Our relationship started 26 years ago. Back then, I didn’t really acknowledge her; she was just there.
We grew up together but I never really appreciated how hard she worked. Sure, sometimes she would test me to make sure I knew. A cold here, broken arm there (granted, that was partly my fault), but life just carried on and we got by, together. Until one day, my body decided things were running a little too smoothly and decided to put a big, fatty lump in our relationship. A lump in my breast. And this wouldn’t be the first.
A Lump Can Only Mean One Thing
When something like that happens, you immediately think the worst. I went to an all girl high school, and we were frequently told by nurses and health professionals to check our breasts regularly. I remember being given a bean bag boob and told to ‘find the lump’ as if it were some kind of inevitability. There was only ever one word associated with the discovery of a breast lump, a word so horrible most of us can only refer to it as the big C. Naturally, when I discovered I had one, my anxiety levels hit the roof. I was 19, just starting the second year of my degree and it was as if my body had decided this lump was the perfect way to disrupt the status quo.
A few weeks after the discovery and many fondles of my breast by concerned doctors and nurses later, I had a biopsy and scan to reveal how serious this thing inside me, was. It wasn’t the big C. It was something called a fibroadenoma, which is essentially fatty tissue that had grown over a milk-producing gland and had formed into a golf ball sized lump. It was benign, meaning that it wasn’t that word we all dread to hear. The thought of it still terrified me, so I had it surgically removed. I was furious at my body for putting me through all that torture, the anxiety of thinking it was something more than it was. How dare she.
Another Bump in the Road
Flash forward a few years and she decided to put another obstacle in my path. Life was going well. I had started a new job, began organising my wedding and was in the process of saving for a house. It was all going swimmingly until one day I collapsed in excruciating pain that derived from my abdomen. It travelled down my leg and across my lower back. It wouldn’t stop. It carried on pulsating day and night, sleep was no longer an option. I was in so much constant, agonising pain despite the high dose painkillers I was taking daily. Keyhole surgery revealed I had endometriosis: a chronic condition where the lining of the womb grows outside of your uterus, often latching on to other parts of your body which can cause extreme levels of pain. It had destroyed my right fallopian tube, which had swollen to 12 cm, pushing on my bladder and sciatic nerve. That explained the pain.
When my gynaecologist sat me down to explain the condition and how there was no known cure, I didn’t cry. I sat there in disbelief. I was angry and frustrated at my body. I had been so good to her. I treated her right. I wasn’t an excessive drinker, neither did I smoke or do drugs. Generally, I take care of my body, and this is how she repays me?! I was furious. The doctor had no answer. Apparently, these things just happen. The idea of living a healthy lifestyle just seemed pointless – why deny myself that G&T or slice of chocolate cake when I’m just going to be sick anyway?!
Coming To Terms With My Future
A year later, I’m still coming to terms with my diagnosis and I’m learning, albeit slowly, to love my body again. I have a few small scars from surgeries that remind me daily of the struggles I will face with fertility and chronic pain. I will forever be on tablets to help me control new health issues and side affects that seem to be popping up in relation to my endometriosis. For a long time, I asked myself, why me? Sure, other people suffer with much worse, but why?! Why do our bodies test us like this, even when we show them so much love? I’ve battled with this question many times, but I’ve reached a point where I’m sick of feeling sorry for myself. I’m still here. I’m living and breathing, and that’s all that matters. I still have bad days where I feel weak and incapable of doing as much as others around me, but I try to remind myself how much stronger I am to be feeling that way and still achieving the things I have done. The fact that I have been working a full time job, have a mortgage and have planned a wedding since my diagnosis, shows that I can do this. I’m almost grateful for this condition because it has shown me how truly strong I am, mentally and physically. My body may try to limit me, but I am stubborn and I am powerful.
When I was first diagnosed with endometriosis, I told people that I was ‘too much woman’, logically it didn’t make sense, but to me it did. I had suffered with health issues that would only affect women, and they just kept cropping up. Water infections are pretty common for me too, something that also affects women more often than men. ‘Too much woman’ was my way of being able to understand what was happening to me, and I don’t mean in a self-deprecating way, but in my ability to tackle these issues head on. Women’s bodies are unbelievably robust, childbirth is a prime example of this, and this mentality helps me get through whatever obstacles are thrown my way.
I love my body. Sometimes she doesn’t love me back, but that’s cool, because I’ll always do my best to take care of her. It’s been hard to get to this point where I’ve finally accepted my diagnosis and the condition I will have for the rest of my life, but I’m getting there. We shouldn’t look at issues with our mental and physical health as weaknesses, but a chance to show how tough we can be.
Ready To Fight
Having this attitude has helped me a lot recently, particularly when just the other week, I discovered another lump in the same breast I did previously. I almost laughed when I found it. I wasn’t upset. It was almost expected. I’ll be going for tests over the coming weeks and I’m feeling optimistic about it. If it turns out to be something more serious than last time, then I know I can fight it.
Me and this body of mine have a love-hate relationship. She likes to test me and I like to win. I’m the boss, and no matter what happens, I’ll come out on top.
Author Bio: Michelle Rooker
An advocate for raising awareness of women’s health, Michelle works in digital marketing by day and is a couch potato by night. She set up her blog – A Modern Drift – in 2015 to talk about all things travel and to share her general thoughts on life, love and friendships. Loves dark humour, books and Chris Pratt.
Blog – www.amoderndrift.com
Instagram – @michelle.almost