"It's a tumor."
These are the three words I heard six weeks ago.
I hadn't been feeling right; I was experiencing fatigue, achiness, and then -- a hot flash? I'd always joked that when I hit perimenopause, I'd immediately have to go on hormones because I wouldn't be able to tolerate the sweat causing my hair to frizz!
Based on what my friends were experiencing, my symptoms were appearing earlier and more severely. I knew something was off. I assumed it was my hormones. So off to the specialist I went! It all happened very quickly from there. She gave me the news, and within the day, a surgery was scheduled. And we wouldn't know more until they could actually see what was going on during the procedure.
I called one of my best friends since childhood, and we joked through the fear of the possibility of cancer. "Is this where it all ends? Seriously?!"
So let me jump to the outcome. I ended up needing a full hysterectomy. Talk about daunting, but that's fodder for future blogs. For the purpose of this one, the tumor was caught early; I was saved from having ovarian cancer. And as much as the surgery and the aftermath were hard, May 7, 2012 goes down as the luckiest day of my life to date.
Happily, this is not where my story ends. It's where it begins, yet again. Another transformation, another loss, another gain... isn't this how life goes?
My belief system -- which always ends up being true in hindsight -- is that everything has a lesson. Everything happens as it should. And the meaning unfolds slowly. It's a process, and here is what I can share for now.
Firstly, I've spent my entire adult life in the service of making my life -- and the lives of those who come into contact with me -- better. I'm constantly telling my clients to be self-aware, feel their emotions, be in touch with their bodies. I also emphasize the importance of meditation, especially if an unfelt emotion is causing pain in the body. I push my clients to give up sleeping pills and too much alcohol. Because I live this way, I'm completely in tune with my body; most people wouldn't have known their fatigue was really something out of the ordinary.
Secondly, I must talk about Dr. Laura Corio, who literally saved my life. After my annual exam, my regular OB/GYN had missed the two-centimeter tumor that was strangling my left ovary, and he gave me a clean bill of health. He's not a bad person or a bad doctor, but now I know that he, like too many others (as I'm now discovering) are not giving the appropriate exam. To be completely explicit, the proper way for your OB/GYN to examine you is to go up the front and the back at the same time, and push down. This exam can save your life. It saved mine. Because my ovary was hiding behind my uterus, the regular exam was not sufficient. If it wasn't for my angel, Dr. Corio, I would have been battling ovarian cancer a few years from now. And the reason ovarian cancer is considered a death sentence is because by the time you experience symptoms, it's too late.
I also want to introduce my rock star surgeon, Dr. Peter Dottino. This man has the most amazing bedside manner and is tuned into the sensitivities of a woman like no one I've ever met. And it makes sense. He's dedicated his life to women, ovarian cancer, and research to help with early detection (which is not getting nearly enough attention).
So for now, to review:
Pay attention to yourself and your body, and if something feels wrong, check it out. Even if nothing's wrong, it's better to be certain. And for those of you too scared to go for your check ups, it's time to gather up the courage, because it can save your life.
Speak up. Be an advocate for yourself and stop making other people the expert on your own life. I do think doctors know a lot, and they're in their profession to do good and to help. However, no one knows you more than you!
I'm obviously going to use my voice as much as possible to spread the word. And I ask that you to do the same. Because you really never know when, how, or why something will hit. And you never know whose life you may be saving.
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