As I got diagnosed with fibromyalgia, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), I stopped caring about certain aspects of my overall health because I simply didn’t have the bandwidth and time to face them. The first thing to go was my dermatology appointments because I stopped caring about the little bit of acne I had left; I had bigger battles to fight.
Then my primary care doctor told me that she saw a worrisome mole on my back.
My decision to not get annual check-ups with a dermatologist had consequences. Thus began a process that involved getting diagnosed with a pre-cancerous melanoma and having surgery to beat cancer decades early. I have a healing scar on my back to prove it. I also have a stronger habit of using sunscreen whenever I go outside and putting on moisturizer with SPF each morning (and practicing other skin cancer prevention techniques including, strangely enough, putting on sunblock if I’m going to be in the car on a very sunny day).
The second thing to go was my regular appointments with a dentist; the sounds of the drills gave me searing headaches. After avoiding appointments for more than two years, I had more cavities than can be counted on two hands.
These decisions have costs. I’m proof of it, and I’m learning from my mistakes and hopefully passing along reminders of the cost of ignoring certain aspects of my life and health to save a moment of my time. Just like going to McDonald’s instead of cooking at home because it’s faster and involves less effort, it can, and eventually will, backfire. Our bodies break down – it’s a harsh fact of life. If we are blessed by old age, we will all have health problems we never expected to have; we will all become disabled in some way(s), even if we haven’t already faced disability. If we are blessed by life itself, regardless of age, there will be unpleasant health surprises – my young age of 22 didn’t prevent me from having to get skin cancer detection and removal.
These regular check-ups with medical professionals like general practitioners, dentists, dermatologists, and so on cannot be skipped. Just because I spend most of my health-related energy trying to face my joint and neurological problems doesn’t mean that I can skip the rest of my body.
So, friends, how is your physical health other than your biggest problem area(s)? Your spiritual health? Mental health? Social health? Your diet? These can’t be forgotten or ignored. Prevention, being proactive, is far better and easier than being reactive and having to face a problem once it’s already been there a while.
Here’s a list of the kind of medical professionals you might want to see regularly throughout your lifetime. Here’s a way of finding high-ranked doctors who take your insurance, or if you don’t have insurance, a database of sliding scale clinics with information about who they serve. Here’s a way of finding mental health professionals whose description seems to match your hopes and who take your insurance, as well as advice about how to get low-cost or free counseling.
Do not miss the big picture; do not miss the forest as you face the trees. Get professionals who can see the whole, not just the parts, because both are crucial to your long-term and holistic well-being. You matter – all of you, not just the part(s) of you that consistently gives you trouble. Take care of yourself.
One thought on “Don’t Forget About Other Aspects of Your Health as You Face Your Illness(es)”
What a great post! Our routine health appointments are so important – it may feel better at the time to skip them, but as you said, if we do we may end up paying a big price later. We are so much more than our illnesses, and taking care of our ‘whole self’ is key to living well in spite of our circumstances. Thanks for sharing your story!