The doctor didn’t sugar coat it. He looked me in the eye and said bluntly, “I’ve discovered a cyst on your left ovary.” A baseball sized cyst. In my gymnastics career, I had taken many hard falls and suffered many painful injuries like a broken and dislocated elbow and a torn stomach muscle, but never had I felt such a shock to my body as when I heard my doctor’s words.
I had almost skipped this visit with my gynecologist that morning in December 2010. My days were no longer filled with chalk dust and sweat. Having traveled a long and arduous road, I had found my passion as an advocate for women’s health.
My mission was (and still is) to help women make their health a priority. But was I listening to my own advice and that of the experts, doctors, nurses and survivors I had met and interviewed during those years?
I was too busy to even acknowledge what I later found out were symptoms of a larger issue — occasional stomach aches, bloating and sudden weight loss. I chalked them up to benign issues or body changes after having my son.
While on hold with my doctor’s office, I felt a pang of guilt. I had built an actual business, after all, encouraging women to be more attentive to their own health by doing things like … well, like keeping medical appointments.
During this National Cancer Survivor’s Month, I can’t help but think of all the women who are foregoing medical screenings. Early in my treatment, I vowed to focus on helping others make their health a priority and to get those regular exams and screenings.
We need the reminder.
At the same time, half of those diagnosed said such screenings were how they discovered their cancer. A Gallup poll notes that nearly four of 10 Americans said they had put off care in 2022 because of cost, the highest number since Gallup started asking people about delaying care more than 20 years ago.
Because many cancers are most effectively treated early, screenings lower cancer deaths dramatically.