Weighty Matters

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Don’t Ignore Your Health

on April 21, 2013

Earlier this week, one of my dearest friends had to be immediately hospitalized for heart problems.  She had an angioplasty on Friday.  The doctors inserted three stents to handle blockages of 80% and 90%.  There’s another 50% block in an artery but the doctors think that they can reduce that with medication and lifestyle.  We feel very blessed and grateful for this outcome.

She is incredibly lucky that she did not have a heart attack and die.  She’d experienced symptoms of heart trouble and episodes but kept quiet about them because she didn’t want to worry the family at a time when they were already dealing with sad medical news about her mother-in-law.  So, she covered up the symptoms until they got so bad that she couldn’t anymore.  I love this woman.  Her family is like extended family to me.  I love her and if she wasn’t recovering from heart procedures, I’d want to spank her.

Then I need to step back from my fear and relief reaction and smack myself upside the head for being a hypocrite.  How many decades did I keep my health and life in jeopardy?  The short answer is forever.  Along the way, I not only ignored symptoms for far too long before getting treatment for high blood pressure and Type II diabetes, but I put off necessary annual tests and screenings like Pap smears, mammograms and skin cancer.  I hated going to a doctor for basic, routine physical exams and health maintenance because I was super obese.   In 2006 I had the symptoms of a possible heart attack and debated going to the E.R. until I was in my car and about to drive past the hospital on my way to work.  Thankfully, it wasn’t a heart attack or angina, but it damn well could have been.  I could have died that day because fear and self-consciousness overcame my common sense.

Over the next year, I had bouts of stomach discomfort.  It got worse and worse, but I self-treated with OTC antacids, pain relief meds, and other stomach stuff.  I told myself it was stress or just a “to-be-expected” side effect of being so fat and eating crappy, fatty foods all of the time.   It was really getting bad, to the point where it was interrupting my sleep every night, when I was near the end of the busiest three weeks I’ve ever had at work.  When that finally finished, I thought I had the flu and finally called the doctor for an appointment.  Within five minutes of listening to my symptoms and examining me the doctor diagnosed a gall bladder problem.  I went into the hospital for tests the next morning and by noon was in the operating room having my gall bladder removed.

I’m sure there are bullets that I’ve dodged over the course of not practicing good health maintenance.  I live in the Florida Keys and am outdoors a lot.  Even though I wear sunscreen and am careful, there is still a high risk of skin cancer.  I could have had it growing somewhere on my body that I couldn’t even see.  Yep.  I was lucky.  I finally started going regularly to a doctor in 2008 so I received treatment for my Type II diabetes and high cholesterol.  (The doctors around the time of that heart scare put me on meds for my blood pressure.)  I got my annual Paps and mammograms.  I had my first colonoscopy on schedule when I was 50.  The doctor discovered a polyp which, fortunately, wasn’t cancerous, but it could just have easily been malignant and, had I continued to ignore getting diagnostic tests, it would have eventually killed me.

Once I made the decision to have weight loss surgery, I then was examined, poked, prodded, scoped and tested for pretty much everything you can imagine.   Nothing more serious than I already knew about came to light.  Very fortunate indeed.

Now, of course, it’s a whole new ballgame.  I’m healthier than I have ever been in my entire adult life.  I no longer need to take medications because my blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol are all in normal range.  I had a follow up colonoscopy last fall and all is clear.

This does not mean that I can slack off.   I will not ignore my health and, by so doing, put my future at risk.  If I experience any symptoms, I will not ignore them either.  I’ll call my doctor and get checked out A.S.A.P.  I’m not going to set myself up to die because I don’t want to worry people or inconvenience them in some way.   Nothing, Nothing, is more important than taking care of myself.

Nothing in your life is more important either.  Please do not make the same mistakes that I did.  Whether you weigh far too little or are super obese, whether you have something else going on that makes you fearful or embarrassed to go to the doctor, do not let these things stand in the way of you taking care of yourself.

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2 responses to “Don’t Ignore Your Health

  1. Hope says:

    I read this the other day and this blog post made me think about it: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/29/overweight-patients-face-bias/

  2. Skye says:

    I second this (my dad put off telling anyone about his heart problems until he needed triple bypass surgery … back about five years after they’d been doing them!). And I will add, be an advocate for your own health and do not simply accept what your doctor says all the time. Such as, if there is a dark spot on your lung in an xray, do not simply accept “oh it’s nothing”: get it looked at every six months for a couple of years or so, unless you want to be surprised with metastasized lung cancer.

    I need to be a bit better about my healthcare, but it’s hard when you don’t have much money, and it was hard when I really didn’t have anyone I could feel comfortable asking to take me to get a colonoscopy for example (I’ll do that once I get a job and have the money to cover the deductible). I’m glad I did get the blemish on my nose checked so that I could get the skin cancer removed before it became worse (and so glad it was the least worrisome of all the skin cancers).

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