Friday, October 26, 2007

Healthy . . . and wise

Just last night I had a conversation with a friend of mine about people we both know who don't take care of their health. I probably fall into a borderline category myself. Knock on wood, I haven't suffered from any major illnesses, have had one surgery as an adult and take very little medication beyond over-the-counter sinus medication when my allergies kick in and an OTC pain med to keep my knee in gear. When symptoms develop, I research, give myself a week or so to stave off whatever's going on and then promise to see a doctor if I'm not cured.

Of course, one of my two favorite doctors used to go nuts about this tendency of mine to self-diagnose. I'd go in for an appointment and spend ten minutes not reciting symptoms, but telling him my theories about my illness. Since I worked in a hospital at the time and had access to medical journals, I "had" a lot of exotic diseases. Eventually the doctor would roll his eyes, point out that the illness I was sure I'd contracted only affected men on an island far, far away, and that perhaps it was time to give him a crack at figuring out what was going on. He also suggested I be banned from reading the medical journals.

I blame this habit of mine on a mile-wide independent streak, but I also think we all know our own bodies better than anyone else. And I believe with every fiber in me that a good diagnostician, who doesn't need to run a thousand tests, is worth his(or her) weight in gold.

However, there is a very fine line between taking charge of your own health and being in denial. The folks my friend and I were discussing had been in deep denial about their illnesses and now face an uncertain future. As terrifying as it can be to face some things head-on, how much more likely it is that early detection can lead to a cure.

In no situation is that more evident than with breast cancer. Women who do regular self-exams and have regular mammograms have a better shot at life-saving treatment and remission. It's important all year, but especially during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to make absolutely certain you and all your women friends are being tested.

This issue takes on added importance to me as I try to support a friend who's had a recurrence after sixteen years in remission. And it happens to be a significant part of my next book, SEAVIEW INN, which comes out in March.

Next week we'll feature a wonderful guest blog on this very subject, but until then, stop dawdling. Make that appointment for a mammogram. Call your friends and make sure they've made theirs. Don't wait until one of you faces a crisis. Stay healthy. It's the wise thing to do.

Sherryl Woods

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