Today marks the start of Women's Health Week in Australia. In it's 6th year, Women's Health Week was created by the not for profit organisation, Jean Hailes, as a way to promote conversations around health and wellbeing. Throughout Australia this week, you will find a host of events dedicated to women, of all ages and stages of life, encouraging them to make their health a priority.
I've worked in the Wellbeing industry for nearly 20 years and provided hundreds of treatments to Women - from teenagers to the elderly. As a Massage Therapist, I am in a unique position to really get to know my clients' body. Not only do I become familiar with their stressors, posture and holding patterns, I see the hidden knooks and crannies on their largest organ, the skin. I am acutely aware of any changes or unusual lumps or bumps that have presented since the last visit.
A few years ago, one of my regular clients casually mentioned an ache and tender spot on her ribs, kind of just near the side of her breast, but not quite. She asked if I could take a look at it when I was working on releasing her shoulder. This client had had a particularly busy weekend on the farm with her horses and thought that maybe she had a rib out, or muscle strain. With her consent, I palpated the area, and could feel...something. But I wasn't sure whether it was muscular or otherwise.
This was a regular client of mine. A woman in her mid fifties who had been coming to see me regularly for Remedial Bodywork and Stress Management for a few years. She was active, healthy and in tune with her body. The area where the tenderness was positioned could possibly have been linked in with her muscular tightness and shoulder function, yet I couldn't be certain and I am not qualified to diagnose. I advised that it would be best for her to visit her GP and get it checked before any further treatments.
A couple of days later, I received an SMS from my client to say she was heading off to have a biopsy on a lump that her GP detected.
By the end of that week, I had an SMS photo of my client post mastectomy! I was shocked, and I am sure she was totally overwhelmed. The lump turned out to be cancerous and was immediately removed with a 6 month round of chemotherapy to begin shortly after. My client was extremely grateful to me for encouraging her to go to her GP, because as she later revealed, she really thought it was just a sore rib, until I palpated the area, and did my job - refer to her medical practitioner, quite strongly I might add.
This client was lucky, her treatment was successful and she continues to enjoy health and wellbeing, one day at a time. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in Australian Women. The current stats for Australia say that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed cancer before the age of 85. Chances are you already know someone who has. Whilst looking after our breast health is important, many more Australian women die of heart disease or stroke each year than they do of breast cancer, Jean Hailes.
It is important that we continue to be aware of our body, how it feels, how much we move, what we put in it or on it. Keep having conversations about women's health and take note of changes to your "normal". If you have any concerns or queries, see your Doctor. And if you can't remember when you had your last Well Woman check up with your GP, book it in now.
Stress Less, Live More!