How We Got Here — My Health History: Project Health, the Warning Signs, and the Regrets
I’m continuing to tell the story of my journey with endometrial cancer. I speak openly and honestly in these posts so if that might offend you, please feel free to check out my newsletter or my other writings instead.
I sat across from my friend at dinner not long after we had the preliminary diagnosis. I was trying to give her the news of what was going on. I started with the line that I’ve said many times in my life, “I’ve never had regular periods.” She was taken aback. And it was a good reminder to me of how much we, even as women, don’t understand about the challenges we each face. From pain, to irregular cycles, to heavy bleeding, many women face a steady barrage of health challenges. And, when you’ve experienced them your entire life or most of your life, you can — just as I did — become numb to them. Because many of these like pain and irregular cycles are invisible to doctors, these symptoms are, all too often, dismissed as just part of being female and they don’t receive the level of concern they actually warrant.
I said in my first post about my cancer journey that anemia most likely saved my life. I was anemic because I was bleeding so heavily (soaking a pad or more an hour) for multiple days. This wasn’t new. I’ve had heavy bleeding for multiple days before and have had single day events of heavy bleeding many times during my life. The irregularity and unpredictability of when I’d bleed and how heavy I’d bleed have had me both wearing and carrying pads for the last 30+ years. I’ve ruined clothes, underwear, sheets, and even a couple of pieces of furniture with the drama coming from my uterus.
All of this is to say that one of the emotions that I’ve had to deal with is regret over not staying more on top of my endometrial and uterine health. Since I don’t have children, a gynecological specialist was never part of my regular care team. I saw my doctor for regular physical exams like clockwork every year as a part of my Annual Project Health, but I only saw the GYN when my primary care physician recommended it. While visits with a GYN are generally unpleasant, I do wish I’d prioritized this as a part of my project health efforts every year.