I once saw an episode of Oprah where women sat on the stage, tears streaming down their faces, talking about horrible experiences they had had during medical appointments. One woman shared a shocking comment her OB/GYN made while examining her, another told a tale of being humiliated by a nurse. All of them had one thing in common – they simply stopped going to the doctor. I remember tearing up (it’s Oprah – that’s required), but I also remember feeling that these women were being more than a little ridiculous. How bad must it really have been that they would literally give up on keeping themselves healthy, potentially saving their lives?
And then I stopped going to the doctor.
You can wear those “two weeks or less” disposable contacts for a good month before one tears or you start to feel the build up, so I’ve always been able to stretch eye doctor’s appointments much more than I should. That said, I probably have an eye exam once a year – not too bad.
But everything else? *sigh* I’m going to admit how long it has been because it’s important not just to me, but to all of you who religiously take your children for their well child visits, who know more about vaccination schedules than your pediatrician, who track your children’s height and weight as if plotting their growth will save the world…but you aren’t taking your own health seriously.
The last time I went to the dentist, I was pregnant with my son. He will be five in May. In my defense, I made an appointment months in advance to be seen last winter, and then the sky dumped two feet of snow on our roads making that appointment impossible to keep. I never rescheduled.
As for the family doctor, I’m doing slightly better. Several months ago….or maybe it was a year ago?….I had swelling in my right lower leg that wouldn’t go away. I tend to ignore this sort of thing because like many moms, I assumed that after having kids my body was broken and these little anomalies are just par for the course. At the urging of my mom, I went to see the physician assistant that I had come to trust during my last pregnancy, and one very nice specialist later I found out that I had soft tissue damage from an unfortunate incident involving my van and a double stroller. I still occasionally have swelling, only now I’ve gone back to ignoring it.
Here’s what is interesting about my general healthcare – I don’t believe I’ve ever had a physical. I’ve had my height, weight, and blood pressure checked by a gaggle of specialists over the years, and even had a home health nurse take my vitals every week during my pregnancy with Noah. But I’ve never gone to my family doctor and had a physical performed. A few years ago when we increased the value of our life insurance policies I submitted to a blood test, and I remember finding out that my HDL (you know, the “good” cholesterol) was disturbingly low. But when an insurance company discovers this and not your health care provider, there really isn’t much hoopla. I worked out for a while, ate almonds, and drank red wine, and then I stopped and went back to being the old Amy.
This is probably because my mom and brother are both family doctors and you know the old story about the cobbler’s kid having no shoes. I don’t take any medications except the very occasional Tylenol for a headache, and anything strange like that random kidney stone last February seems to disappear as quickly as it appeared. Preventive medicine? Phooey. Who needs it!
Of course, women need to see more than just their dentist, their eye doctor, and their family doctor, and this woman in particular needs to see two other specialists. I’ve been prescribed to have a full body check from a dermatologist every six months since I was a teenager, and for many years I followed this advice. I’ve had several moles biopsied, and I’ve been found to have abnormal cells, which many members of the medical community believe to be pre-cancerous. The last time I went to the dermatologist was the summer of 2005. To actually see that in writing takes my breath away. I could go through all of my reasons just like those women on Oprah – every dermatologist around here does nothing but inject Botox, offices are more like spas than medical facilities, mole patrol requires you being naked….really naked, I got pregnant with Noah and life got away from me – but the point is that I’ve been walking around for five and a half years with a body covered in ticking time bombs.
Then there’s the OB/GYN. Again, I’ve written before about my horrific experiences with my OB/GYN, so it’s probably not even worth explaining. There’s really no way to justify going to a one year check up after giving birth to your second child and then never returning again.
So today, after reading about an online friend’s melanoma diagnosis, which followed another online pal’s Thanksgiving Day heart attack at the ripe old age of thirty, I booked appointments with my dentist, my family doctor for a full physical (that’s right, top to bottom, inside and out), and even the dermatologist. I’m going to walk my overweight, slightly wrinkled body into each of those appointments and make sure that I’m healthy. And if they ask me to come back for a follow up, I’m going to do it. I promise.
Who’s with me?