One Day A Year Could Save Your Life

When this article is published I will be sitting in my doctor’s office waiting to hear some test results for myself. I will most likely be utterly composed on the outside and utterly terrified on the inside.

As the caregiver of a person with cancer I of all people should know how important it is to maintain proper preventative care. This means my yearly complete exam, including a visit and gynecological check. Since I am also now an adult this means I have to compile my family’s medical history as well to add to my own. It is incredibly brutal to confront the idea that better than 90% of my female relatives have had some type of breast or body cancer. I am walking in filled with dread and almost certainty that I will be diagnosed with it as well.

It took me by almost complete shock to find out my husband had a tumor the size of a large baseball in his head. We are both in our mid-twenties so I was living in the “It can’t happen to us” bubble. Last year that all evaporated and I had to quickly face a grim new reality and life. Cancer invades every aspect of it now, so it’s not too surprising my brain turns every ache, pain, or new sensation into “!cancer!” This is a partial cause of my fear. It’s also easier sometimes as a caregiver to brush off my own care to do something for someone else first. What I had to remember is that as a caregiver I am responsible for someone else. Perhaps you are too; your partner, child, parents, siblings, maybe a friend. And when that responsibility of caring for another is present the best way to be an “adult” and responsible is to give my body the care it needs, and the annual exam to catch things before they become problems. What would happen to the people I love if something happened to me?
I need to try and look at this visit not with fear, but with a sense of purpose. I was deeply touched by Jane Goody’s life at the end, how she decided to deal with her terminal illness and spearhead awareness. This month not only marks National Breast Cancer month, but also the one year mark of my husband surviving his two brain surgeries, his year of chemotherapy and radiation. To me it is a month for survivors and a month to dedicate to awareness. It is not a month just for one type of cancer or of ways to spend money on pink objects, but to the people who live with cancer every day. To the people who care for the survivors and help them through it, the families that cancer touches and the friends. This is a month for the oncologists, the dedicated doctors, nurses, P.A.’s, technicians, surgeons, radiologists, researchers, and the people who raise money and hopes for a better tomorrow- a cure.

I have to see my medical team not as an enemy prepared to deliver me bad news at any moment (or ache) but as the people who want to keep me healthy and happy physically for my life.

I am not physically scared; I’ve had pap smears and exams before. This year I most likely will be scheduled for my first mammogram as well. That part I admit I am intimidated about. But my true hope is that when my visit is over with I will feel included in my own medical process and not feel like a witness to it. I have taken the time to do some research of my own to ask my doctor about. I’ve asked my husband to come along with me for emotional support. I am being responsible to myself for going in. I am giving myself a chance for a better life by getting a yearly exam. With some cancers a year of delayed detection can mean the difference between survivability and palliative care.

I write this to encourage every woman to get and maintain a yearly gyno exam. For those who are not covered through work insurance, school, parent’s, or the state I encourage you to visit They offer women’s physical exams for the insured and the uninsured (on a sliding payment scale). No matter if it is a family practitioner or the one recommended by the HMO a yearly exam could save your life.

As scared as I am of my history with medical disasters and miracles, I am more scared of the unknown. And when the end of the appointment comes I will know how I am doing; what my risks are for the coming year and anything to improve on or help me maintain my health.

I am hopeful for 2014 when everyone in America will be covered for preventative care. This year alone the Government predicts 739,940 women will die of cancer ( and of those 39,840 women will die of breast cancer ( and 4,210 women will die of cervical cancer ( I think that’s far too many lost mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces, friends, wives.

If I can find the courage to pick up the phone to call for my exam appointment you can too. On this you don’t want to be the statistic. And the next time you hear someone mention the topic spread the word to your female friends- It is just as important to ‘walk’ for a cure as it is to get yourself checked annually. My hope is that if every woman has and utilizes preventative care given we won’t need to have a “pink” month. Instead of trying to “raise awareness” we can then focus our funds and minds to creating cures for the cancers. We can encourage more girls to go into medical sciences and more minds and hands to help spread access to medical care across the globe.

I look forward to a world where all cancer is caught with plenty of time to fully treat it for every man, woman, and child. All humans. A world where we don’t need ribbons. And that is how I get through my appointment smiling no matter the news it brings.

By Tashi

I am a mid-twenties former student - formerly a full-time caregiver for my husband 'Wash' who had Glioblastoma Multiforme - End stage brain cancer. He passed away in Sept 2012 one month after his 28th birthday. I have a medical anthropological background and was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome as an adult in 2006. My husband was in college for Architecture studies before he withdrew due to the cancer. I am a Humanist and a very large nerd. Wash identified as a geek. I have been in the alternative scene for a period in my life and have had over 70 piercings. I have also held a long term job working with Real Estate agents. Both my husband and I are supporters of legalizing Medical Cannabis. Home is in the Valley of the Sun, Arizona with our two cats.

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