In this extremely personal article I'm sharing how a health scare impacted my life but also my entrepreneurship journey overall as a small business owner. Even though it's uncomfortable to discuss, I'll share why I'm sharing this story and have chosen to push through the discomfort. Plus how I'm planning for a full month off as an almost-one-woman-show in my business. While this is a forced sabbatical, I'm using this experience to help me build systems to hopefully take a fun sabbatical next year.
**This was also a podcast episode (episode #208. Use the player below if you'd prefer to listen to this message.
My Health Scare & How It Impacts Me As A Small Business Owner
Before I go through the entire story I'll let you know that while this was a cancer scare, I do not have cancer. I'm very thankful that I can say this and I hope that by me sharing this story today it will help someone else catch this early as well.
In 2020 my stepbrother lost his battle to colon cancer and it had me thinking about my health differently, even though we aren't blood related. Then earlier this year one of my close friends was diagnosed with colon cancer and she's in her 30's and it completely threw me for a loop. This had me thinking a lot about my health and I knew I needed to talk to my doctor about one particular issue.
I had blood in my stool.
In April I went to the gynecologist and through my annual exam I shared two things:
I have had hemorrhoids for a long time and never mentioned it
I have had blood in my stool many times and never mentioned it
Why you ask? Because it's mortifying to me. You can tell me I'm silly all day long but it doesn't matter. I was embarrassed and that stopped me from talking to my doctors for many years about these issues. The idea of talking about my butt to anyone was the last thing I wanted to do but I did it. And I'm sharing this today because if there is even just one person who hears this and talks to their doctor about anything they are embarrassed about, I've done my job and my discomfort is worth it.
This lead to questions to clarify what was going on and there was a discussion about the color of the blood. I didn't know this so maybe you don't either but if you have dark blood in your stool, this is a problem and you should tell your doctor about it.
From there I had a colonoscopy a month later to get everything checked out. Unfortunately in that procedure the doctor found 3 polyps and were only able to remove 2 of them. I was then referred to a colorectal surgeon to learn more about that 3rd polyp. I had the second colonoscopy a month later and fortunately the surgeon was able to remove the funky-looking polyp and the biopsy came back negative.
Unfortunately there are still things that are concerning about the funky-looking polyp so that area needs to be checked again in 6 months. Plus, it's now noted that I'm very high risk for colon cancer since I have polyps so early in life. The great news is that we caught it early. Colon cancer is preventable if you catch it early so now that we know, I'll have lots of colonoscopies in my life but chances are we will catch all the polyps before they become cancerous.
However, the other unfortunate part in all of this is that because I didn't share about the hemorrhoids until so long after they were an issue, they are now at a place where they have to be removed. So on November 1st I'm going to have the 3rd colonoscopy this year and have the hemorrhoids removed. This surgery is one that is brutal to recover from and the surgeon recommended taking 1 month off.
Be Your Own Health Advocate
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please talk to your doctor. Or if you've been putting something off that's health-related, please take action. It's better to go through the discomfort of the conversation and the gut-wrenching waiting game for test results to have a better understanding of what's going on.
Plus, we need to be our own health advocate. I've heard this many times but it didn't click until this experience. If something is off with your body, talk to someone about it and if that doctor doesn't listen, find another one.
How This Has Impacted My Schedule & Mindset As A Small Business Owner
As you can imagine I've had many doctors appointments during this time as well as several procedures. All of these have impacted my schedule and what I could get done during a specific time but what I didn't realize it would do is impact my focus.
I'm an incredibly focused person who has high follow through with projects and tasks. However, this has been seriously challenged during this time. I found myself thinking and worrying about all of this in the middle of the day and it would pull me off task and chances are you've experienced this many times as well. Whether it's your own health or someone else that you care about, you can't just shut that off.
Scheduling: more time off for doctor appointments meant rescheduling client calls, podcast recordings and other meetings
Focus: with worries about my health I would drift in and out of focus on projects and tasks I was working on
The other element that was wrapped in this process was that I was making big changes in my small business and publishing my book all at the same time as this was happening. While this can be seen as a problem and it was certainly stressful, I look back and see it as something that helped me make decisions.
During the time that it was unclear if I had cancer or what was happening next I asked myself a lot of questions about the offerings I had in my business and the structure of my small business overall. This helped me make some decisions and move forward in the best way possible.
How I'm Planning To Take A Full Month Off
As I prepare to take an entire month off as an almost-one-woman-show, here are things I'm doing to set myself up for success:
*For context these actions started in July when the surgery was scheduled.
Blocked Calendar: there is no availability for anyone to book anything with me in the month of November
Team Communication: I've shared everything with the contractors I work with so they know I will be out of reach for basically a month so we have to work ahead
Sabbatical Method: I happened to connect with Alyson Caffrey earlier this year and she wrote The Sabbatical Method and as soon as I got home from doctors office when I scheduled the appointment I started reading her book. I'm currently using her method to prep for the time off (she's a guest on the podcast coming up in October)
Podcast Batching: all episodes of my podcast have been planned through January 2024. I'm currently creating all assets for the podcast and everything will be done by mid October. My editor doesn't have to finish everything that early but everything I'm responsible for will be done.
Launch In October: since there is one offering I typically host in November (my annual Planning Party for the following year) I've moved this to October. I'll host my Planning Party the week of October 16th if you want to join me live and I will set up an evergreen option for those who'd like the replay.
Positive Mindset: instead of overcomplicating this process I'm choosing to have a positive mindset about this experience and taking off a month. It won't be a month long vacation by any means but when I'm able to set this up this year, maybe I can take a month long vacation next year sometime. I'm learning as much as I can during this process so I can use this to my advantage when I don't have to have surgery.
Overall, this is a forced sabbatical for a health reason but I'm incredibly fortunate that I don't have cancer, that it was caught early and that I can use this as a learning lesson and structure my business in a way to serve me for a fun sabbatical one day. And you better believe I'll be ready to share the lessons when I'm on the other side of this.
If I can leave you with anything today it's to be your own health advocate. If you're embarrassed to talk about something, it's not silly, it's okay but push through the discomfort and tell someone. Have someone go to the doctor with you so you have support in the room. I've had my husband or some of my best friends at every doctors appointment so I have never been alone. Partly because I wanted the support and partly because I didn't want to chicken out and not ask questions or share specifics. It's all about support and accountability.
Chances are there are many others that have dealt with what you're dealing with so you're not alone. Remember it's okay to have whatever feelings you have but when it comes to your health, get answers when things are weird.
Thank you for listening to me and supporting me through this. In my wildest dreams I never would have thought I would talk about my butt on a podcast episode but here we are. If you want to support me, the best thing you can do is to send me a DM on instagram or an email to tell me that you listened and you're proud of me for sharing. This is the most vulnerable I've ever been so I have no doubt when this goes live I'll be nervous.
Until next time, give yourself permission to be uncomfortable in order to be your own health advocate and grace along the way. I'll talk to you soon.
Define Success Free Resource: https://www.amandamckinney.com/success
All podcast episodes: https://pod.link/1473751874
Amanda's Coaching Options: https://www.amandamckinney.com/coaching
Amanda's Book: https://www.amandamckinney.com/book
"My goal with sharing this is to encourage anyone to be their own health advocate and as a business owner, set up systems that allow your business to run without you."
- Amanda McKinney
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