Prevention

I’ve had this post in my head for the last couple of months. During Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in September, I had just found out that my dad has prostate cancer. And with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, one of my long-time friends who is a survivor reminded all of us to get our mammograms, and get our skin checked out for any odd-looking spots! Skin Cancer Awareness Month is in May, and I’ve written directly about that before as well. But, my bigger reminder to everyone is that we all need to get regular checkups and be aware of our own health. Prevention truly is the best form of medicine!

All of us are touched by cancer in one form or another – whether it is a close friend or relative, or a passing acquaintance – cancer does not discriminate and affects everyone.

Each year around this time, I have written about breast cancer prevention, and making sure to get your regular health exams (See: Self Care: Breast Cancer). Last year, I had delayed my own mammogram because of the pandemic. I know that many of us did that – and as I’ve seen more friends getting sick from COVID in recent months, I want to remind everyone again about taking care of yourselves.

We all need to make sure that in the juggle of our daily lives, we don’t lose track of our own regular medical, dental and eye exams. If you’ve had something small that has bothered you, make sure you get it checked out! Getting ahead of these things could save you from so many other issues down the road.

Prevention really does help.

Medical science shows us that when you catch cancer (or a virus) in its early stages, you have a better chance of treating it and getting well. Whether it is thyroid cancer, prostate, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, brain or spinal cancer/tumors, skin cancer, diabetes, or anything else, prevention and being proactive is the key.

We have friends who have survived multiple forms of cancer, and we have close friends who fought the good fight and lost their battles.

One friend actually credits a COVID test with saving his life! Because of the brain-scan swab in the early days of the pandemic, the swab actually dislodged part of a brain tumor that was just starting to form, and they caught it when it was the size of an almond – this type of tumor is usually very aggressive and not usually discovered until it is the size of an orange. Sometimes, the most annoying random things can actually save a life. Our friend Brad’s story is pretty amazing, and you can read more about it in a blog post by his wife, Elizabeth.

Friends, I encourage all of you to make sure you’re up to date on all of your medical exams, especially checking your blood work. If the pandemic has taught us nothing else, this nasty virus hit people who didn’t know they had an underlying condition the hardest. Make sure you get everything checked out.

Years ago, my brother-in-law died of a heart attack in his sleep, never knowing that he had a heart condition that was possibly hereditary. His father had died when he was very young, and while Robert was not in top physical heath, he was an active guy with kids and a busy life. Now, my sister’s kids know that they need to keep track of their health and stay ahead of any issues – a hard lesson that they had to learn at a young age.

Two years ago, I wrote about my former brother-in-law dying suddenly after having a heart attack while he was running outside. He also had lost his father suddenly of the same thing, right before his wedding to my husband’s sister. He was active, in good physical shape, and worked outside in a physical job. Friends, Life is Short.

Losing someone close to us is never easy. Our families are our lives – and we owe them (and ourselves) the dedication to get our health checked out every once in awhile. And to know our family medical histories. Make sure you talk to your parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents about any medical conditions that you may be at risk for. Share the information you find with your siblings, and your kids.

Knowledge is power. Prevention is key.

My dad is very pragmatic about his cancer diagnosis, his doctor doesn’t seem worried, and for now they are monitoring things and waiting to see what happens. His tests came back with only five percent of his tested cells positive for cancer, so it is a small section of his prostate at this point. Prostate cancer is not fast-moving. It is not aggressive. That doesn’t make it any less scary! Dad has another check up with his doctor next month, and we will see what comes next. He’s a pretty tough guy, and I’m sure he will be with us for years to come.

The lesson in all of this? He has seen a urologist for years, and has kept track of his numbers the whole time. So, he already had a relationship with the doctor, and he is comfortable with the treatment plan. Prevention and being proactive helped my dad get ahead of this, and one way or another he will follow the direction of the doctor.

Getting your regular medical exam includes keeping up with all the vaccines too! People my age (40-ish) may need a new MMR booster today.

Our medical experts really do know what they are doing. I trust our family doctor to give me good advice, and I text him regularly to touch base on all the random things that my kids get into as part of life. He and his wife are also personal friends, and our kids have been friends for years. As with anything, relationships matter, and we trust people we know. If you don’t already have a good relationship with your doctor, I encourage you to ask your friends and family who they go to, and find a doctor that you can establish that relationship with.

You never know, they could save your life through prevention. Take care of yourself, get your medical checkups scheduled and make sure you’re not missing something little that could be big.

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