I’m not seeking sympathy, but I’m writing this on the eve of my annual physical exam.
Don’t infer that I’m bragging about a commendable lifelong habit. By “annual,” I mean “I’ve (almost) done it two years in a row.” And by “physical,” I mean, if I had my druthers, I’d suggest, “Hey, doc, when I turn my head and cough, how about standing over there in the corner and reading my aura?”
Before my renewed dedication in the last couple of years, I could always make an excuse for kicking the can down the road. Until one day my neuroskeletal system gently implored me, “Stop kicking that %$#@ can!! It hurts, bro!”
I came by my erstwhile procrastination honestly. Several generations of my family have showcased individuals leery of routine medical care. This foot-dragging stretches at least as far back as the days when a thespian-turned-pitchman might intone, “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on the telegraph.”
My mother delights in preemptively telling nurses that she suffers from the dreaded “white coat syndrome” – a phenomenon in which normally stable blood pressure or some other vital statistic spikes solely because the patient is nervous about being in the examination room.
I experience a touch of this myself from time to time. And by “a touch,” I mean, the sight of cotton balls and tongue depressors has been known to make me start developing a conjoined twin.
Self-image is another issue. Most Americans could stay on a bucking bronco longer than they can stand to linger on that judgmental doctor’s office scale. Sadistic nurses don’t help, when they estimate the weight of your clothing as no more than Tinker Bell would wear in a burlesque show.
All of this ties in, of course, with the hallowed Body Mass Index, this week’s position on cholesterol and lectures about portion control. My friend Cletus has a few choice words for the medical experts behind such shaming. (“See if you can control the portion of my foot that goes up your…”)
Some patients merely dread the stilted bedside manner and observations such as “None of us are getting any younger *chuckle*.” Be glad your doctor graduated near the TOP of his class. Think of his less accomplished classmates. (“Ohhhh…Mr. Danvers went into a fetal position because of the diet regimen I handed him and not because he was getting YOUNGER. Let me put that in his chart…”)
Many people proudly declare a “What I don’t know can’t hurt me” attitude about diagnoses. When these responsible adults aren’t putting duct tape over their “CHECK ENGINE SOON” light, they’re doubtless wrestling with varmints on the front porch without turning on the light.
I don’t know if my cheerleading will influence my peers, but perhaps it will inspire future generations. I know most young people think they’re 10 feet tall and bulletproof (despite uttering phrases such as “I need a ‘safe space’ with an 11-foot ceiling and a ‘gun-free zone’ placard”), but they should form a lifetime habit of regular medical checkups.
This will allow them to keep their immunizations up to date, detect problems early and read drug brochures at their leisure, to determine if they were just imagining it when the fast-talking TV announcer seemingly listed “writhing in the Stygian depths” between “projectile earwax” and “heat-seeking ballistic unibrow” among the side effects.