Become the Expert of You
It’s that time of year again. The time that when all women in the world get to be reminded about their women parts.
It’s Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
Nearly 13 years ago I was diagnosed with Stage 1 ovarian cancer. And my ovaries got taken away from me.
Not only did my ovaries get taken away but every single part of me on the inside that made me a woman did too.
Then 11 years later my mother was told she had late stage ovarian cancer.
She lived all of 9 months after finding out.
I’d like to say her final days were peaceful. But I’d be lying.
Dying from ovarian cancer is just flat out hard. And sad.
Think of something you believe is hard – like climbing Mt. Everest – and I can tell you that dying from ovarian cancer is much, much harder.
So most of the time – because ovarian cancer is so hard and sad – this is just one big subject that everyone would LOVE to ignore.
Who wants to think about dying from a horrible disease?
But here’s the deal: You need to think about it.
You do not need to walk around feeling alarmed and worried. But you need to be aware of your body.
Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is about reminding women to listen to their bodies.
I have devoted the last decade of my career to working with women to help them trust themselves and their bodies and commit to improving their health.
Most women are used to putting themselves second.
In my line of work as a Life Coach specializing in wellness and weight I help women learn how to make themselves a priority.
At the very least I teach women that listening to their bodies is non-negotiable.
It can save your life.
My Mom had symptoms of ovarian cancer. She ignored them. (Too busy, didn’t want to bother the doctor…or perhaps too scared, didn’t want to face it if she had something. She blamed her year-long stomach issues on gluten intolerance.)
I had symptoms of ovarian cancer. I felt off for more than a year. And insisted that something was wrong. I kept fighting for more tests.
Two different stories. Two different outcomes.
In both of our cases, ovarian cancer talked, it didn’t just whisper.
The key is to be a woman who starts to regularly check in with your body now – before you are faced with any kind of life threatening illness – so that you can be aware of when your body doesn’t feel right.
Here is a short how-to guide on how to listen to your body:
1. Observe your body when you feel well.
Observe your body when you are healthy and well and free of any illness. Do a full body scan. Check in with your energy level. Do you have the energy to work and play? Are you pain free? Are you sleeping well? Do you have a good appetite? Do you feel clear-headed and focused on tasks?
2. Establish a minimum baseline for wellness.
Use the period of observation of your body to establish a minimum baseline for wellness. Use this minimum baseline as a gauge to tell you when something is off.
3. Commit to a daily check-in.
Become an expert on listening to your body by committing to a daily check-in. By doing a quick check-in each day you can begin to pick up on any subtle changes within your body. Compare how you feel to your minimum baseline.
3. If you feel unwell address lifestyle first.
Before running to a doctor address the most important factors in helping anyone feel well: sleep, nutrition and exercise. If you are eating well, sleeping at least 8 hours and moving your body daily and you still feel unwell then it may be time to check in with a doctor.
4. Seek a doctor’s advice for any symptom lasting more than 2 weeks.
Any unusual or new symptom that lasts more than two weeks needs to be addressed by a doctor. You are not inconveniencing or wasting the doctor’s time. You are taking responsibility for yourself by addressing your concerns.
If you are concerned about symptoms of ovarian cancer ask the doctor to perform a CA-125 blood test and an ultrasound. The CA-125 is a tumor marker for ovarian cancer. (A Pap smear is a test for cervical cancer and does not pick up ovarian cancer.) The CA-125 sometimes produces false positives but better to thoroughly investigate and be safe rather than sorry.
5. Trust your intuition.
As you listen to your body you will begin to know when you feel off. You are the expert of you. If something doesn’t feel right trust your intuition. First address lifestyle factors and if that doesn’t help you feel better then head to a doctor and insist on a thorough exam.
My Mom was an absolute warrior through her final days.
I can’t tell you how terrifying it was to watch the women you love most in the world die of the disease you survived.
But my mom showed me how to die with dignity and courage.
Our story though is just a reminder of what Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month really means.
This is a month that reminds all women in the world to listen. And trust. And take care.