Last November my sister was on a trip-of-a-lifetime to the Middle East. She was 31-years-old and looked and felt perfectly healthy and normal. While visiting one site, a fellow traveler (who happened to be a medical doctor) walked up to my sister and started to feel her neck. After getting over the initial shock of, you know, a new acquaintance touching her neck, my sister sobered when she realized the doctor had good reason for her boldness.
“Have you always had this lump?” the doctor asked.
“Um, no, I don’t think so…”
Long story short, the doctor advised her to get it looked at when she got home. The first week she was home, my sister saw a doctor which led to a biopsy which lead to the diagnosis of thyroid cancer. A few weeks later my sister had surgery to remove her thyroid and soon will be undergoing radiation in an attempt to kill off any lingering cancer cells.
The purpose of me sharing this story is not so you will all feel sad for my sister (although you are perfectly welcome to) but because her experience forced me to think about the very grown-up realities of health and taking care of ourselves.
I am relatively young and to be honest, have never been that concerned with my health. I don’t see a doctor regularly and when someone mentions cancer screening I tune out (which in effect is the same thing as putting fingers in my ears and humming the Battle Hymn of the Republic to myself—turns out my imaginary self is very patriotic.)
“I am too young for cancer!” (My sister is 4 years younger.)
“I feel great!” (So did my sister.)
“I will know when something is seriously wrong!” (But will it be too late?)
I love the article written for LDS Living’s January/February 2011 issue by our new health expert. Dr. Boud shares practical tips on cancer screening: what to look for, what to get checked, when to start screenings, and how often to get them. I highly encourage everyone to read this article (which is why we published it in full on the website.) As we all know, the earlier cancer is caught the better.
Our family gives thanks every day for a bold doctor’s observant eye and assertive action. Thanks to her, my sister’s cancer was discovered before it became life-threatening.
But here’s the thing folks, my sister had noticed it too. Over the past couple years she had seen a lump in her neck AND thought it had gotten bigger but she excused it away and assumed it was nothing. It wasn’t anything I or any other lay person noticed when you look at her, but she knew and chose to ignore it.
Now I am not trying to scare anybody or promote mass cancer hysteria. All I am saying is this: Stay educated. Go see a doctor now and again. Pay attention to your body. If something looks wrong, check it out. I will if you will. Let’s all stay healthy together okay? Okay.
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