listen to your instincts

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Today I’d like to introduce a dear reader and jewelry designer, Jen Moulton. I invited her to share her story which encourages us all to trust our instincts, especially where our health is concerned. Thanks, Jen, for your bravery and for sharing your story. 

Last year, my 25th, was one of those years that you think can’t happen, especially to you.  It was so terrifyingly scary that I still have nightmares.  It all started innocuously enough, with stomach pains and upset, then progressed to feeling full too quickly and an inability to get comfortable and sleep through the night.  My abdomen quickly grew to what I would look like 20 weeks pregnant but because it happened over a few months, it was slow enough to rationalize.  I told myself that my body was just settling and holding onto a few extra pounds as I progressed into my mid-20s.

Well, I can tell you now that I was very wrong.  And after 10 weeks of doctor’s appointments and a few misdiagnoses (I was told I was too stressed and referred to stress classes and when I returned, I was misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome and a urinary tract infection), I was finally sent for my first real test to see what was going on.  An ultrasound revealed that I had a large (think grapefruit) ovarian cyst.  And while I was terrified to have surgery, I was reassured that it could not be cancer because I was too young.

Fast forward through three weeks of life stress, which included a cross-country move to be closer to family along with indescribable discomfort and pain, to my surgery.  Much to my surprise (remember my doctor’s promise?), I learned that I did have ovarian cancer and that all the bad advice I’d received and misdiagnoses I’d endured allowed my cancerous tumor to grow to the size of a watermelon.  Can you imagine?  Needless to say, it was the shock of my life and indescribably unfortunate.  I’d diligently gone to my doctor to get help and my symptoms had been disregarded as hyperbole.

Here’s what you should know:

Ovarian cancer has earned the ‘silent killer’ nickname for a reason.  It is often symptom-less until it has progressed and its symptoms are similar to other diseases.

Symptoms can include bloating, digestive upset, feeling full with little food, frequent urination, change in bowels, abdominal discomfort, nausea and a lack of energy.  This is a good resource for more information.

Here’s what I hope you take away:

Trust your instincts.  I knew something was wrong, so I kept going back to my doctor.  Never ignore what your body and heart are telling you.

I believe you should trust your gut in all areas of life, especially concerning your health.  If your doctor doesn’t take your concerns seriously, go to another one.  Keep going until your needs are met.  I had my yearly exam in July and I started feeling symptoms in October (and I didn’t find out what was wrong until January).

Always go to your yearly exams, ALWAYS.  I know how awful/uncomfortable/sucky they are but they can save your life.  And trust me, you want to avoid having the 13 “yearly” exams I had least year.

The only peace I’ve been able to find in all of this (which ultimately included chemotherapy and took a year of my life) is to share my story so it stops happening.  At the very least, I hope you make that appointment you’ve been putting off and listen to the message your body is trying to communicate to you.   And if you can, please share this story with the ladies you love, you never know who it might help.

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  1. maxwelllauren

    Thanks for the reminder and the heartfelt post. I too had a health battle that went misdiagnosed and spiraled out of control. It ended up changing my life and forcing me to change my career. It was not cancer but I can empathize, and my heart goes out to you. I hope you’re recovering, Jen, and thank you for sharing your story with others. xo.

  2. Carol in Mpls

    Jen, thanks for the reminder(s) that we must always trust our own instincts. Sadly, I lost my sister-in-law to this nasty disease in 1991, at 32. She had many of these same symptoms, and the medical “mis-believings” as well. I wish you the best ahead on your journey of recovery and wellness.

  3. Jen

    First, thank you so much Jess for sharing my story. I’m so grateful that you’ve allowed me to and I know that it will help at least one person, which is all I can hope for.

    @Maxwelllauren– thank you for your kind words! I’m doing very well and I agree, my cancer definitely changed me as a person. I try my best to focus on the positive changes, though, and the best thing it gave me was a strong sense of purpose with sharing my story and pursuing my dreams. I hope you are also doing well!

    @Giovanan– thank you for your kind thoughts! I am grateful that my story touched you and so appreciate your kind words.

    @Carol– I am so sorry to hear about your sister-in-law, it is a truly scary disease and its unpredictability makes it all the more terrifying. Thank you for your kind words!

  4. Sarah

    Thank you so much for sharing your story.

    I was finally diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome 3 years ago after 2 years of tests, 11 doctors and one very exhausted body.

    I knew something wasn’t right and I was lucky enough to have support around me to keep pushing for answers.

    My life is still quite interrupted by the symptoms every few weeks and it is very frustrating going up and down a dress size depending on the time of month but I feel so good not being in the dark about what’s going on.

    I wish you so much energy for your recovery! and thank you again for talking about your experience.

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