The death of Chadwick Boseman was a shocker. Unlike most people I didn’t post a photo or voice my pain. I went inward, like I do with most tragedies. If you haven’t noticed, I am always a week, two or three late in my responses. Don’t take my silence to mean I am not grieving or feeling…..I am processing. My mind/body said, “what the fuck (sorry mom that’s how I felt), cancer took another one, #fuckcancer.” If you have ever watched someone fight this vicious beast, whether one wins the battle or not, becoming a close acquaintance with it will change you and your family forever. My heart ached deeply for his family.
Hearing how Chadwick lived with his cancer reminded me so much of my mother’s most recent cancer diagnosis. She has a saying she clutched onto from a movie, she always says, “I am not dying of cancer I am living with cancer. ” When you see her, like Chadwick, she has lost weight but she is a bundle of joy, peace and pure delight. She is living, not dying. Both of my parents are living with cancer. This is my mom’s third diagnosis. Covid-19 didn’t have to wake me the hell up to the importance of living with intentionality and love. Cancer taught me that YEARS ago! My parents relationship with their cancer has taught me about life, love, forgiveness, healing, growth and advocacy.
Cancer seems to think it is a permanent resident/member in my family. We have lost family to different forms of cancer. On my father’s side, colon cancer is the dominant cancer. I had my first colonoscopy at age 32. Hence, I am writing this post to share my story, but more importantly to scream at the top of my lungs that YOU have to be your biggest advocate! Listen to your body, ask questions and don’t take no for an answer.
One way to fast track learning the importance of self-advocacy is when your health depends on it. After being vegetarian/pescatarian for over 20 years and being purposeful with my health, I know my body. So, in 2008 when I sought treatment for extreme bladder and abdominal pain I entered each doctor’s office with my eyes and ears wide open; notebook in hand. Prior to every visit I prepared my questions and spirit. After being misdiagnosed 3 times (I requested a 2nd and 3rd opinion and 4th). I requested every test possible, including a colonoscopy. Because of my family history of colon cancer and the abdominal pain I received insurance coverage for a colonoscopy. Let’s be clear……the request for the colonoscopy was MY request, not the doctor’s.
The doctors thought I had endometriosis, but weren’t certain. The colonoscopy did not show any endometrial tissue in the colon. However, polyps were found. The doctors were shocked. The polyps were tested and thankfully all were benign. The doctors shared that had I not requested the procedure and if I had waited until age 50 the polyps could have developed into cancer. I now have a colonoscopy every three years. I drink that nasty a$$ mixture to clean my stomach and show up ready to be sedated. This is not a joke….drink the nasty drink and take a nap (that’s how I see the procedure).
After my third opinion I found The Center for Endometriosis Care. They got it right! That year I had a five hour surgical procedure to remove the endometrial tissue that had attached to my organs. The Center was out of network, but worth it. The surgery revealed I had adenomyosis and stage four endometriosis.
My mother’s most recent diagnosis I remember talking to her on the phone for weeks and knowing something wasn’t right. Three hundred miles away I knew something was off. I went into my rolodex, called her nurse friend, aunty Becky, and asked her to go check on my mom. She knew instantly my mother was not well, and surprisingly convinced mom to go to the ER. Mom spent over a week in the hospital; it was a cancer diagnosis. Mind you, a few months earlier she was misdiagnosed, she was sick and had spent a week in the hospital. They didn’t do an x-ray on her stomach. I am thankful for aunty Becky’s intervention months later. She saved her life.
This is a plea to all of you. Number one, love on your family and friends. Number two, love on yourself……mind, body, spirit. Actually, do number two first! Get your annual exams, listen to your body and request additional lab work. If a diagnosis doesn’t feel right. Do like me and get a 2nd and 3rd opinion. Don’t settle. YOU have to be your biggest advocate., not your mama, your husband, or your children. YOU! This my loves …..is also the greatest gift you can give to yourself and family……..#selflove.
Be well, Be intentional. Be joyful. Most importantly, live fully!