Health Cares

Published in baystateparent  Magazine

When I hear about skyrocketing healthcare costs, I can’t help but wonder if part of the problem is that people are visiting doctors more often these days for more ailments, just because they want their money’s worth out of their insurance deduction. And once they see a doctor, they inevitably get referred to a specialist for further evaluation.

You can’t go into a doctor’s office healthy and come out healthy. Inevitably, they’ll find something. I know.

I recently had the pleasure of undergoing my annual “Physical.” I did all the perfunctory things.  I shaved my legs and armpits, put on my pearls, rinsed twice with Scope, and made sure my underwear choice was appropriate. “Dress for undress success!” is my medical motto.

After spraying a little perfume in my belly button for good measure, I headed in to see “Doctor Rich,” who is my GP but happens to also be an old friend. What can I say? We live in a small town.

I was already rehearsing my answers to Rich’s standard questions about how I’m sleeping (fine!), how often I drink (oh, hardly ever!), how my anxiety is coming along (just fine, what a relief!), have I lost or gained any weight (both, actually).

As usual, I was running late, which I can easily justify, since Rich is chronically overbooked. So my late is actually his early. I got to the hospital, parked the car, made a fast sprint to the front desk, took a deep breath, and checked in. Only five minutes past my appointment – not bad!

A nurse took my blood pressure and weight.  I’ve perfected the art of lowering both on the fly by meditating while stripping down. After my chart was updated, I was whisked into a room for the Changing of the Gown.

I sat on the examining table, my thighs sticking to the red vinyl, feeling like Little Orphan Annie in my flowered frock. While I waited, I started to do my own self examination.

It was the beginning of the end.

Oh my God, I feel so tired, I thought. Should I mention that I’ve been up too many nights? And what about the multiple trips to the bathroom at night? I can’t help it if my bladder is petite. Oh, and what about those white dots on my legs? Probably a bad tan outcome. Or maybe they’re age spots! And that reminds me, my period is playing hide and seek lately, I’m surely too young to be menopausal and too old to be pregnant, right?

By the time Rich knocked on the door, I was clammy and hyperventilating.

“Hi Trish! How are you feeling today?” he chirped.

“Just fine,” I grimaced.

“How’s the anxiety and the insomnia?”

“Uh, well, I’m still not sleeping great,” I admitted. And I think I’m having a panic attack as I sit here, thank you very much!

It went downhill from there. The more questions Rich asked, the more things I remembered.

I was almost done when I remembered the spots.

“Oh, I forgot. I have these white spots,” I casually remarked, gesturing nonchalantly to my freshly shaven legs.

Rich took a look. Then he looked closer.

“Hmm. Strange.”

‘So this isn’t, like, an age thing?” I suggested.

Rich was already checking my back, my sweet-smelling belly, and other not-so-sweet places.

“It looks like you have Vitiligo,” he said.

“The Michael Jackson disease?” I gasped. An image of myself flashed in my mind: I was slowly fading to white, an aged albino with dark sunglasses and a floppy hat.

Suddenly, the wrinkles on my face I’d been obsessing over didn’t seem so bad.

“Yes,” said Rich, “But usually, it starts as a patch, maybe on the hand. You have these little spots everywhere. It’s really odd. I’m going to have to refer you to a dermatologist immediately.”

OK. So now I was concerned. Just an hour earlier, I was a well-adjusted, healthy woman with decent dose of self-flattery. Now I’m a hopeless Wacko Jacko insomniac?

I gathered up all the paperwork for my liver panel, thyroid test, mammogram, sleep specialist and dermatology referrals, said a cheery “See you soon!” to Rich.

I headed out for my flu shot, blood work, three referral appointments, follow-up, a double espresso and donut.  No sense denying myself at this point, I thought. With my luck, they’ll find something else in my blood work and I’ll have six months to live. At least I won’t look like a whitewashed vampire when I go.

I texted my husband “Love you!” before I got in the car to drive home. I mean, with all the crazy drivers out there, who’s to know whether I’d even make it home alive?

I kept my paper hospital I.D. band on. Just in case.

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