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Life is full of variables. Things are constantly changing, growing, and leaving. The only thing you can count on is you, so you need to know as much as you can about what you’re counting on. You are constantly changing, fighting sickness, and growing muscle, but it’s important to remember what is constant and know your normal. This means knowing you and your body enough to know when something is wrong, when pain is too much, or knowing when a lump isn’t just a lump. Knowing your body’s normal is so important; it could save your life.

One important way to begin to know your normal is to understand your health history. Many health issues are genetic, so keeping track of what happened in your family can help you keep track of what could affect you in your life. Knowing if your family has a history of heart disease or high blood pressure can help you watch for warning signs in your life and help you adjust your lifestyle if you need to. One part of knowing this is identifying how many of your family have been affected by breast cancer. In my family, many of my aunts and my grandmothers have been affected by breast cancer, so I have made my healthcare provider aware of this. Thankfully, she is an amazing advocate for making sure I am healthy and watching for warning signs. This can be vital in staying healthy and making informed lifestyle choices while you’re young.

Another way to know your normal is by doing regular checkups on your body. This can be incredibly easy to do as you’re going to bed or getting in the shower. A very important checkup to do is a breast exam, and one way to do this is to just get familiar with your breasts. Push firmly around the breast tissue, making sure you’re considering how the tissue feels. This way, when you do it again, you will be able to tell if there were any changes. Another easy way to do this is to check your pulse and blood pressure when you go to the doctors. Understanding the general range of your vitals can help you to be aware if you start to go out of your range of normal.

One of the greatest risks facing women is breast cancer. Many times, if you keep up with regular mammograms, breast exams, and appointments with your gynecologist, these measures can keep you healthy, but if you don’t know your baseline it’s hard to tell when something is wrong. Many organizations stress this because breast cancer is such a prevalent risk in women’s lives, but again it is up to you to understand your body enough to know when it is dangerously different. Simple things that aren’t normal, such as a lump that wasn’t there before, a weird shape, nipples pointing in a different directions than usual when you stand — these are all signs of breast cancer and the first person who can notice this is you. Simply looking in the mirror as you enter and exit the shower can give you all the information you need. You just have to look intently and know what you’re looking for.

One of the most important things to do to know your normal is keep your healthcare provider in the loop. It’s important to get regular checkups and have a good relationship with your healthcare provider. This is important because they will be able to keep track of your health and be able to interpret anything you don’t understand or know how to look out for. If you have a good relationship with your healthcare provider you should also feel comfortable telling them when something isn’t normal, whether you’re experiencing signs of mental illness, a strange pain, or just want to check in and make sure everything is okay.

Knowing your normal and your body can be empowering. They say knowledge is power, and that is exactly the case in healthcare. Knowing warning signs can be the difference between catching something early and having a life changing realization. Performing simple steps to know who you are is empowering and can help you become more in tune with your body and health.

You already know your body, so just intelligently realize what your normal is. Understand what’s normal and what isn’t, keep a good relationship with your healthcare provider, and simply trust yourself. You know you best, so make sure you keep yourself healthy for as long as possible.  

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Rebecca is a sophomore finishing her last year of prerequisite courses before starting the nursing program. She works at an oral surgeon's office as a surgical assistant and receptionist.
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