Health Care:It’s Not Just About Self-Care, It’s About Caring for Your Health

Maybe when you hear the term self-careyou think about manicures, long bubble baths, or just going to the bathroom at home alone with the door closed. While an emphasis on this type of self-care is extremely essential, especially for working moms, it shouldn’t be your only focus. Above all, it is important that you are paying attention to your health and seeking medical care when necessary. Respecting your body and the signals it is giving you should be a priority.  

I get it, we are all busy. I know I have a long to-do list when it comes to my job, but sometimes it feels like my list at home is even longer. The laundry, dishes, cooking, and just keeping the calendar updated is never-ending.  In addition to these tasks, I have three children that I am trying to keep alive, plus a husband.

Even if you feel overwhelmed by it all, remember to take time for yourself. It is important to periodically evaluate and maybe even track your health, so that when something irregular comes up, you recognize it and address it. Don’t put your own health on the backburner.

I understand that it is hard enough to miss work when you are ill, let alone when you are healthy. But don’t let that guilty feeling stop you from taking care of yourself. It is so important to schedule your annual exams and keep your medical appointments, even if you are afraid of pushback from your job or employer.

I know firsthand the importance of this; I have my own personal experience that ended positively because I was given the nudge that I needed to seek medical help. Had I not, my life may have turned out much differently. I’m going to share my personal story in hopes that it inspires anyone who isn’t prioritizing their own health.

I gave birth to my oldest child in October 2008. I went back to work 12 weeks later. I was that first-time mom that wanted to continue excelling at my career, but I was missing my child when I was at work. I felt like I was being pulled in both directions. I loved my job, and I was trying to work out some flexibility in it to have more time at home with my son. A few weeks after returning from maternity leave I looked down and saw my legs that were hidden away by my pregnancy bump for so long, and I noticed a new mole that I didn’t recognize. It was different, but I didn’t do anything about it even though I had a trusted dermatologist that I had been seeing for years.

So, I ignored it. I had just gotten back from maternity leave. I couldn’t take off more time. I felt like I was already asking a lot trying to get flexibility in my job. I had a newborn that demanded so much of my time. When would I possibly deal with my own health?

Just a few months later I got laid off during the downturn in 2009. I was devastated to lose a job I loved, and I worried about my career. I had a nanny that was caring for my son and I kept her for a while, thinking that I would find something quickly. My health insurance with my old company was set to expire, so I decided to use it and take advantage of the time I had to see all of my doctors. I went to the dentist, my primary care doctor, but most importantly, I went to my dermatologist. I showed him my new mole. He didn’t think it looked concerning, but he removed it anyway. Two days later he called me to tell me I had melanoma. I was shocked.

I saw a surgical oncologist, who removed the melanoma on my knee. Luckily, I caught it early and it was removed with clear margins. A month after my surgery was complete, I got a new job offer.

At the time, I was heartbroken by my layoff. I now see it as a blessing. It can be hard for us as mothers to make time for our own health, especially when we are busy managing everyone else’s. We naturally take on that role of caretaker for others. As we get older our aches and pains seem to multiply, and it can be hard to discern whether these symptoms are a cause for concern or a natural progression of age. If you aren’t sure, go in to see a doctor and ask.

Next time you read something about self-care, or someone tells you to take time for yourself, consider your own “health-care”. Think about when you had your last annual OBGYN visit or scheduled your yearly mammogram. Is there a nagging pain or maybe unexplained symptoms that you should be addressing?

If I had not addressed the mole that turned out to be cancer as early as I did, the outcome would have been much different. This summer I will celebrate 10 years of being cancer-free. I am here today because I got that nudge (okay, more like a shove) that I needed to seek out the health-care that I deserved. This is your nudge today to address anything that you might be putting off.