My Year-end Health Report Card

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It’s really great that I set doctors appointments a year in advance, because it means I won’t forget to call and make appointments.

But then, a year later, I am horrified when these appointments pop up unexpectedly on my Outlook calendar at the most aggravating times.

For some reason, all of them seem to come in a big wave at the end of the year.

And it causes me a lot of anxiety.

When I was younger, I took my good immune system for granted. I would go to an appointment and expect everything would be ok. And it was.

I remember when first out of college and well into my first career job with health benefits, laughing about the fact they really weren’t benefits at all, because I never used them.  I would go years sometimes between appointments with no repercussions. I guess I was one of those snarky kids Obama is trying to get to sign up for the new health plan to pay for the rest of us. Back then I thought I was invincible.

Never a cavity. No glasses. Normal height. Normal Weight. No broken bones. Not high-risk for anything too odd.  Normal, normal, normal…

But then a few years ago, something changed.

It’s like as soon as you turn 40, suddenly, even if healthy, you start getting the call-backs.

It started with my first call-back after a mammogram, that left me anxious for a good month, as I had to come back in for an ultrasound and then wait for results. Then for the first time in my life last year I had a call back after a Ob-Gyn visit, that resulted in a follow-up, something called a colposcopy that was pretty horrible. Even the hygienist at the Dentist’s office last year had me worried when she thought my gums looked a little blotchy.

What could that be? What am I doing wrong? Why am I falling apart? I began to wonder…

So now, in 2013, I don’t take normal for granted anymore and I’m please to say, so far so good!

I have two down already, Ob-Gyn last month, where I just received a letter in the mail saying I’m A-OK for now (happy dance!). And I just received a  thumbs up from the Dentist on Monday. Although I don’t think I did anything different this year, they told me I somehow stepped up my game.

The last reminder just popped up on the calendar when I logged in this week:  The Yearly Physical.

Typically the yearly physical is where I shine. I’m highly aware of everything I eat. I treat exercise like my career. My doctor, who likely spends all day warning people that they need to stop eating fast food and soda and start walking every day, or at least getting up from their computers once in a while, looks at me and says “don’t change a thing!”.

His only recommendation last year? Take a Vitamin D tablet, because in Vermont, we get no sun.

But the part that drives my anxiety sky high, is something you would never, ever guess.

It’s that I absolutely, positively, detest numbers.

And when I get that end of year report card from my physical, showing all my numbers–normal or not–they drive me into a highly-competitive state.

I suspect this is on account of my career as a marketer. If a number ever crosses my path, it gets swept up into a pivot table in Excel and sliced and diced 20 different ways, categorized and analyzed over time. And if there is any variation at all, I’m awake at night thinking about why, how and what if?

And the worst number of all for me is that silly one every doctor takes as soon as you walk through the door.

The one you get when you step on a scale.

Over the last two years, knowing my obsessive behavior in response to numbers, I have been working hard to rid my life of them. I had used calorie counting for a few years and stopped. At one point I micro-managed my nutrient intake (and yes, there was a way-too-detailed pivot-table involved) to ensure all my numbers were where they should be: protein, carbs, fat, sugar, sodium, etc…but eventually stopped.

And about 2 years ago, I unceremoniously relegated the bathroom scale to the downstairs closet. Because any fluctuation in my weight would make me think I need to bring back all the numbers to manage it. And I don’t want that anymore. Adopting the if-the-clothing-still-fits attitude seems to work well for me.

But when you go to the Doctors office, you can’t avoid it.

When I visited the Ob-Gyn a few months ago, although I felt slightly dumb, I asked the nurse if she would mind if I turned around so I couldn’t see the number on the scale, and asked her not to tell me. She was ok with it.  But with a yearly exam, I’m not sure that’ll work, because BMI, body mass index, your height and weight ratio, is all anyone really seems to care about. My husband actually told me yesterday they had a meeting about changes in the health insurance, and that BMI was now going to be tracked for our health plan from now on.

So the anxiety has started in anticipation of learning for a fact what I know in my mind already: that I have gained a few pounds.

Even though I know I’m ok. I’m healthy.

And that fluctuation is normal.

I’m going to have to turn on every coping skill I possess to keep this knowledge from driving me numbers-crazy once again.  But I’ll also be proud I didn’t let my appointments lapse, and that I do not take my health for granted like I used to do when I was a younger adult.

Every year now I get my health report card:  if anything does go wrong, we catch it early and then hopefully move on.

At least until next year, when I start to see those new appointments pop back up on the calendar, and the worrying cycle begins once more…

Do you find Doctors appointments make you anxious? Do you keep up with all your appointments now, or do you need to get better at that? Would love to hear your stories and discussion…

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6 thoughts on “My Year-end Health Report Card

  1. Like, YEAH. I went to my physical 6 weeks ago, felt great, pants not tight, not fearing the scale and wouldn’t you know it, it had me up by 15 pounds since the last physical a year previously. SO. Like you, I gave up the scale, use my clothes as my guide. After learning of my weight gain I gave up tracking calories also. WHY? Because I made myself crazy by obsessively counting calories. Decided it was better to continue exercise, eat only when hungry, and eat mindfully. The weight gain has coincided with lifting heavy weights. I dead lift more than I weigh and can squat almost my weight. My DR works out at my gym and told me he is at the high end of his BMI but looks fantastic. He lifts heavy too. Anyway, I feel the same as you do about the subject and trying not to obsess.

    • OH wow Chris! What a shock! That is a ton to let sink in. I too believe a lot of mine is from lifting but the whole BMI thing, and discussing a weight-gain trend, seems to be how they assess what we are doing. Everything I read these days tells us that weight isn’t the best gauge but they use it anyway. Hope my Dr. is like yours and is in the know about lifting. And when I get weighed next week, fresh from eating like a queen on Thanksgiving, and find I’m 10 lbs up I’ll need your help to cope, big time!

  2. When I turned forty, I had that nonchalant attitude — I’m in the best shape of my life, I’m wearing clothes I haven’t worn since I was married, and I don’t have all the baggage I had at 25, YAY ME. And then…it started. By age 42, I felt like i had a giant sign on my head that blinked on and off in RED that said “Over 40, CHECK ENGINE.” Slowly things started to fail (injuries, the mammogram callbacks too, the periodontist, a mouth guard at night, pain from adolescent scoliosis, etc.)

    The worst part was hearing doctors say for the first time, “Wellllll, maybe you shouldn’t be doing ___ or ____ anymore. You know you’re not 25 anymore.” I wanted to stomp my foot and yell a lot. But then I would get anxious because I’d still be in pain a month later, or I’d be injured again, or something else would happen and I’d think…Gee, maybe they’re right. Maybe I can’t…And then I started to be cautious about everything. I stopped doing stuff. And sometimes that’s good (don’t inflame an existing injury, or create a new one. But as much as I really don’t WANNA be 25 anymore, I really REALLY didn’t wanna feel 75 either. And I was starting to feel older and more delicate by the day.

    So yeah, I feel the anxiety. Some of it about the numbers. But more of it about the fallibility of my body at this age, and how I have a damn hard time accepting it. And whether I SHOULD accept it. I felt like the eight months of rehab around my most recent injury (neck issues related to my scoliosis from long ago) made me feel aged and frail. I don’t wanna feel that way. Ever. Again.

    There’s a fine line between feeling 25 and PRETENDING to be 25, between still pushing myself hard and using the maturity of my 43 years to decide when enough is enough. And doctors aren’t very good about helping you find that either — they’re either there to get you outta your chair, or tell you to sit the heck down and knock it off, not a lot of the gray space in between. 🙂

  3. oh my gosh, I love that :check engine….that is how it is! And so far, nothing’s wrong but it does make you feel paranoid. Tina, can you do me a favor and start a blog and write too–you have such an amazing voice and way of looking at all these issues: of which we both know, many of ours are the same. Love the last part of what you wrote and that’s something I think many of us have to think about, and one I do often…the Pretending part…where is the middle ground between what should push yourself to continue doing and where you need to draw the line. It’s not a clear answer. Thanks so much for your comment as always!! xxx

  4. I’m 34 and similar to how you describe yourself in your earlier years. I don’t go for an annual physical although I’m aiming for every two years now. Everything checks great every time and never any issues. I feel as though I’ll be healthy forever but I don’t believe it. You see, my mom was diagnosed with cancer when she was 51 and died from it 2 years later. Four of my aunts and uncles (her siblings) also have cancer. My family history is not in my favour. I don’t live my life in fear of stress of it, but I think I do expect to eventually hear those words. I’m doing all I can to be healthy which her family never was. Hopefully my efforts pay off.

    On another note, I can certainly relate to becoming obsessive to the number on the scale. I hate that’s the first thing they do when you go see the Dr. I hate BMI. I haven’t seen my Dr. since I lost the weight because she’s been on 2 maternity leaves. My weight is currently at the high end of normal on the BMI although I’ve become stronger from lifting. I’m curious and anxious to see how she responds when I see her next.

    • Oh Carolyn, I’m so sorry to hear about your mom, and your other family members. I am so thankful you shared this story with me as I now know what motivates you everyday to work so hard everyday to keep yourself in amazing health to work against that family history. I love your outlook, that you are not stressed by this, and are more empowered to control your destiny instead. I have heard through multiple friends in different places, about all of us, at the right size, but being “high” on the BMI scale. You are all helping me see maybe it isn’t something I need to worry about so much…I find it really, really interesting.. Definitely keep me posted on what your doctor thinks when you go–I’ll bet she’ll be amazingly impressed! Thanks so much again for your comment!

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