When I was in my 20’s, I was on my own with two little kids and I had a job as a waitress. The restaurant I worked for offered health insurance, but if I wanted coverage for all 3 of us, it was going to cost $497 per month. I was barely skimming by just paying for rent, utilities and food for the kids (I waitressed so I could get a free meal every day. Most of the time, it was the only meal I ate that day) so there was no way I could afford that additional expense. I knew the importance of being able to go to a regular doctor, or needing to go to an emergency room, see a dentist, and an optometrist, and I knew I needed insurance to do this. My only option was to get Medi-Cal, which is state funded health insurance.
I am a proud person, so getting “welfare insurance” was pretty embarrassing at the time. But looking back now, boy was I lucky I had that. The kids had falls that required stitches, I had strep throat countless times, Ryan had the worst case of chicken pox his doctor had ever seen, Nolan got German Measles, I had an old filling fall out and needed a root canal and on top of all that? I can’t see distance and needed an optometrist for annual exams and contact lenses. Lucky indeed. I had that insurance for us until the day Wil and I got married, when the 3 of us could be added to his insurance through the union.
Finding doctors that took Medi-Cal was tough (no internet back then to make it easy) but I managed. Along the way, I found organizations that offered screenings and basic care needs that were either free or very low cost if they didn’t take Medi-Cal. I loved that those services were available then, and now that I’m not a struggling single mom on waitress wages, I donate to them annually so that people like me can use the services the same way I did 20 years ago. During those years, I learned the importance of annual screenings, wellness checkups, and being proactive in maintaining health.
In March of this year, I wrote a blog post called “The Other Side of Depression.” I talked about seeing symptoms in Wil that turned out to be depression, and the steps we took to get him help to treat it. He didn’t have those issues his whole life, it was something that surfaced in his late 20’s, so it wasn’t something he had ever talked about with his doctor. Many people on my blog and on Twitter seemed to appreciate the honesty in the symptoms, how Wil got treatment, but mostly, how I saw this in him and how it affected me and our kids. The health and function of your brain is just as important as any other part of your body, so I’m glad that talking about it helped others in one way or another.
Then in April, I was contacted by someone at http://www.womenshealth.gov, a website dedicated to all aspects of women’s health and well-being concerns/issues. They asked if I would do an extensive interview with them, which will be featured on their “Spotlight” page; a place where they post one interview a month from a woman on a specific topic. They saw my post about Wil’s depression, and thought it would really help other women who may be dealing with the same thing with their husband. I agreed to do the interview, which will post on their site sometime in the near future.
Every year since Wil and I got married (when I was 30) I designated May as “me month.” As a mother of two young kids and working full-time as a hairdresser, I rarely made time for myself. But I know the importance of staying healthy, so having a month that reminded me to take care of myself by scheduling annual exams became a priority. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have known I have nodules on my thyroid, which I now get checked twice a year. Staying proactive about your health is the best thing you can do for yourself and for the people who love you.
I love that this week, May 11-17, has officially become National Women’s Health Week. I don’t know how long that’s been a thing (maybe it was a thing back when I was 30 and that’s how it got in my head to make May “me month”) but I think it’s awesome. I’ve reminded friends over the years to schedule exams and when I got on Twitter almost 3 years ago, I reminded women there. Last week, I was asked by the people at http://www.womenshealth.gov if I would be willing to be an Ambassador for them in reminding women of the importance of their health. Since I already do it anyway, I was more than happy to!
So, ladies, as your official Ambassador, I am here to remind you to take care of you. Whether you have a doctor and insurance or need to Google a credible place near you that offers the annual screenings you need at either no-cost or low-cost to you, now is the time to schedule. You matter in this world; to your family, your friends, your co-workers and most importantly, to yourself. You get one life so be the healthiest you can be to enjoy it to its fullest!