Before We Start…travel doesn’t agree with me. Every time I fly it seems I get something. Lately, it had been either a UTI (urinary tract infection) or a yeast infection. Ah, yes, I enjoy being a girl. In July 2013 when I few to Atlanta for a writers’ conference, sure enough, there was another pesky yeast infection. And that seemed to trigger a series of infections that lasted a month. Really, I asked myself, so many years out from menopause should this be happening to me? I certainly wasn’t ready for it. As an empty nester with three grown kids I didn’t have the time or inclination for bad health, thank you very much. I was busy with church, family and friends, keeping up my house and garden and nurturing a writing career.
Finally, two days before my husband Gerhardt and I were due to fly to London for a two-week trip with our son I found myself in Urgent Care asking the doctor to please get me fixed. And, by the way, I was having the tiniest bit of spotting – a couple of drops of pink occasionally. Could this be from the kidney stone I’d learned I had? That was Doctor Sheila’s diagnosis anyway. Surely this doctor would concur.
“Well,” said the doc, “it’s hard to tell with women. When you get back from your trip I’d advise getting a pap smear and an ultra sound. If it’s something serious you want to catch it early.” Then he went on to tell me that his sister and mother both had uterine cancer, caught it early and were fine now. That was good to know, but it didn’t apply to me. I had a kidney stone. But, because I’m a hypochondriac, I did go ahead and make that doctor’s appointment. Now, looking back, I am so grateful to that doctor, glad in fact, for those female issues that sent me in. Otherwise, because the symptoms of my disease were so small, I would have shrugged and kept on going. And that alien baby in me would have continued to grow until it destroyed me.The year this showed up in me 152,629 other women learned they had the same disease. 8,590 would die from it. Uterine cancer doesn’t get the same press as breast cancer but, according to the American Cancer Society, it’s now the fourth most common cancer in the U.S. and the seventh most common cause of death.I’m not only thankful that I survived this. I’m also thankful for the lessons I learned along the way. One practical lesson I learned was not to ignore anything unusual going on in my body, no matter how small, to pay attention to the clues it’s sending out. Dealing with problems early on is always the best way.Of course, I learned a lot more lessons during this unexpected journey. In fact, some of them I had to keep learning over and over. Being a writer, I felt compelled to journal about my experiences. Now, as I look back on this collection of thoughts it’s like looking at pictures from a trip. It pulls those experiences and hard-gained insights out of the past and puts them in the present where I can review what I’ve learned and see how well I’m applying it.If you are taking an unexpected journey right now my prayer is that my experiences and some of what I’ve learned will be an encouragement to you. You’ll find some questions along the way that you can ask yourself which may help you as you work to make sense of what you’re going through. I hope your journey will end as well as mine did.