January is a big month for me, and it should be for you, too. Especially if you’re a woman. (If you’re not a woman, you should still listen up and pass this info onto the women in your life.) January is the time of year where I save my life.
Yep, that’s right. I make a choice to save my own life every January. It’s pretty cool, I’ll admit. I feel like a low-level superhero in my own comic book life. Maybe a mid-level superhero, actually, if I factor in what my job consists of. I like to think that maybe I’ve saved a life or two along the way. I hope I have. But that’s not what I’m talking about today.
Want to save YOUR life? It’s easy, I promise. Just call up your gynecologist and schedule your annual exam.
Don’t scrunch up your face like that. And I don’t want to hear any excuses. None! I know it’s no fun. I know that everything Eve Ensler’s Angry Vagina complains about is 100% true (cold duck lips, tit-scratching paper gowns, Nazi-steel stirrups…all true!) and I know that it’s embarrassing and not something that women like to think about. If all of these excuses came to mind, I have some advice for you:
GET THE FUCK OVER IT!
No, I’m serious. Get. The. Fuck. Over. It.
I’m not going to apologize for sounding harsh (or even ask you to pardon my language) because that’s how strongly I feel about this issue. And now I’m going to tell you why.
Here’s my mom, Peggy.
On Friday, January 20th, she will have been dead for four years.
The news of her diagnosis came in stages. First, she had an abnormal pap smear; then, she told me they discovered a mass and wanted to biopsy it. After that decision was made, it just made more sense to have the full hysterectomy. And after all of that was done, the news was handed down that she had cancer.
And 17 months later, she was gone.
When she was going through treatment that wasn’t responding and we were getting slammed with one piece of bad news after another, I thought that perhaps she had something that was just too strong for the chemo and the radiation. Something resistant and rapidly spreading that they simply didn’t have the technology to treat yet. If she could only hold on for a few more years, just keep fighting, they would figure it out, and she’d be fine.
It wasn’t until after she died that I learned the truth. My mother hadn’t been to her doctor in at least three years. Maybe longer. It’s likely that her body had been fighting that cancer for much, much longer than any of us realized. By the time she was diagnosed, her cancer was at Stage 4, and she really didn’t have a chance.
Is four years long enough to stop being angry at her for missing those appointments? No, it’s not. I don’t feel the anger as strongly as I did before; mostly I just feel sad when I think about all she’s missing in mine and my brother’s lives. But it’s still there, the anger, the hurt, the confusion.
It’s one appointment a year.
One simple test.
So go to the doctor and save your own life. If not for you, consider it the best gift you’ll ever give your children.