friends, job, vacations, etc.  Do you see that no where in there was “HEALTH”?

And then one day health became my only concern.  Because if it didn’t become number one on the list, none of that other stuff would be available.  Health or death.  Hmmm, decisions that make themselves.

There are some of you out there who have this nagging health concern that either you are too embarrassed about, too busy for or you think it’s “not really that bad, yet” but it’s been going on for months.  Chances are if you tell your Doctor, there’s an easy fix.  Or maybe it’s not so easy but it could make your life easier or better.  Or, I’ll see you one more, it could just save your life.

Cause, yeah, no one likes going to the Doctor.  I mean, unless you plan to be a med student and you like to geek out with the doc or you’re a hypochondriac and you need constant reassurance and someone to talk shop with you might like it.  All the rest of us hate being poked and prodded, being stuck with needles, being asked to lift an arm or cough.  When the eye doctor says “this or this” and “one or two” and he goes really fast, I feel like I am doomed to fail an unfair test; I get stressed out on trying to ace my eye test.  Or try having freckles and going to the dermitologist: I always get in trouble there!  Do they think I had any hand in the formation of my freckles, should I have stayed inside and fully covered at all times for my whole life?!

Since Sean is now my fiance, he has basically signed his life over into my hands for use in creative writing; in this case, he will be the example of what not to do.  He hasn’t been to the dentist in years nor the skin doctor.  And with his fair, red irish skin and history of skin cancer, he needs to go regularly.  But no one wants to go to a place that is going to have a strong likelihood of giving bad news and/or costing a lot of money for that bad news.

“Ignorance is bliss” is not just a clever saying, it’s true.  But it doesn’t buy you years of life.  Doing the things we hate buys us the years.  When you die, you can’t take all that money you saved by not going to the Doctor with you!

So call the Doctor and make that appointment, no dillydallying.  Even if you put it on the calendar for a month from now, and you have to ask for favors at work to get the day off, at least you’re taking what little control of your life each person can have.

As for me, things are…

Well, things are up and down still.  I have chemo every three weeks until the end of July and I hope to get my port out by September because Sean and I are getting married in late October.  I still struggle with Tamoxifen, a drug I take daily that causes unrelenting hot flashes and night sweats and insomnia.  To counteract it, I still take a light sleep aid but am advised to get off it sooner rather than later.  It’s a catch-22: every night that I skip taking it, I have a restless night of sleep with whacky dreams and constant waking up (and then I’m exhausted at work); the next day I must choose between sticking to it and another restless night or breaking down and taking a pill to ensure I can sleep. This past week I made it three awful nights without taking anything and was exhausted by the end of it; my day off was wasted sleeping and resting all day since I was too tired and crabby to do anything useful or fun.  It makes work and wedding planning that much more stressful; life is challenging without adding lack of sleep to the mix.

I want so much to stop taking this pill and reclaim my sleep but there’s always that nagging thought that my chances of long term survival depend on me taking that drug for five years.  Not one, not two: five.  I’ve heard from women who have been on Tamoxifen and have still had cancer come back.  So how do I determine if it’s really worth it for me?  If I don’t take it, I’m a quitter and I could die; if I do take it, I wont be getting a normal nights sleep for five years.  It’s a big gamble with both choices not so great.

Friends and family (especially mom and Sean), if I’m crabby to you on the phone or in person just remember that I don’t sleep like the average human and chances are I’m exhausted.  Just cut me some slack on a few things.

On a side note, Sean and I (ok, mostly I) are planning our wedding for October 27, 2013 in Maui!  Something to look forward to 🙂

Now, call your Doctor and choose water over that soda.

(P.S. Sean did make one wonderful health choice: he gave up soda!)

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