Monday, 7 April 2014

Missing the Signs

I try to have at least one full physical check up annually. Ironically, the year I was diagnosed was the year I missed having one. If I had done the check up, would they have found it? The last physical I had in Vancouver Canada, three years ago, I complained about breathlessness. My GP said I just needed more exercise and to eat better.
I can’t go back and dwell on what could have been, but I’m sharing this so we can be vigilant about our health. It's not enough to be told we're good, at the back of my mind, I knew something's amiss.
One year before being diagnosed, my vision drastically changed. I did get specs three years before, for reading. This change in my vision though was different. I had to really work hard to focus, like adjusting your camera lens until it’s all clear. I got new prescriptions, but it seemed really odd that the change was overnight. I thought this may be what aging is like.
When medical students came in to talk to me, they asked to look at my nails. They said cancer patients’ nails tend to widen and protrude out from the nail bed. I have noticed these changes, but I just dismissed it as getting old and that it may be because of all the housework and crafts I do.
I used to take our dog out to Hyde Park everyday with my daughter. It’s a 10 minute walk. To avoid crossing the busy roads in Knightsbridge, we go through the underground station to cross to the park, that means stairs and uphill pavements. For months I did not have a problem doing this until February 2013. I would struggle to get up the stairs and stop to rest a bit. I would slow down when I get to the uphill pavements. We run and play with him when we get to the park, but this time I would just sit down and watch. Again, I thought I am getting older, and I should seriously change my diet.
I’ve always had problems with my gut. I’m the type who can’t just drink any water, or eat anything off the streets. My tummy’s always been sensitive which is why I thought the frequent diarrhea is just me eating junk again. I drank very strong coffee as well. I usually take a break from eating, drink some herbal tea and that usually does the trick. In the days leading up to the diagnosis though, the diarrhea became severe, I got worried I’m not getting any nutrition in.
I wouldn’t call it irrational per se, as there are legitimate reasons to be upset. The difference is the way I react to the challenges. I would always be calm and collected but I noticed I can’t keep it cool anymore. I would shake uncontrollably when I’m mad. I’m not my tolerant self. My tears are shallow. I was not myself.
Eyes and Face
I look deep into my eyes and I know something’s off. I just can’t figure out what. My eyes don’t have that sparkle, it seems inexplicably dull. The shape and size seems different. The expression of my face looks tired. Again, I dismiss this as a part of aging.
The past 3 or so years I have been searching for products and diy recipes to restore my hair’s luster and texture.
Persistent Coughing
It was eventually the persistent cough that made me finally see my GP. It’s been more than a month I’ve been getting involuntary cough with clear sputum. I don’t get coughs longer than this so I went.
As a mother, you don’t want to get sick, you don’t want anything stopping you or slowing you down from your mommy duties. I psyche myself by reciting “you’re not allowed to get sick”. I thought I was doing really well. I’ve never had a fever in maybe a decade. I would get colds and coughs but they only lasted days. Not having fevers was not necessarily a good thing. Being able to produce fevers is proof that your immune system is working, it is a defense mechanism.

We should all be proactive with our health. I dismissed my symptoms as aging. You know yourself and your bodies more than your doctors ever will, if you notice and feel something’s awry, check it out, it may be nothing but at least you know it is nothing. All of my symptoms had one denominator, they signal that my immune system needs help. If I looked at them as a group and not individual conditions, I would have probably seen how they are all related and how I could have helped myself, or I could have demanded to look deeper. I missed the signs. I missed the signs that could have paved the way to early detection. Time is key to fighting cancer, the earlier you catch it, the bigger your chances of overcoming it.