For 34 years, I never really practiced self care. I did my treatments and took my pills, but I never really considered that self care was more than just something I had to do. I constantly put the needs of others above my own. But that all changed in July of 2021, when I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer. Self Care is now something I have to take seriously in order to survive. My life was flipped upside down, due to that Stage 4 Colon Kancer diagnosis (I spell it with a K to take some of its power away). I was only 34 years old and had no idea that I had been walking around with Kancer in my body for years. You don’t just wake up with stage 4 Kancer; it is hard to realize that it has been part of my reality for quite some time.
For me, self care involves listening to my body, and responding accordingly. My routine involves chemotherapy every two weeks as well as breathing treatments and giving myself the time to rest after – even if that means not attending events and putting projects on the back burner. For example, this blog took me over a month to write because I have to make my health my number one priority. Part of my self care now includes making sure I get blood work done every two weeks and a colonoscopy that I will have done in December to make sure I haven’t developed anything new since my resection back in December of 2021. I also make my mental health a priority, your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Living with two monsters like CF and Kancer is very challenging; learning how to prioritize your own needs and let go of guilt is not easy.
Right now the guidelines for colon screening state that patients who haven’t had a transplant should get a colonoscopy at age 40. I was 34 and had no idea that I had stage 4 Colon Kancer. My path to diagnosis was not your typical path. It took me a month to get a diagnosis. I didn’t have a colonoscopy until they were already looking for Kancer! Ideally, a colonoscopy is a SCREENING tool! They knew I had Colon Cancer as it had spread to other organs. I believe that if patients get screened earlier, then we can prevent more of us from having to live with this two headed monster. Part of my self care, in my eyes, is doing everything I can to raise the alarm that 40 is too late. We, as patients, have to be our own fierce advocates; we can’t take no for an answer and we can’t just assume 40 is good enough. I know I’m not alone and I am hopeful that we can get the guidelines changed.
I hope you throw yourself the life raft that I couldn’t and I hope that with more of us getting screened at an earlier age, fewer people will have to walk in my shoes. Self care is advocating for yourself, being persistent, listening to your body, and not giving up. Self care is making sure you rest when you need it, leaving the feelings of guilt and disappointment at the door. I write this knowing how lucky I am to still be here, not everyone who has been diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Kancer and CF are lucky enough to still be with us.
I’m so very grateful to be here. While my life is not what I hoped at 35, it is within my control to make it meaningful and beautiful and I promise myself I will do just that.