Wednesday, June 13, 2012

reality check...

i have been very open in the past about my health. a few years ago, i went to a gastroenterologist because i was having some bleeding issues, which i thought was nothing to be concerned about until i had a sigmoidoscopy and i saw a big, angry thing growing inside of my body. the doctor said "well, i don't like that..." and i was yelling "WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!" turns out, it was what they call an adenoma growing inside my lower colon and they had to do a colonoscopy to remove it, and found 8 more "friends" growing further up in my colon.

at 37 years old, it's highly unusual to have this kind of "activity" going on in your digestive tract so the doctors immediately took interest in my case. i have to go every year for a colonoscopy and they find stuff, remove it, and that's that. but they want to know WHY it's happening, and i guess what they should expect going forward. me, too, docs. ME, too.

yesterday, i had a consultation with a practice at Mass General who specializes in genetic gastro-intestinal cancers. we talked about my family history, we talked about my symptom history, and we talked about what to expect with the testing they are going to do (they took about a gallon of my blood and are sending it to some special laboratory in California to test for genetic markers and really complicated stuff). but that wasn't what struck me yesterday.

you see? i don't have cancer. yet. so i don't need to worry about my life. YET.

but as i was sitting in the waiting area, there was a couple - maybe in their 60s, also sitting there. the husband was stone silent, looking forward and staring at a painting of Motif #2 and the wife was just stroking his hand.

about five minutes passed, and a woman (doctor?) came out from the office area, found them, and started to talk. the man looked up and said "it's my life. i need to do what's best," and the doctor started to talk about chemotherapy protocol, how often he would need to come in for chemo, and how often he needed to visit with the doctor in between rounds of chemo.

i sat there, absolutely stunned that they were having this intensely personal conversation right in front of me, but then i realized. the man had just been given a pretty bad diagnosis, and had walked out of the doctor's office. his wife coaxed him to sit down in the waiting area to "cool off" a bit, and that was where the doctor found them. rather than try to convince him to go back to that unpleasant room where he had just been given some bad news, she made a judgment call to talk to him out there in a non-threatening environment.

i sat there, wanting to cry for this man and his wife. what they are going through? is exactly what i fear most. i do not want to have to have this kind of a conversation with a doctor, and i especially do not want to have this kind of a conversation with my husband. it was like i was meant to witness this whole interchange, because i suddenly felt like i HAD to find out what's going on inside my body so that i can do what i can PROACTIVELY to fight. there is a strong possibility that i have what is called Lynch Syndrome, which is a genetic defect (thanks to both my maternal and paternal genes) that causes colon, ovarian, uterine, and stomach cancers in combination with one another.

what does that mean? i am going to be under a microscope. i would rather face the unknown with as much armour as i can summon - and awareness and early detection is really my only hope. colon cancer is one of the most curable forms of cancer, when it is CAUGHT EARLY. i will eat my broccoli (mother nature's little scrub brushes), i will not smoke, and i will drink wine ONLY in moderation. i will not eat foods that are high in fat, and i will avoid red meat. these are what *I* can do to try to prevent what may be the inevitable. i won't know for another several months what the genetic testing shows, but... my guardian angel? your message was received LOUD and CLEAR. thank you, grammy. i know it's you. i love you.

Friday, June 1, 2012

from the outside, looking in

Have you ever had a friend who you look at, and you see how amazing, intelligent, and put together she is? But you know that she doesn't see the awesomeness that is what everyone else sees? The one who no matter what you tell her, she constantly deflects your compliments?

You say: "You look beautiful in that dress, darlin'!"
She responds: "No, I don't. I look fat."

You tell her: "That haircut really flatters your gorgeous cheekbones."
She claims: "Oh, my husband/boyfriend hates it."

You proclaim: "I wish I had your confidence when I walk into a room."
She says: "I wish he would pay more attention to me."

She's not a Debbie Downer, she is all of us. She is what everyone thinks she is when they look in the mirror. She doesn't mean to be negative, but she cannot ever look at herself in a positive light no matter what you tell her. We've all done it, we've all been there, but none of us have any idea how it affects our friends.

When you pay someone a compliment, you aren't being patronizing - you are telling someone sincerely that you admire them. When they respond with a negative, doubting comment... it makes you feel aggravated, like you have no credibility and maybe leaves you a little bit (or a lot) frustrated. Think about it.

When you tell someone that their dress makes them look beautiful and they respond with "I look fat," doesn't it make you second guess yourself? Like you're not being truthful because your friend doesn't believe anything you tell them? It sucks, doesn't it? Sure does. One of my achilles' heels is when someone questions my credibility (another is my intelligence, but that's a post for another time).

The irony here? I am guilty of deflecting ALL. THE. TIME. I don't even hear myself say it, but I am so used to beating the shit out of myself with my own inner dialogue, that when someone says something NICE to me, they can't possibly be telling me the truth. Now, I totally understand how it feels when you are trying to be encouraging to a friend and they constantly respond with doubtful, negative, bone-crushingly frustrating retorts.

I attention to myself when being paid a compliment, and if I can't think of something nice or positive to say (or even "thank you"), I will simply SMILE. Not saying anything when someone pays you a compliment is a hell of a lot nicer (to them) than deflecting it. Nobody wants to hear how much you hate yourself after they have just told you that you admire something about them! So SMILE. Eventually, those nice words they are saying to you? They become easier to accept, and something miraculous may happen. You may actually start BELIEVING the compliments.


Fuck the haters. You don't need to listen to those voices in your head, or even those in real life, who have nothing positive to say about yourself. YOU need to love who you are, and YOU are the only person who has control over how you feel. When you rely on someone else to provide you with value, you lose who you are. DON'T ever give someone else that kind of power over you.

You ARE amazing. You ARE intelligent. You ARE beautiful.

You're WELcome. <3