Health Advocacy Found Me

Shortly after I was diagnosed, one of my doctors said:

I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but out of all of my patients, if one of them had to get cancer, I’m glad it was you. I don’t worry about you not being able to handle it.

I laughed out loud, as I understood her thought process. I've been advocating for my own health since I was a teenager. I knew the system and how to interact with doctors, and I could use those skills to my advantage as I battled cancer.

I’ve become a Subject Matter Expert in health advocacy because I had to.

My first memories are of being in the hospital as a toddler. During one stay, my mom and I were both in the hospital at the same time.

At 16, one of my lymph nodes was sent to medical facilities from California to Boston to Minnesota to be studied. I would later be accepted at NIH for a study related to this condition.

I started to go paralyzed at the age of 20.

My mom passed away from cancer of unknown primary origin when I was 24.

I had unexpected complications from neurosurgeries in my early 30s. Those complications have caused me to have repeated concussions and Post-Concussion Syndrome.

I’ve been in physical therapy 10 out of the past 12 years.

Since the age of 26, I’ve had 13 breast biopsies. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 at 37.

My health has always been unique, and doctors are typically fascinated by my body. Managing my health is a full-time job. But, most importantly, I’m still standing! I have so many blessings in my life, and health insurance, a wonderful support system, and a great team of doctors are high on that list. And, despite everything that I’ve been through, I’ve never – knock on wood – thought I wasn’t going to survive.

Over the course of my life, I’ve had more than 25 MRIs. I must admit that the one on Monday was slightly stressful, though. As I type, I’m staring at my telephone, trying to will it to ring with a call from the doctor with the results. I just keep telling myself silently,

I’m cancer-free. I’m cancer-free. I’m cancer-free.

As I was on the table during the test, I realized that all of my life experiences brought me to this point for a reason. I needed to be an advocate for myself so that I could be an advocate for others. This is where I’m meant to be, and I’m thankful that I’m here in every sense of the word to do that.

It’s a New Year. Please be on top of your health, self-exams and annual doctors’ appointments. Please. xoxo

What negative have you turned into a positive?

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