Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Don't Be Afraid, Be Informed


I swear I just made that up this morning.  About 30 minutes after I posted about Susan Niebur dying from Inflammatory Breast Cancer - I thought that up and then added it in.  It sounded profound.  I like to be profound...and stuff.  Profound thinking doesn't always come easily to me.

Then, I started really thinking about the phrase I'd just made up.

Tanya's Cat, Schnookums.  Wearing
a hat.  Not weird at all.
Last night, I had dinner with two wonderful friends, Tanya and Christy.  I have known Tanya for nearly 17 years (neither of us could be THAT old, could we?).  Tanya was one of my first friends when I moved here to Seattle. She's funnier than she knows and someone who will do anything for a friend (Remember that time I called you at 2 a.m. Tanya?).  Tanya and I lived together for more than a year before I got married.  We have had so many fun and silly times and I have the pictures to prove it!  Despite dressing her cat up in hats and weird outfits, she is a keeper - as a friend and as a person.

Tanya in Africa last summer.
Awesome picture!
Sadly, Tanya soon has to have surgery for a torn ACL.  I asked her some questions about her surgery and she wasn't sure about some of the details.  She said that she got so woozy in the doctor's office listening to the details that she thought she would pass out and all she could focus on was not falling off the table on to the floor.

I SO remember being like that!!  I was always like that!  Want to revisit my post about my fear of needles as proof?  http://aboobflewoverthecuckoosnest.blogspot.com/2011/05/needles.html

Any mention of medical procedures sent me spiraling. I felt sick to my stomach, I concentrated on the floor, the ceiling, the door, the doctor's shoes, ANYTHING but the scary information I was getting! "Is it hot in here?" I'd think to myself trying to not vomit.  I didn't ask questions, I just wanted to get it over with. I refused to even READ about things like breast cancer - maybe reading about it is contagious!  I never wanted to tempt fate.  I never wanted too much information.

It was okay though.  I didn't need a lot of details.  Not really.  Like Tanya's torn ACL, nothing life threatening had happened to me.  Things like torn ACLs are not fun and they can be painful - but, like Tanya, I didn't really NEED to know all the details.  I could trust the doctors and trust that things would be okay.  And they always were.

And then I got renal cancer.  And five months later I got breast cancer.

And I learned fast.  I needed to know things.  I needed to be aware and informed.  I needed to be knowledgeable and be able to advocate for my health. No more blind trust in doctors.  No more literally putting my life in the hands of others.  No more near passing out in the doctor offices.  I had to be present and clear headed.

It's not easy.  It's not easy to stay calm when all you want to do is cry or curl up in the fetal position or run away!  Especially run away.

But you MUST do it.  You MUST be informed.  You MUST know it's out there.  Know the symptoms, know what cancer looks like.  Don't be afraid to be a bit of a hypochondriac.  If something looks different, if something changes....chances are everything is fine...but it's possible that it's not fine.  I pushed to have my hysterectomy done quickly.  The doctors told me there was no rush.  The doctors said I could wait.  The doctors said nothing was wrong.  I had a hunch.  I had a feeling.  I had knowledge.  I was right.  They DID find something - my doctor told me I was right.  Pushing to have it done quickly may have saved my life (again).

As hard as it was for me to face a breast cancer diagnosis.  As hard as it was for me to go through surgeries and chemo and various other unpleasant treatments.  It's still all worth it. I didn't shy away.  Sure, I cried a gallon of tears.  Sure, I spent nights curled in a fetal position in bed.  Sure, I think about dying every single day. Sure, it's taken an immeasurable toll on me physically and emotionally.

But, because I mustered all the courage I have and pushed forward - because I didn't ignore it - I'm here today with hopes of living a longer life.  With hopes of seeing my kids grow up.  With hopes of being around to spend many more years with a wonderful husband and living a wonderful life.  With hopes of making a difference in the lives of others.

Don't be shy when it comes to your health.  Don't be uninformed.  Don't wait.

Don't be Afraid, Be Informed.


  1. Thank you Laura...you ARE making a difference in the lives of others. XOXO

  2. I haven't said it in awhile, but Laura.... you are amazing!!

    Tamara Adams