Anna Nunn was 15 weeks pregnant with her second child when she found a lump on her neck. The children’s author from outback Australia raised her concern during a monthly visit by the Royal Flying Doctors’ Service. She owes her life to that check-up.
Occasionally, you notice something different about yourself.
You rationalise it away, telling yourself it is not something worth talking about, let alone seeing a doctor about. It almost always goes away on its own because women are invincible, or so we like to think.
But what about when that something you noticed does not go away?
In this country, even people who live in rural areas and remote locations have access to health care services. But it can be easy to dismiss the need for a check-up or an appointment because of distance, long wait times, and being 'too busy' – but not too busy to encourage others around us to make and keep appointments.
In 2020 while 15 weeks pregnant, I noticed a lump in my neck and a dull ache in my ear. I told myself that it could not be anything serious as I was 33, healthy, and growing a baby. However, I worried that my health could be affecting my unborn baby, so I mentioned it to a doctor during an antenatal appointment.
My situation is a little unique in terms of health care access. I live in outback South Australia on a cattle station which makes it a bit of a challenge as it is an eight hour round trip to ‘town’.
An earache is not something I would have prioritised a trip for. Fortunately, the Royal Flying Doctor Service offers accessible primary health care almost to our doorstep monthly, and it allows the opportunity to raise issues and concerns that I would not make an appointment in town for, and for that, I am extremely grateful.
The earache and lump did not go away though. In fact, over the next 16 weeks the lump grew bigger and while the ache came and went, it got worse every time. But because I had taken the time to mention it to the doctor, it was monitored and investigated.
The reality of my situation is that I was diagnosed with a rare cancer, mucoepidermoid carcinoma, at 34 weeks pregnant. The reason I'm able to write today about the importance of getting health checks is because I did just that, I notified a doctor of a change I noticed in myself. Although it was a long year of surgery, intense radiotherapy, and physical recovery, the early intervention means I am in remission and living back on the station with my family.
As a woman, especially one from a rural area, the hardest step in caring for your own health is making the appointment, dedicating the time for you, and for some women, even committing the time and travel to get to the doctor.
It is so important though, to take the time and put ourselves first when it comes to our health.
Let us afford ourselves the best life possible by ensuring we are on top of our health.
This is your reminder to book and attend that appointment you have thought about and already put off!
Anna is one of our 'Champions for good health' for this year's Women's Health Week (5-11 September). We'll be kicking off the week with a day dedicated to health checks. Sign up for free health information.