Be kind to yourself, meditate, and “eat the rainbow”– some straightforward advice from my new doctor :)

Hi everyone!

Wow… I have so many things to write about (yay!).  I’ve really been enjoying making connections with all of you, and seeing that my writing will resonate with people even if I write about topics I’m not sure anyone will care about.  (My last post about my how I don’t deal with heat well went semi-viral on Pinterest, of all places!  Unfortunately it got so many shares that the counter reset, and now it looks like it’s only been shared 3 times.  Argh).

Unfortunately, the reason I have so much to write about is partly because I have so many of my own health concerns to keep track of (not yay).

Some of you may know that, among the many issues I deal with, is extreme allergies to dust and mold.  You know, the main indoor allergens.

At times, these allergies have turned my life upside down.  I was never allergic to anything as a kid, but about 3 years ago something changed (I actually think it may have to do with a trauma that I went through at the time– more on that later, possibly) and I became super sensitive to both of these substances.

Since then it’s really been a battle to modify all of my living situations to reduce my exposure to these allergens.  Even following all of the rules I’ve learned from my allergy doctor, I still have to use medications, etc.  (I’ve actually started to chronicle the details on a separate allergy blog, although I’ve been so busy I haven’t updated it very much yet).

One piece of the puzzle is that, apparently, I have a deviated septum (aka the inside of the nose).

After I got freaked out by a potential allergic reaction to allergy shots, I sort of abandoned that as a potential route to dealing with this problem.

However, at the urging of my sister the nurse practitioner, I sought out an ear-nose-throat doctor who determined that the inside of my nose is actually too narrow, on both sides.

This never, ever affected me before I had allergies.  But now that my nasal passages are often somewhat inflamed due to irritation, the shape of my nose means there’s even less room for air to flow through.

So, my ENT determined that I’m a good candidate for surgery to widen my nasal passages.  I’ll still have allergies, but when the inside of my nose swells up, which it inevitably will, I won’t actually have as much trouble breathing.

But there is one problem.

She wants me to have a CT scan before the surgery, so she has clear images of the inside of my nose.

But, CT scans also come with significant risks, due to the radiation they expose you to.

I’ve been doing some research and, although it doesn’t appear to be possible to calculate the exact risks of CT scans, the estimate I’ve seen in most articles is that 1 CT scan increases the risk of a fatal cancer by 1 in 2000, compared to the risk of what it would be anyway, for the average population.

So, 1/2000 is equal to 0.005, or 0.05%.  I guess it’s not really that high.

But I totaled it all up and I believe I’ve actually had a total of 3 CT scans in my life, in addition to a few other procedures involving radiation such as x-ray.  So really, my elevated risk is actually around 0.15%.

Again, I guess that’s still not a terribly significant number.  

But it’s not nothing, either.  I’m not in a rush to add to it with yet another CT scan.  Because, again, we aren’t just talking about the risk of any cancer at all– we are talking about a fatal cancer.  So I would imagine the risk of developing a treatable cancer is much higher.

So what do you do in these situations?

Well, I went in and spoke with my awesome new primary care doctor yesterday, and the first thing you can do to minimize your risk is to always make sure you have the procedure with the least amount of radiation possible.

We agreed that the first thing I would do would be to get a second opinion from another ENT, to see if they also thought a CT scan was absolutely necessary prior to surgery.   Both she and I thought we’d heard of other patients with deviated septums getting treated with no CT scan.  So there’s a chance that it’s just this one ENT’s preference.

But my doctor also gave me some other great advice.

She just reminded me that, overall, there are many factors that go into our cancer risk, and actually– it was sort of a wake-up call that I’ve been a bit distracted from doing my self-care routine lately.

She asked me if I did all these things I mean to do, and know that I should be doing, but I don’t end up doing as often as I’d like.

So I’m writing this post as sort of a renewed promise to myself to do the following:

First of all, don’t dwell.

She reminded me that obsessing over the risks of the CT scans I’ve already had is, of course, not going to help.   She said it sounds as though all of the procedures I’ve had were necessary– I needed them for my health at the time.  It’s over, said and done, so don’t look back.

Stay hydrated.

Definitely working on this, constantly.

Meditate

People always ask me if I meditate and I say “yes!”  I’m well aware of the benefits of meditation and I do it… uh… not that often, if I really stop and think.  I don’t know why.  I enjoy it.  But sometimes I just get so caught up in moving at a fast pace that I forget to do anything that would require me to switch out of that mode.

Exercise regularly

I’m happy to say that’s the one thing on this list I really have down-pat.  Because I basically go crazy if I don’t exercise.  My body doesn’t let me forget for too long.  :)

Eat the rainbow

Radiation causes damage to cells, that releases substances called “free radicals.”  Our body has to repair this damage, and basically cancer can result down the line by any damage that isn’t repaired.

We can increase our body’s chances of repairing this damage by consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables which contain antioxidants– substances that can sort of tie up and neutralize these free radicals.

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Like everything else on the list, I know this.

But our conversation made me realize that I don’t necessarily do all of these things as consistently as I think I do.

I mean, it’s hard.  Life gets in the way.  Physical challenges get in the way– if you saw my last post on struggling with the heat, I was sort of dealing with being anxious and dizzy for the last few weeks.  (I have adequate air conditioning now!).

So in a way, this was actually a pretty good set of reminders for me.

When you’re dealing with multiple chronic issues and one acts up, it’s pretty hard not to lose track of the others as well.

But at the end of the day, everything is connected.  Allergies, breathing, stress, central sensitization, hydration, nutrition, relaxation… it all matters.

So that’s why I’m writing up this post, as a way of reminding myself not to lose sight of the big picture.

Honestly, sometimes I can’t believe I’m putting all these personal details online.  But at the end of the day, it’s my desire to make something out of my struggles that motivates me to just put it out there.

After all, it’s hard to go all through of this.  But if I can turn it into something good and help others, then in the end, maybe it was worth it.

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