Your Medical Appointment
The psychological and the practical, for those prone to concern or hypochondria.
Posted Jan 12, 2021
We’re all just one blood test or one medical exam away from a death sentence.
So as your appointment approaches, you can understandably be fearful, depending on the nature of the visit. That's especially likely as you get older.
How can you deal with it?
It starts with acceptance. Recognizing that, worst case, you get diagnosed with a fatal disease. That would incent you to live more richly, moment by moment, because your days are fewer than you expected. And if the dying process is too painful, if you’re fortunate to live in a state in which physician-assisted dying is legal, you can be sent pleasurably into la-la land after which you will be no more aware than you were before you were born.
And that’s the worst case. Far more likely, you’ll get good news, recommendations for improving your health, or you will have discovered some condition early enough to do something about it.
Turning to the practical, ask your doctor (or whatever health provider you’ll be seeing) to order any lab tests in advance of your appointment, so s/he’ll have the results by the time of your appointment. To unearth questions that you'll want to ask, think about your body from head to toe, then morning to night, and list the medications you're taking or are considering taking.
During the appointment, although it’s scary to admit to pains or sensations of unexplained origin, try to muster the courage to do so. Chances are, you’ll get reassurance or catch a problem early.
In between visits, there’s the issue of compliance. It can be tempting to ignore recommendations to exercise, watch your diet, avoid mind-altering substances, or even to take your medication. Some people who don’t regularly take their medication tell themselves that they simply forgot but often it’s because taking it reminds them that they have a condition that they’d rather not think about. Try to care enough about yourself that you want to do what your doctor recommends. And to help you follow through, tie taking your medication to a desired event, for example, right before a meal—Until you've taken your medication, you can't eat. (Of course, that example won't work if it's one of the few medications that need be taken on an empty stomach.)
The other major event between appointments is a new pain or sensation of unexplained or ambiguous origin. Some people tend to catastrophize, classically, worrying that the headache is a brain tumor. The chances are very good that it’s not. I find helpful the rule of thumb that my trusted doctor gave me: "Unless a pain is scary-severe or lasts more than a week, consider waiting to contact me. Most pain goes away by itself." Over the decade since he’s given me that advice, it’s proven wise. Of course, as they say on the commercials, your experience may vary.
All of us prefer to focus on things other than disease and doctor visits but being a grown-up requires us to face those while not causing yourself undue stress. I hope this article helps.
I read this aloud on YouTube.