Thursday, August 16, 2007

Taking Care of Business by Taking Care of YOU!

This won’t be a particularly fun afternoon. Today is my yearly mammogram. And having your boobs flattened to flap-jack proportions by means of a vice-like machine is hardly my idea of a good time--even if the technician does turn out to look like Fabio--which I hope to God is not the case. After four kids the ‘girls’ aren’t what they used to be.

I said ‘yearly’ mammogram. But I misspoke. Somehow the time between my examinations grew to eighteen months. I ponder how the lapse could have occurred as if this circumstance was the result of some targeted conspiracy or a baffling puzzle rather than the result of business as usual--a pattern of conduct I suspect I share with many other women. Come on. Fess up. How many of you have gone too long between physicals, not visited a physician when you should have, gone without medication or skipped doses to make it last longer, or passed on the aerobic class because the kids had karate or dance or tennis…? How many of you have shrugged off aches and pains or got up off your sick bed when you had the flu to take care of children and family? Or went to work? Or both?

I started to think of those all too frequent occasions--whether from lack of time or lack of money--I put my needs on the back burner (okay, so I took them off the stove altogether) for what I perceived as the ‘greater good’. Mothers are notoriously guilty of this--‘guilt’ being the operative word here. However, women in general seem to struggle with giving themselves permission to take proper care of themselves--whether from some super mom notion, resource issues, or time considerations. We put everyone else’s needs first. It’s how we’re wired. How we’re expected to behave. We don’t know any different.

How does this relate to writing? More than you may think. Writing is a business. As in any business venture, its success--or failure--is based on the dynamic, energetic, creative force that fuels that business. In the business of writing that means you and me. We’re the CEO of the company. We’re the researcher, the marketing director, the accountant, and the final product inspector. We need to bring the best, brightest, most creative ‘employee’ to the company we can. Just as we need to bring the best and brightest mom to our family. Or teacher to our school. Or doctor to our patients.

Well, today--six months late for an appointment that could mean life or death--I’ve finally realized that the greatest gift I can give my loved ones, my readers, my employer is a healthy, happy me! Okay, so it’s taken a while for me to come to this point. I’m a living, breathing example of the adage, ‘you’re never too old to learn.’

And this all begins with giving ourselves permission to take as good a care of ourselves as we do others in our lives. Writers spend a heck of a lot of time with their behinds in chairs. Many of us have regular jobs and families to care for. How do you make time for you? Do you make time for you? What kind of exercise/yoga/meditation regime works for you? How do you keep all the balls in the air and still manage to find time to take care of your needs and nurture the writer inside?

In closing I’m posting a list of symptoms of a heart attack in women. The symptoms differ from those of men and often women have very few early warning signs before the onset of a heart attack or cardiac episode. Knowledge is power!

· Chest pain-may also include back pain and/or deep aching and throbbing in one or both arms.
· Breathlessness and/or inability to catch your breath when waking up.
· Clammy sweating.
· Dizziness--unexplained lightheadedness, possible blackouts.
· Anxiety--unusual nervousness, feelings of impending doom.
· Edema--fluid retention and swelling usually of the ankles or lower legs.
· Fluttering--rapid heartbeats, palpitations.
· Nausea--gastric upset.
· Feeling of heaviness, such as pressure-like chest pain between the breasts that may radiate to the left arm or shoulder.
‘Til next time,

~Bullet Hole Bacus who plans to visit the state fair and write a completely nonsensical blog entry about the biggest boar next week~

31 comments:

Gemma Halliday said...

I completely agree! Too often we let ourselves fall to the wayside while trying to do it all. When really a healthy you is the best way to be productive now and into the future.
Great post, Kathy!

And I hope the boob mashing goes quickly and not too painfully.

~Gemma

Kathy Bacus said...

Absolutely, Gemma. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out that by being good to yourself, you're being good to those you care about--and who care about you!

And the mammory mashing went very well, indeed. They had a new mammogram contraption and I was in and out in no time. Sore but victorious!

Allie Hollister said...

I don't even have kids, and I know the "off the stove" completely feeling. I have a restaurant, and I write magazine articles. My fiction WIP even comes before me.
I'm just lucky to have a husband who is more selfless than I am.

Allie Hollister

Cherie J said...

Too true. As a stay at home mom with 2 little ones it seems like I always put my needs last. Your post has really made me rethink this. I am late on getting my annual and in a couple of months i will be turning 40 and will need to start having mammograms. I need to take better care of myself so I can be there for a long time for my 4 year old son and my 10 month old baby girl.

Kathy Bacus said...

You make a great point, Allie. I think as career women/writers, we have so little 'free' time that something or someone doesn't have a claim on we tend to devote those precious few moments to pursuits we consider soul soothing or enriching. And under no theory I know of does a yearly pelvic exam fall under the soothing category.

I actually do consider my writing part of my overall wellness program. It's my therapy. A place to love and live and be (uh, and kill and maim and torture) where I have ultimate control. Ah, the rush of pure power...

And Cherie, don't be too hard on yourself. I was feeling really ashamed at how derelict I'd been in scheduling my mammogram and sheepishly told the imaging technician that I'd been a baadd, baaaddd girl. She made me feel ever so much better when she confided it had been five years since she'd had her 'well-woman' physical. And for many of the same reasons we've enumerated.

It's so a woman thing.

Thanks for posting!

Christie Craig said...

Kathy...

Great...great blog. And ugg, I got my notice for mammogram in the mail today. It's been year. I hate it. Seriously. My mom had breast cancer, so I always worry. Two years ago, I had the big scare. But a biopsy ruled me fine. So, I always go and get my pancaked and sonagramed, but the fear is always real.

But everything you said about women, about us ignoring our own needs and our health is so true. Today I went back to Weight Watchers. I'm not doing for vainity, okay maybe a little, but mainly, I'm doing for my health.

You post was timed perfectly.

Thanks.

Christie

Kathy Bacus said...

It's especially crucial for someone who has had a family member diagnosed with breast cancer to be screened often, Christie, so make sure you get that scheduled. And I absolutely believe when we feel good about ourselves--and this is in no way vanity--we have a greater energy we can draw upon to do all the things we need to do each day--and do them well.

Now don't forget to make that appointment!

Anonymous said...

Great post, Kathy! And great advice for all of us.

Faye

RudyRoo! said...

Kathy,

Too many of us have learned the hard way that not taking care of ourselves negatively impacts family, friends, employers, and sometimes even the random stranger. Thanks for the reminder!

Thanks too for posting the symptoms of heart episodes in women - they can be so different from what men experience!

Kate

Kathy Bacus said...

Thanks, Faye!

And you're right on, Kate. We have to continually remind ourselves that it is in everyone's interest for us to be at our best. That's not being selfish. In fact, quite the opposite. It empowers us to do more with each day than we would otherwise.

I have to admit that up until several years ago I had no idea symptoms women experience relative to a heart attack or MI differed so much from men. And how many women don't have early warning signs before an attack. Or, if they did, how many of those women thought it 'was nothing'.

It underscores the need to be informed and proactive when it comes to your health and the health and well-being of your loved ones.

Thanks for the great comment!

Brenda H said...

My yearly is way "past due" thanks for reminding all of us to schedule an appointment. I've loved all your books and can't wait for the next - PLEASE keep them coming! Our State Fair is a Great State Fair - can't wait to hear about the boar, maybe we'll still make it to the fair to see him. Watch out for the clowns!!

Kimberly L said...

I've never had a mammogram,but after reading this I will definately get one. Thanks for the advice.

Kathy Bacus said...

Never fear, Brenda. Somehow, somewhere, sometime when I least expect it, a clown always finds me. And sometimes I devise wonderful, glorious, devious paybacks in books. :)

Speaking of books, I'm so glad you are enjoying the Calamity series. I love writing these stories. It's hard to believe number five hits the stands in October. I'm working on book six right now and taking the Grandville Gang on a cruise.

How do you say 'iceberg ahead!!'

Kathy Bacus said...

I didn't start having yearly mammograms until I hit the big four-oh, Kimberly. Early detection is so important when it comes to treating and curing breast cancer.

Thanks for the post!

Estella said...

I think most women put their families needs before theirs. My children are raised now and I still put my husbands needs before mine.

Stacy S said...

Great post. I've never had one yet. Hope yours is not to bad.

Kathy Bacus said...

That's true, Estella. It's something in our makeup--that nurturing gene--that has us looking after everyone else before we get a turn. Unfortunately, sometimes when we do that, there's nothing left over for us--and ultimately this is not only to our detriment but our families', as well.

I just wish it was easier to give myself permission to pamper me for a change. Old habits die hard, however.

And, pending the mammogram results, I'm good to go for another year, Stacy. Thanks for asking. And thanks for posting, ladies!

jsiar said...

Thanks, Kathy for reminding all of us about the importance of mammograms. I hadn't had one in two years. I woke up one morning and spied a little red mark on my right breast. What the heck, I said to myself, curiously poking at it. Imagine my horror when I felt a pea-sized bump. I immediately scheduled a doctor visit, then a mammogram and sonogram.
Result: the lump I found was "nothing to worry about, but there's an unusual density in the left breast". More panic and an appointment for a biopsy.

I got there and the next thing I knew I was lying on a table, with my breast dangling through a hole, while the doctor and technicians did the biopsy. I felt like a Buick getting an oil change. I just had to laugh. The doctor and techs were great, always telling me what they were doing and that I was doing fine.

So, results: normal breast tissue. Phew!! All this to say, not only do we need to follow through on getting mammograms, our monthly self breast exams are vital. So many women I've told this story to tell me they don't bother. But, self-exams are key to early detection.

Debra said...

I too put off my mammagram and when I did go they found some spot thatis benign and I have to go again in 6 months. This one I will not put off. Thanks for the great thoughts

flip said...

I am really, really bad. I went nearly eight years without an yearly exam. Finally went last year. I also had my first mamogram. But it is not neglecting myself. I go to the dentist twice a year regularly. It is just that I am healthy. I hate spending close to $500.00 to be told that I am healthy.

Meljprincess said...

Hi Kathy,
Just read your news and came over to check out this blog. Love it!
Hope you got good news regarding your mammogram. I'm a 9 year breast cancer survivor.
I've been taking better care of myself lately and lost some weight. But...I won't stop smoking! *g*
Have a great day everybody!

NJ said...

Good words of wisdom from all of you! But remember it's not just mammograms or a colonoscopy either that we need to take care of ourselves. Had my mom taken better care of her health and gone to a real doctor for xrays when she had bronchits they might have caught her lung cancer early enough to treat. She might have even been around long enough to see the 2 beautiful great granddaughters that she would have had.

Take care of yourselves ladies your future and that of others may depend on it.

Jackie said...

Glad your mammo went well. I'm very good at keeping up with regular checkups and mammos.I have to tell you it isn't the most fun thing I've ever done but it is necessary for women. Usually I leave crying my eyes out because it hurts so much and that's why I dread going to my apt.

Caffey said...

Thanks for the reminder. I put a note down here for my next appt to get a script to have my mammogram done. I see it as getting it overwith much sooner than a dentist so I'm not as bad about putting it off, but I am overdue now. So thanks. Too on the heart info. Its good to have.

Kathy Bacus said...

I'm normal! Okay, those of you who know better and are shaking their heads and going, "Who is she kidding?"--Stop it right now! I'll elucidate. The results of yesterday's mammogram are normal!

Thanks to everyone who posted their experiences. I really didn't intend to inaugurate my first blog post with such a serious subject but the timing just seemed right. And thank you, nj, for reminding us that we need to be hyper vigilant when it comes to our own health issues and concerns. Not everything can be explained away under the hormones heading.

What a terrible scare you had, jsiar! I'm so glad it turned out well.

It's so crucial to have that baseline mammogram taken so changes can be tracked. Make sure you keep that six month appointment, Debra.

I hear you about not wanting to put out the $ to have someone tell you that you're healthy, Flip. In the past I've generally used the 'if it ain't broke--it don't need fixed' mode of health care. I remember going three years without an eye exam. By the time I finally went in for new glasses, Mr. Magoo had nothing on me.

A nurse friend of mine told me to take Ibuprofen if I had battered boob syndrome after the mammo, Jackie, but I didn't need it this time.

And to nine year cancer survivor, meljprincess, you go, girl!

Oh, and Brenda, while I had a great time at the state fair, it was just as I predicted. A clown had me in his sights. I even have photographic evidence! If I can figure out how to post it on the blog, I'll do it next Thursday. :)

~Bullet Hole~

Meljprincess said...

Get your mammograms ladies!
Here's something to consider: If you get 5 women together 1 of them will have a lump in her breast...benign or malignant.

Brenda H said...

Just a funny about mamos. We were teasing our 35 year old, recently divorced, friend that she needed to go in for her baseline mamo. She had heard it hurt and didn't want to go in. We informed her it wasn't bad and since she hadn't been dating much she might even enjoy it!! We told her we would then have to start limiting her to 1 a year! LOL

You make me laugh Kathy, clown photos at the fair - hope to see them Thursday. What about the 3,000+ pound bull?! That's the size of my car.

Kathy Bacus said...

Whoa, that's a sobering statistic, meljprincess. I had no idea that was the case. Thanks for sharing that.

And Brenda, you'll be happy to know I made a special trip to the cattle and swine barns and snapped pictures of the biggest bull and the biggest boar. (I took the liberty of shooting the picture of the big boar from the head end rather than the rear end. If you've ever seen a 1200 pound boar, folks, you'll know why.)

And the butter sculpture of Harry Potter? Very cool. No pun intended. :)

Cindy Best said...

I just did the "smash your boobs" thing this week, but I'd put it off 21 months. I'm a dedicated procrastinator when it comes to squashing the melons, and that's really stupid 'cause it takees all of fifteen minutes.

Thanks, Kathy, for reminding us we need to keep ourselves accountable for our own health.

Cindy B.

Kathy Bacus said...

Whoo hoo! Way to get those melons squashed, Cindy! And you're right. In the big scheme of things, what is fifteen minutes of excrutiating pain anyway??

Thanks for stopping by!

Carol said...

I hate the boob mashing but it's something all women should do. I'm one of the lucky ones who has a benign lump but I have to keep watching it so I will be getting it checked every year.