Seriously. I'm a kick-awesome social worker.
What I'm not so awesome at? Staying on top of my own health needs and not assuming the worst.
My years in the field taught me most people in the medical profession are notoriously bad patients, albeit for different reasons.
I have witnessed a lot of truly horrible stuff in my years. Horrible illnesses, deaths I wouldn't wish on anyone, people at their worst. You might think these things would inspire me to see the doctor on a regular basis. Not so.
Let me illustrate.
Sometime in the spring, I discovered a troubling spot on my skin. A sane person would schedule an appointment with the dermatologist. But:
1) I hate going to the doctor
While I've found some great doctors over the years, I prefer not to see them. I'm lucky I'm a generally healthy person. I also hate scheduling appointments. HATE it. I don't like calling people I don't know and who do you know less than a medical receptionist at a new-to-you medical practice? Which brings me to...
2) I haven't moved my medical care here yet
Why do I have to switch over to new doctors? WHY? I had some great doctors back home. And now I have to start all over? Excuse me while I cry.
I saw all my doctors in Illinois before I moved because I know how I am about these things. Clean bill of health all around. Just when I'd mustered the energy to find new docs here, I quit my job and had to get my own insurance. I'm skeptical about insurance plans to begin with and certainly didn't want to get diagnosed with anything that would raise my premium (mind you- still completely healthy). Clearly the best thing to do was do nothing. This was fine until an actual problem arose.
3) I know too much.
I'm decidedly not an expert but I have amassed enough medical knowledge to be dangerous. I know the symptoms, prognoses, ailments, and so on. And there's all the behind-the-scenes stuff that accompanies working in the medical profession. I've known good doctors and bad, witnessed shortcuts and errors, along with hope and recovery. Working for hospice made me especially sensitive toward end-of-life issues and trajectories. Not in a hypochondriac way, just very aware. When my loved ones have medical stuff come up, I become their personal advocate. I liase amongst the team, ask a million questions, and do what needs to be done. I also try not to do much of #4.
4) I assumed the worst.
My family health history is no picnic. We boast just about every kind of cancer and cardiovascular problem. And by boast, I mean it's the worst kind of brag in the world. Add my family health history to the info I've amassed during my years as a medical social worker and you can see it's no fun living in my head when there's an actual medical issue. This particular instance, denial was the drug of choice. I know I can't afford to be lax when it comes to preventative care but still...
5) I internalize everything, while feeling the need to be strong for everyone else.
When I first detected the spot, it seemed a bit shady. I didn't think it looked like a melanoma but I couldn't rule out other types of skin cancer. I also remembered how sometimes "spots" are actually an indicator of other forms of cancer. This naturally freaked me out.
I'd already identified a dermatology practice here, as I've seen a dermatologist off and on since the glories of adolescence. But I didn't want to make an appointment because blah blah blah.
Months went by and I'd occasionally think of the mole, wonder if I had cancer, freak out, consider making an appointment, decide not to, make a mental note to update my Living Will, and then go on my merry way.
Recently, a friend told me of a young friend of hers who was diagnosed with melanoma and died. OK. Reality check.
If it was a form of skin cancer, it needed to be treated. If it wasn't, then I could stop worrying.
Once I had an actual appointment, this whole thing became real and so did my nerves. I was convinced I was going to be diagnosed with skin cancer. Cue phone call to my parents, updating my medical history, considering my end of life prospects now that I live out of state.
The nurse practitioner took one look at the spot and told me it was fine. Nothing to worry about.
All the worry slid right out of me.
I'm sure I'll be better about my health from here on out.
Now to make the rest of those routine doctor appointments...
Are you proactive when it comes to your health?