The Annual Physical… or a Source of Stress?

For an entire decade and more, I’ve paid thousands and thousands of $$$$ on the monthly health insurance. By now I could have paid up the mortgage on a vacation home or bought myself a brand new BMW. Alas… that’s not the case. What’s more, I’ve never ever gone for an annual physical – check-up, that is.

Some of my well-meaning friends have advised me in the past to take this ubiquitous precautionary exam that millions of Americans rush to get done, well before they’re done paying all their Black Friday shopping bills. Year after year, I have resisted advice from family members — retired doctors – who gently push us towards this “necessary evil” — which they truly believe in after decades of living in the US. But then, the maverick in me continues to hold back from paying a visit to a Primary Care Physician (PCP).

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Photo Credit: Tomi Um. The New York Times

The last time I was at a doctor’s office – Doc blatantly said to me that I did not trust him. Well, frankly, to some extent he was indeed right. Here’s the thing… we had never met until I had rushed to him on a recommendation from an acquaintance. In fact he scheduled an appointment for the same day for which I was truly grateful to him. Having moved from NY a couple of years prior, I had no PCP. One morning I woke up and as I was brushing my teeth and looked in the mirror I was aghast. Something had caused a breakout on my face. Is it Murphy’s Law, or some such? As mishaps often tend to occur close to, or on weekends, no dermatologist was available right away. Compelled to pay a visit to any physician who could immediately remedy the weird rash on my face — at least in the short term — I met this doctor. A few days later I met a dermatologist. Two weeks after, I learned it was an overnight reaction that was allergy-caused (Culprit: Methylisothiazolinone). But during the four days between the visit to the PCP and to the dermatologist, it was hell… so much medication, unbearable reactions to those medicines, changes in medication, immense pain, no medication, a series of tests before, after and in-between… and then, steep bills, stressful arguments with health insurance provider, what seemed at the time, endless rounds of phone calls, more bills, inaccuracies and double charges… more phone time with insurance company!

So, back to the story of this PCP — in fact, when he first set eyes on me, I’m quite sure I saw him wince. No offense taken, I would too, if I’d suddenly seen a face like mine at the time. Besides, I was in immense pain to take offense especially if it was a distressed doctor who would likely relieve my pain and disfigured appearance. The long and short of my experience with a doctor in this city was that prescribed medication did more harm to me than good under those circumstances. Although it wasn’t quite the doctor’s fault, I truly am circumspect of paying visits to doctors without reasonable cause or ailment.

A minor cough or cold (even if it lasts for two weeks or more) is easily remedied with a simple, inexpensive green tea solution of freshly grated ginger in hot water + dash of lemon squeezed in + a teaspoon of honey. Drink this 3-4 times a day (freshly concocted each time), and once especially before bedtime to enable deep sleep. At least this works for me, and I need to do this during every season change i.e. 4 times a year, at a minimum – each time, at least for three days continually.

So, back to the chatter about an annual physical check up. Out of sheer politeness, by way of explanation, I used to offer my commonsense reasons to my well-wishers, advisors, but then I just stopped paying heed. My point – I eat healthy, and live healthy. Processed foods in my house are at a bare minimum; I’m vegetarian (no eggs nor fish, and certainly no meat of any kind). I rarely — if ever — eat out (since my peculiar food habits – foods sans onions and garlic – aren’t available readily at even the best of restaurants). In my routine day to day activities I follow a self-imposed discipline, and above all, I feel fine – not counting the aches and pains which have long-determined causes – no fault of mine – they’re in the genes.

Today, I read this article “Skip Your Annual Physical” which refers to a Cochrane Collaboration – an international study. I sincerely believe that every American should read the research findings and conclusions. Just one peeve I have – why is it that only in recent months or say in the last couple of years are findings such as this even made public.  Not too long ago, the value in getting mammograms done year after year was questioned. Ever since Affordable Care Act (PPACA) arrived on the scene, aka Affordable Care Act (ACA) or popularly known as ObamaCare” turned into Law, the value of many such expensive tests are being questioned. Is that a mere coincidence?  Same story with many drugs for which patents have expired… anyways, that’s a tale for another day.

For now, it’s not just ‘yours truly’ suggesting that you save your time, and avoid the rush to doctors’ offices, to labs and diagnostic clinics for that annual physical check up. It’s now official… ironically, our neighbors to the north in Canada were aware of this since 1979 — what was US waiting for – evidence?

Americans, do save yourself the stress. Why jeopardize your good health on a notion of better health? At the clinic, or doctor’s office, you may pick up a bug that you were trying to steer clear of in the first place. Your time may be better spent mulling on issues that we seem to just continue doing without thought… just because our parents did it, or because we know no better, must we too follow the same routine… shun those routine health exams!