It was the second-to-last day of our holiday and we wanted to make the most of it, but we were driving in circles trying to find somewhere to park. As a new driver, Chris was getting stressed, and as a car accident survivor, I was getting anxious.
Once we finally found a space and I breathed a sigh of relief, I felt it. As I undid my seat belt, my hand brushed something that shouldn’t have been there: a lump, straddling my left armpit and the side of my breast. A lump, round and protruding from my skin. There was no mistaking it.
I always thought that if I was ever diagnosed with cancer, I would react calmly, but in that moment, I was filled with feelings I had never before experienced and can’t truly describe. Of course, I wanted to stay calm and rational, but I couldn’t help thinking that, with my family history and hormonal complications, breast cancer made sense. I distinctly remember saying to myself, “I thought I had more time to fix this.” I was working hard to bring my body into healthy hormonal harmony, but in that moment, it felt too late.
I was flooded with fear. I couldn’t even touch the lump again; it made me feel physically sick.
I was angry with myself. I never check my breasts. Ever.
Well, the truth is, it wasn’t necessarily conscious, but I had decided that having endometriosis was enough for me to deal with. Endometriosis got my full attention, and the blame for any new medical complaints went on endo.
I am incredibly lucky that the lump turned out not to be breast cancer, but the entire scenario got me thinking. This wasn’t the first time neglecting areas of my health had led to more serious issues.
When I first started managing my endo symptoms through nutrition, I didn’t do my research on B vitamins and became B12-deficient without realizing it. For months, I put the dizzy spells, tingling and numbness in my limbs, and severe brain fog and fatigue all down to endometriosis. It got to the point that, as I walked, I literally couldn’t feel my feet hitting the pavement. It felt like I was walking on two clumsy blocks that weren’t really attached to my body, and I had to look where I was walking in order to avoid colliding with the concrete below.
B12 deficiency can have pretty serious complications if left unattended, and I am lucky I caught it before too long. Had I been paying more attention to my health in general, though, it’s likely I would have caught it sooner.
I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t exactly improved since. Last December, I was struck with extreme chest pain. It felt like a clamp was squeezing down on my heart and someone had pushed all the air out of my lungs, like deflating a balloon. I called a local NHS helpline and was told to go to the doctor the next morning. They weren’t concerned that I was experiencing a heart attack, but they felt it needed to be investigated.
I didn’t go. The pain persisted almost every day throughout December, January, and February. It worried me sick. But we had so much going on; adding heart tests and scans into the mix just felt attention-seeking, dramatic, and unnecessary.
During this time, I realized just how little attention I gave to my heart. Because I am so careful with what I eat, I don’t really think about what I’m eating or how my lifestyle might be affecting my heart health. I had dismissed it, assuming I was healthy enough.
Eventually, I did have the pain investigated. At present, the cause is a mystery; the closest we can get to an answer is anxiety. But anxiety or not, looking after my heart through regular exercise, nutrition, and stress reduction can’t be a bad thing.
It seems to me that I value my health pretty much only when it comes to endo. You may have heard of compassion fatigue; well, perhaps I suffer from health fatigue. I am so consumed with the health of my hormones and uterus that I just don’t have the capacity to look after the rest of my body. I’m an advocate for my endo health, but feel like a nuisance when other health issues crop up.
But just because I’ve decided to turn a blind eye doesn’t mean that health issues aren’t building up in the background. I urge you: Don’t dismiss symptoms. Don’t feel that because you already have endo, you’re being an attention seeker for raising new concerns.
Your health is important. You are important. Every inch of you deserves care.
Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.