Whatever kills me had better be prepared for a fight

I really thought I was done talking about my boobs.

Three weeks ago, I told you I had a preventative double mastectomy. Family history with the disease is dubious, and I wasn’t taking any chances. All went well, and I’m back to my usual sparkly self.

Three weeks after surgery, I had a follow up appointment with my surgeons. Before I could get to my first question, my Surgical Oncologist, Dr. Nicole Hodgson whirled into the room and tossed a lab report on the table.

“Good timing,” she smiled. When you have done what I did, they remove all the tissue and check it under a microscope. I’d known this but forgotten, because a couple of months previous, I’d had a mammogram and MRI that had given me the all-clear on the cancer front.

I looked at the report, my eyes flying over it line by line, page by page. She pointed to one line. Lobular carcinoma in situ. I looked up. “Very high risk cells in the left, and starting in the right. It’s gone.” I looked down instinctively to where my left and right had once been. I was silent.

I’ll be honest: this was the only time in this whole affair that I felt sucker punched. I’ve been deliberate and decisive and clear-headed. I’ve attacked this with a near clinical attitude that some people thought I was using to mask fear. I’ve never been afraid. But if I thought I was dodging a bullet before, this time I was Indiana Jones diving under the descending rock wall with no time to spare.

So what was Girl Indiana thinking in those moments? Well, I was thinking I was lucky. But I was also thinking that women need to be aware our highest health risk is heart disease and stroke, not breast cancer. I inherited hypertension from my Mom as well (I’m not complaining; I also got her lovely hands) and am medicated to stop my elevator bursting through the top floor.

Living life is like crossing a busy highway, and you can get hit by anything. Many of you have written to me over the past few weeks – and some of you, over the past ten years – and said you feel like we’re friends. I understand and I agree: we share this spot every Monday and my life is better for having you in it.

As your friend, please listen. I’ve learned some up close things these past months, and I want you to benefit from them. You may not be able to control all the bad things that can happen to your health, but you have to try to control what you can. Make yourself as strong as you can be to handle whatever tackles you.

Quit smoking; eat better; start walking every day. I mean it. Nobody has time, but lying in a bed unable to haul yourself up means you need every muscle group ready to take over for the compromised one. I couldn’t use my chest. All of a sudden, my gut and my arms had to compensate. We are so brainwashed into thinking fitness is about skinny jeans, we forget it is about making your body ready to do battle.

We have spectacular medical services, but healing from a position of strength can mean the difference between surviving something and dying from it. Ask yourself: if tomorrow I underwent emergency surgery, how would I fare? Am I already helping my body, and my doctors, achieve the best outcome?

Just change one thing today. One. Become a warrior on the inside.

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12 responses to Whatever kills me had better be prepared for a fight

  1. Lisa says:

    Wow. Your column today has made me pick up the phone and book my physical. I haven’t had one in over 2 years and while we do not have a history of breast cancer in my family, we also didn’t have a history of Crohn’s and my daughter ended up with that. One of my closest friends was diagnosed last week with breast cancer. It was caught early and her prognosis is good. Both of her sisters are cancer survivors. She has 2 daughters that will now undergo intense screening for the next 20 years or so. I can’t believe I truly talked myself into the excuse that “I don’t have time to go to the doctor’s”. Worse excuse ever. I have even less time to be sick.

    Again, your strength is amazing. Your decision was meant to be because you have so many people in your life that need you and would be lost without you. You truly are an inspiration.

  2. Pat says:

    Rainey, Warrior Princess! I would have checked in sooner, but I was having my fresh fruit and walking fast enough to stay ahead of the Blackflies!

    • Lorraine Lorraine says:

      I had the luxury of knowing ahead of time what was up. I worked out like crazy, for some reason feeling this primal need to be strong. Sounds crazy, and a 50-year-old crazy woman can only be so strong, but it made me feel better:)

  3. Paul Tate says:

    I have had a journey with cancer over the last 14 months. My treatment had 6 courses of chemo over 9 months followed by months of continuous chemo after a Stem Cell Transplant. During and between the rounds of chemo I maintained my fitness level by playing hockey, mountain biking and other fitness activities. The team of Drs. and transplant coordinators etc recognize a significant improvement in outcomes for those who maintain their fitness during treatment. It seems pretty clear that a stronger body responds better to any injury or disease … Isn’t this a no brainer?

  4. Beth says:

    I am truly humbled and blessed by the fact that I read you every day. I have been through two crappy marriages, work in a job that is only okay and have a weird family that stresses me out all the time. I am now married to a wonderful man and I am truly loved for who I am. This is the best column you have ever written and I thank you for reminding all of us to cherish life AND to remember we write our own destiny in many ways. Bless you and yes, you are my friend.

  5. SloppySue says:

    As I sit here downing my (ahem) third glass of wine while sitting in front of the computer and reading your latest entry, I am beyond motivated to get my ass off the couch and go walk around the block. Every day. I am your age and have been extremely lucky that I haven’t had to deal with any heavy medical issues, but there is diabetes and cancer in my family and I need my body to be capable of sucker-punching anything that dares to do battle with me.

    Your strength and bravery have inspired me.

    Sue in Oakville. xx

  6. DJW says:

    Very true about dodging and ducking whats around the corner.

    Being a male, when I hit 40, Dr’s took a strange interest in my backside. I call it my Star Trek Years…men boldly go where no man has gone before. Every time I see a Dr. now I drop my pants and turn around.

    My Dentist wasn’t interested.

    My Brother, an Executive for a large multi-national firm is 64 and probably won’t make it to 65. Stage 4 Prostrate Cancer…in the bones and kidneys now. They discovered it when he took ill in Australia last fall.

    If only he hadn’t been too busy…

    People need to be aware of their own bodies, but just as important, health care professionals need to know that when we say something isn’t right, it isn’t.

    My (former) Dr. a few years ago dismissed my sudden weight loss and lack of appetite as stress and depression and gave me a book he wrote about healing the soul. He said it had absolutely nothing to due with my swollen liver pushing on my stomach….

    Remember, we’re all in this together, I’m pullin’ for ya!

    I’d give your column 2 thumbs up, but well, ya know.


    • Zena says:

      And that’s the most important thing: we must be our own advocates, and do our own research (something that becomes more difficult as we age).

      GPs don’t know everything Specialists don’t know everything. GPs and specialists don’t communicate with each other. GPs and specialists don’t always listen or hear what you’re saying; they also often don’t want to admit that their patients know anything whatsoever about their bodies. And they don’t always have the time or inclination to do due diligence.

      Our emergency services are awesome, once you get into the system. Getting there, and getting a proper diagnosis, is where things tend to fall down. So often, doctors simply medicate the symptoms instead of identifying the cause of the symptoms.

  7. Mitch says:

    No one ever says I wished I spent more time at the office. Your ‘In Tray’ is only empty on your last day on earth.

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