I loathe going to the doctor. I would much rather be really sick, knowing what ails me will eventually run its course or kill me. One time I went to the emergency room and when they took my blood pressure it was 170/110. I had to explain it was nothing personal and when I’m not in the ER I have perfectly respectable blood pressure of 120/80 or lower.
When she heard the number, my sister who was with me said, “You really do have white coat syndrome.” Not sure why she was surprised for all the times she told me to go to the doctor for this aliment or that pain. And I never would.
Once I was in a bed in an ER bay, they hooked me up to a cuff that regularly took my blood pressure. And just as I predicted, within about a half hour it was near normal since I’d calmed down a bit.
I write this so you’ll have context to what I say next, so you’ll have context to the remarkable number of doctors I have visited in the last year.
Making the decision to radically change my life and hit the road has had small and large effects on my life. I feel like it has actually provided me a different (or at least altered) lens with which I view my life.
One of the commitments I made to myself was to start the adventure as healthy as possible. Knowing I’d be getting on a very high deductible plan motivated me to put the big girl panties on and force my reluctant-self make a few doctor appointments. I kept repeating that this would save me money by reducing the chances of needing health care services on the road.
Of course I’m talking about things I can affect. I’m not ignorant of the fact that tomorrow or a year from now I could get cancer or another life-changing disease.
When I first started making lists in 2014 of things I wanted and needed to have done, I included all the medical preventive visits for my age. I also made a list for each of my pets.
The pets, of course, don’t have a choice. They go wherever I drag them. Both, I’m sure, wouldn’t “choose” to spend an entire day at the vet to have their teeth cleaned. But that preventive expense (and it’s not cheap because the pets are put under for the procedure) was worth it to stave off real dental issues in the future.
But for me, it’s not so easy. I rely on myself dragging myself to these appointments. In other words, I can also not drag myself to them. In my life before 2014, there is no question I would choose not to drag myself into any medical facility.
But wanting to be in tip-top health before hitting the road has both motivated me and taken away my fear. The motivation is pretty easy and obvious.
It’s the fear I find fascinating. It speaks to how much our mind controls our fears. My previous fear of doctors, though completely irrational, was real enough to keep me away from them. But somehow when I view visiting a doctor as one step among many to be checked off the list in order to reach my goal, it no longer controls me. I control it.
There is a lesson here. And one I hope to remember as I hit other walls of fear. I am sure there are going to be many as I embark on a life of unknowns.
For those of you more proactive in your health care or who visit the doctor regularly, you are going to read my list and think, “What’s wrong with this woman?” It’s not like any of these visits involve things so painful they could be used to make enemies talk.
So don’t laugh. Don’t judge. But here is my medical list of things I wrote in 2014. I should maybe mention at the time I wrote the list, I was planning on starting my journey in 2018 so I had four years to complete the list.
- Mammogram x 2
- Annual/PAP x 2
- Dermatologist x 2
- Colonoscopy after age 50
- Eye exam and new glasses (which I thought I might start wearing, unlike the previous three pairs I got)
Here’s how I did:
- Mammogram x 2
- Annual/PAP x 1 (see the side note below)
- Dermatology for a skin check will happen during the week this post goes up (a little nervous…but I’m going)
- Colonoscopy, had it two weeks ago
- Eyes, new glasses just got picked up last week (still haven’t worn them)
- Veins. I had one leg vein that gave me pain and cause an ugly blue spot near my knee. This item I started early and it is lucky I did. It took two year of treatment to get this fully addressed. Lots and lots and lots of needle sticks but I’ll spare you the details.
All except for the veins and the first mammogram, I’ve had done in the last three months. So having a different lens to view my life didn’t prevent me from procrastinating as long as possible. But here is the way I look it: Done is done. And I get to feel good about that.
As a side note, I got really lucky when I went for my annual exam. The nurse practitioner I see is at an alternative medicine clinic. She asks about my whole health and my whole life. I told her about my adventure and she offered a few prophylactic prescriptions. It had been on my mind too but I never thought I’d get them.
Another fear. Being in the middle of nowhere and ending up with an infection or a painful injury. I now have in my first aid kit bottles of antibiotics and some mild pain meds. I told her I didn’t want the serious stuff they make me stupid and they scare me.
Randomly, back in 2014, I thought I research when I had my last tetanus shot. I guess the idea of being outside made me think of it. After some research though, it turned out I was current. I won’t need one for another three years.
A friend of mine recently suggested I get a shingles vaccine. That one wasn’t even on my radar. A quick internet search informed me that it is recommended for people over 60, but approved for anyone 50 and over. I have heard some horror stories about how painful it can be. I’m going to look into whether or not my current insurance will cover it and if it does, then I’ll go ahead and get the vaccine. If it doesn’t, I’ll wait until I’m within the recommended age range and do it then.
Saying and doing all of this doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t go back to my old chicken self. But even if I do, I can feel good about the position, medically speaking, I put myself in before taking off.
If there is any preventative medical visits I’m missing, I would love to hear your thoughts.