Last June while I was lying on a table getting an MRI of my knee, I had a revelation. Listing to music on the hospital headphones as the magnets clanked, thunked and whirled, a voice in my head sounded over the clamor and announced “I am healthy.”
I knew then that the torn muscle around my knee would be only that. No ACL, MCL or other CL would be torn. I knew that my meniscus would be intact and that I was really pretty much wasting my time and money on the MRI. Or was I? For in that moment, I was able to renounce two years of health-related anxiety. I suddenly knew I was healthy and that I could “choose health.”
I Am Not A Hypochondriac
Now, I just want to clarify: I AM NOT A HYPOCHONDRIAC. I don’t want to be sick and it is not like I was “choosing illness.” However, in less than twenty months, I had been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and had squamous cell skin cancer removed from my face. I had to go to a doctor in Denver every four months, have quarterly blood draws and give myself a shot every Tuesday morning. In short, I was medicalized. And, in short, I hated it.
The turning point came when I got my skin cancer diagnosis. It was a full-on powder day at Snowbird. A foot of new snow had fallen and more was falling all the time. My phone rang right as I was getting off a lift. It was a nurse. The biopsy was positive and they would call me back to schedule a time for the procedure. I went to the Mid-Gad lodge, pulled out my phone and spent an hour of precious powder time researching skin cancer.
That is when I saw a link between skin cancers and immunosuppressant drugs. Without any medical supervision, I stopped giving myself shots that day. I took the first step from being medicalized and dependant toward freedom and choosing health.
Listen to Yourself
When I heard my voice in June proclaiming my health above the din of the MRI, it confirmed what I should have known before – that I was healthy. Rather than meekly submitting to and becoming what was diagnosed, I could now say, “No. I chose to be healthy. I am not ignoring this diagnosis, but I refuse to be defined by this diagnosis. I am so much more than a patient. I am a mom, a wife, a writer, an athlete, a friend, a daughter, and an individual. What I am not is sick.”
If you are anything like me, there are many instances when you’ve let others define you. For better or worse, I think that many women defer to experts and avoid arguments. “This is what you are, what you have, what you will be,” we are told and we make the best of it. Maybe it is just me, but I think a lot of us just drift along, accepting how others define and shape us because we are either too tired to argue, too busy to think about it or too scared to question.
It’s Your Choice
When I finally lay down on a table in June, when I finally had “nothing” to do and nowhere to go for 45 minutes, I finally heard myself and my soul. I recognized that I had a choice and then I chose health. My next choice is to become a better listener – to myself and everyone else. If what I heard above the incessant clamor of an MRI could be so valuable, what will I discover when I listen in the silences and listen to those around me?
I can’t wait to find out.
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