My father often uses the “it’s destined” fatalism to justify why things happen. One example would be to explain why he didn’t happen to visit during a window when we’d encouraged him to come. In this case, it’s not destiny that you didn’t come to visit: it’s because you didn’t buy plane tickets.
While there are some heavy matters afoot that I’m not ready to share on the blog, I do have some related information I want to shout from the rooftops. So here is my Public Service Announcement (PSA).*
Make your preventive care appointments.
If you don’t like doctors, needles, hospitals, medications, etc., the best way to avoid more of them is to make your annual, semiannual, and every-few-years appointments and actually go to them. They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I’m finding that the difference is actually exponential. And if your excuse is the price, see my previous sentence.
Go to the optometrist annually. In addition to keeping your vision as sharp as possible, optometrists can see into the tiny blood vessels in your eyes and often detect emerging conditions that can help improve your chances of avoiding other conditions.
Semiannual dental visits are important too: cleaning your teeth and checking for any abnormal oral conditions, plus minimizing damage from cavities, all in short appointments.
They say you should get an annual physical.
I’ll admit that I’m delinquent on this one, thanks to pregnancies and nursing, but I’ve had all my bloodwork done (fasting, too) every year through health benefit programs at work, and I’ve been under the care of various doctors—OBs and specialists—who would have detected something through the myriad tests they performed to encourage me to see a GP if necessary. But I can guarantee that’s the first appointment I plan to make once I’m no longer nursing.
My husband recently had his physical and came away armed with more information and ownership of his health. They discussed health concerns for this decade of his life, and his doctor advised that they would talk about other matters as the appropriate time neared.
Women’s wellness exams annually, to whatever degree your doctor recommends. This might include PAP exams and mammograms, or tests for STDs. Do it. Better to know than to live in fear.
Men don’t escape their exams either, although the onset for these tests may be later than for women. Don’t be a hero, thinking that pain will go away or that lump is nothing to worry about.
Wear your sunscreen. Or a rashguard. And a hat.
I have olive skin that’s disinclined to burn, but I do tan easily. And maybe it’s that Indian mom trope about “don’t go out in the sun: you’ll get dark” left over from the days of British colonization, but I try to take care of my skin and avoid getting too much of a tan. I love the freedom from the clock that rashguards offer. I don’t have to worry about getting every spot or about spraying weird products onto my skin, whether I got wet or how long I’ve been out. Just pull on a shirt and go. And maybe I’m nuts, but I think my sunhats are pretty glamorous.
Worried about aging? Every dermatologist will tell you that the best way to prevent wrinkles is to wear your sunscreen (and big sunglasses). No potions, serums, or unguents required, just sunscreen applied religiously from an early age.
If you like being tan, I understand there’s a huge market for self-tanners out there and plenty of good advice on the internet for how to apply it and have it look natural. Otherwise, rock that healthy pale complexion. Just pretend your mom is Indian and trying to get you married off.
Maybe it’s my age self-confidence speaking, but I don’t really care what anyone thinks of my skin tone or my choice of swimwear.**
Wear your seatbelt. Seriously. Whatever your excuse is, you’re wrong. And you know it.
Take your vitamins. I’ll admit that I have a calendar reminder on my phone reminding me to take my vitamins every day. It’s easy for me to forget otherwise, but this way the reminder shows until I clear it. Every day.
If something doesn’t feel right, set a deadline for when you’ll do something about it. If that ankle feels a bit tender or that weird spot on your arm is still itchy, it’s understandable to wait a little while to see if the condition resolves itself. But I’m talking about days, not months. Use your technology to set a calendar reminder for making that doctor’s appointment in a week. If the issue resolves, no action is required, but if not, at least now you know how long you’ve had the symptoms. ‘Cause you know they’re going to ask.
Trust that your doctor is trying to do the best job for you and isn’t needlessly prescribing medications. Take your medicines as prescribed and consult with your doctor about changing dosages or stopping taking them.
Trust but verify. Ask your doctor questions. If you have a question pop into your head without a doctor’s appointment on the horizon, make a note on your phone and add to it. That way you have a solid list by the time you visit and won’t forget anything.
Sometimes despite our best efforts to stay healthy, to exercise and eat right, to maintain our weight and lower our stress, stuff happens. When it does, recognize that care—and lots of it—will help keep the condition from escalating completely out of control. Living in ignorance will not make the condition go away.
Maybe that condition really is destiny, but at least you are an active participant in your life instead of a victim.
That preventive care visit just might save your life.
*I am not a doctor, and nothing said here is intended as medical advice or to replace the expertise of your trusted medical practitioner.
**It’s definitely not an age thing. We have a senior neighbor who has had skin cancer(!), who has built a contraption to cover his head and chest so he can sun his legs every day in the summer. He doesn’t like to wear shorts with pale legs. OK, Gramps, whatever you say.