Many people who knew about my on-going breathing issue (or who read it about it here: http://mydharmadays.blogspot.com/2015/02/i-know-why-race-sherpa-sherps.html), have asked me how, in the process of figuring out what was wrong, we arrived at doctors discovering concerning issues in my abdomen. It's a good question, and the answer lies in a theme that I am going to hit on over and over and over: awareness.
I guess I could begin by attributing it to the body awareness that comes from being a life-long athlete; but really, it was my years of yoga, pranayama, meditation, and martial arts, that refined my "body sense." When you become attuned to the slightest changes that are happening...in your body, in your mind, in your environment...you can start piecing together information way ahead of most people. And when you get to the point where you can trust it, you become very self-empowered.
I have gone to a number of doctors in the last three years. The first one thought my symptoms were due to age, the next one thought it could be my heart, the third one investigated mold and environmental allergens. I understand why they were each looking at those particular things; I don't fault them for that (too much). There was one sensation, however, very subtle, that I had noticed and hadn't been able to account for. I had this sensation that my diaphragm was restricted in some way. That something was "off" just a little bit. That the "path" my breath took was not the "usual path." And it seemed like part of the reason why I couldn't breathe well at high intensities was because I couldn't get a normal inhale.
So when I went in to see a new primary doc, I went through the "story" that I had told over and over, but this time I made sure to mention this sensation around my diaphragm. I mean, I really emphasized it. So much so that even though he got me started on some things to see if I had reactive airway issues going on, he also scheduled an abdominal ultrasound. The ultrasound was mostly normal, but it showed some free fluid. My doctor said he wasn't sure if it had anything to do with my breathing issue, but now that we saw that it was there, we had to investigate it further. Thus, the abdominal CT.
Last week it occurred to me....had I not been so attentive and aware, or had I not been used to a certain fitness level, I could have easily just written it off as "getting older." (If I had stopped doing an activity every time someone said I was just "getting older" in response to a pain or symptom, I probably would have stopped most activities before I was 34 years old. Don't do it. Ask questions! Research for yourself!) How long would it have taken to discover this?
My take away is this....develop, fine-tune, and trust your experience. You don't need to go the hypochondriac route and assign fearful narratives to the things you notice, just notice. When you go in to see a doctor, yes, they are the ones educated in medicine, but you have your experience. You know you better than anyone else...if you are paying attention.
That is a precious gift, my friends. A gift to yourself. Take the time to develop it.