When Julianna W. Miner, the writer behind the humor blog Rants from Mommyland, realized she was overdue for "a whole slew" of medical check-ups at the end of 2016, she made a conscious decision to prioritize her health in the new year.
Like many busy moms, Miner — who has kids ages 13, 11, and 8 and also works as an adjunct professor of public health at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia — was putting everything else in her life ahead of going to the doctor, which, she admitted to TODAY Parents, is something she does not enjoy and avoids doing.
"I think part of being a mom is managing a million things and putting out a lot of fires. I’m juggling three kids, two part-time jobs, and running a house," she said. "I’m more likely to prioritize taking a sick dog to the vet or getting my car inspected over going to the doctor, unless I’m really sick."
But Miner wanted that to change. To take her efforts a step further, Miner had the idea to start an accountability challenge on her blog's Facebook page. "I’ve always felt that the women who read my blog are going through the same things that I am, at about the same time," she said. "I’ve been writing for almost eight years, and many of us been hanging out together on Facebook that whole time."
"I needed someone to hold me accountable and I thought if anyone else out there needed a nudge, I could do it. It turns out I wasn’t the only mom who needed to focus on her own health," she said.
Miner began setting up appointments in January, and by a month later, she had received an eye exam, a mammogram, an OB-GYN exam, and a skin cancer check from her dermatologist. She posted on her Facebook page as she went along, and others followed her lead.
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"The response has been amazing! The more I posted about it, the more the response grew," she said. "Women were making appointments, getting themselves checked, and a few even identified issues that could have been really serious if they’d put off their screenings."
One of Miner's followers reported having found a basal cell skin cancer during a dermatologist appointment. Another found a breast lump that required a biopsy — fortunately, it turned out to be benign.
When she heard about these findings, Miner said she burst into tears. "I was a complete mess thinking about these women potentially having cancer and the impact that might have on their families. I was also so grateful that they’d been able to identify these issues before they got worse," she said.
"I’ve been lucky that I’ve been more or less healthy — there hasn’t been an emergency related to my health, so I just put it on the back burner. But as one of my very astute friends wrote on Facebook, 'If you think you don’t have time for a mammogram, then you really don’t have time for cancer.'"
Miner is hoping her accountability challenge will help other moms realize they need to come first sometimes. "I think we need to make a commitment to treat ourselves with as much care as we treat our families and friends," she said. "We wouldn’t let our kids go three years without a check up (even if the school system would let us), yet that’s pretty normal for how we take care of our own bodies.
"If one of my friends told me that it had been years since she’d had a GYN exam or a physical, I’d be like, 'WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?! YOU NEED TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!' — yet so many of us put these things last for ourselves. The older we get, the less any of us can afford to be complacent, especially with things like cancer screenings."
TODAY Tastemaker Dr. Deborah Gilboa, herself a mom of three, agrees. "Moms just don't worry about ourselves the way we worry about everyone else, so we put ourselves last on the priority list. Not only should we take good care of ourselves so that we can model that for our children, or because we owe it to our loves ones to stick around; we need to care for our own health because moms matter as individuals," she told TODAY Parents.
Getting started could be simple. "Right now, pull out your smart phone. In your calendar, put this alarm for 2 pm next Wednesday: 'Make appt with my primary care physician for ME!'" she suggested.
This movement has also reminded Miner that social media has the power to do good. "Part of the beauty of the internet are those 'Me too!' moments when you realize you’re not alone in whatever it is you’re dealing with," she said.
Her latest appointment? An oil change on her minivan. "Does that count?" she asked. "That thing is a part of me."