The story of my bloated belly

T

hree weeks ago I noticed that my belly is somewhat bigger than normal. I dismissed it as bloating due to ovulation. But it didn’t go away after the egg dropped, so like any sane human being, I Googled my symptoms.

If you search causes of bloated belly online, you’ll get thousands of articles on pregnancy side by side ovarian cancer. I got extremely paranoid, in the same way I got overly worried about having breast cancer when I found a lump in my breast. I also had a mild back pain and last month, my period came twice in a month, albeit on schedule. I checked 3 of the 11 most common symptoms. I’m definitely not pregnant so that leaves ovarian cancer as the only explanation, right?

Wrong. (At least that’s what I’m hoping). I’m really not predisposed to have ovarian cancer because 1) my family don’t have a history, 2) I’m not overweight, 3) I don’t smoke, and 5) I have a relatively healthy lifestyle (regular exercise, balanced diet). And if I would be rational about it, the only symptom I have is a bloated belly.

So what could be causing the bloating? As much as I hate to admit it, I am getting older and my metabolism has slowed down. I haven’t changed my eating pattern (of 3 rice meals a day) but I haven’t been running regularly. Pilates twice a week is obviously not enough to keep my belly flat or burn the extra fat from all the Dunkin Donuts and Filipino processed food I’ve been wolfing down in August. So yes, I’m most probably just getting fatter in all the wrong areas.

But why am I suddenly so paranoid about cancer. Is it just because I’m a mother? Or is it something deeper?

Hiding behind the grief

A few months ago, I started writing an article about the death of my father in-law . But it’s taking an incredible toll on my emotions so I don’t get around finishing it. When I came down with a flu in the beginning of September and had to stay home, I opened the file again, hoping to add some more thoughts to my already 2000-word article. But I only ended up wasting time online. It got me thinking however that my paranoia about cancer could be linked to his death.

I’ve been wondering for a while how my father in-law’s death affected me. Yes, I was sad and I was mourning but I recovered very quickly. But there was this nagging feeling that his death had affected me in a way that I’m not aware of, hiding in the deepest recesses of my brain.

It hit me one evening after searching the Internet high and low for symptoms of ovarian cancer. This is what his death had done to me. From the moment of diagnosis until he died, I’ve seen how cancer devastated my otherwise positive and energetic father in-law, and how the disease brought on so many misery in our lives. It scares me.

I relate everything to cancer, every little change in my body and every small pain, even when it’s completely ridiculous. It had gotten to the point that I was obsessing about it. One day breast cancer, the other day ovarian cancer. And while they are real concerns, and women must be aware of them, I’m taking it to another level. I’m wasting my time and energy about something that I might not have at all.

The mind is a such powerful thing. It can do incredible things, even the impossible. Today I was reading about a woman who had brain surgery, who was told that she won’t be able to walk again. She smashed her half marathon PR by 30 minutes a year after. How impressive is that?

By now I’ve probably read hundreds of articles on breast and ovarian cancer, enough to convince me that I am not sick. Yet I am still worried

And that’s the thing about the mind. It is only as strong as the thoughts you allow into it. When fear and doubt overcome our minds, it cloud our logic and weaken our resolve. Then we start worrying, and then we begin stressing. Too much stress is probably the worst you can give yourself.

It helps though that we are in tune with ourselves, and analyze what could be causing our distress. But will that change anything? Will I be less worried about the smallest of health maladies now that I know fear is driving this paranoia? Perhaps. Or perhaps not. That’s the bane of life, nothing is certain and there’s so little that’s within control.

The bane of life

I’m a realist. That happiness is paired with misery is a fact of life for me. While many are eternally looking for the first, I’m accepting of the many pains that would be coming in my life. It’s from these unpleasant things that I derive perspective, and a deeper answer to the question “Why am I here for?”

I used to chase the “big” kind of happiness when I was younger, the ones that many on social media are looking for – huge achievements, recognition, exotic trips, career.

Nowadays however I’m finding happiness in little things – the daily messages from my mother, the tight embraces of my daughter, the laughter at my workplace, the delicious cappuccino my husband makes for me and the strength to combine running, yoga and Pilates in my hectic work and family life.

I don’t believe that a life with only happiness can exist, while I do think you can have a life of only sufferings. Or maybe it all just depends on how we look at things.

From the year that he was diagnosed, my father in-law lived for 10 more years. Only half of those years could you call living. He was an outdoor man and he loves everything you can do in nature, rain or shine – travelling, cycling, running, gardening. Cancer forced him to give up all of those so he chose to step out of life. Ovarian cancer has a low survival rate because when it’s discovered, it’s often late. Those diagnosed with it only has 46% chance of surviving 5 years.

But does it really matter if we live for 5 or 50 more years as long as we live a purpose-driven life without regret?

P.S. This blog post had been sitting in my draft folder for 3 weeks. The bloating is gone (after I had my period) and my hormones are back to normal, so I am less paranoid and therefore less worried.
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