I went to the dentist twice during the four years I was in college. (Resist your judgement.) I could blame my parents. They moved the summer after my freshman year, so my routine was disrupted. But in truth, I was an adult. It was my responsibility to figure it out.
After graduation, I moved to Seattle. Finding a new dentist was atop my “to do” list. Still, I put it off. Fear had kicked in, and I wanted to avoid the troubling news that I was certain to receive. Then I met my husband. He kindly told me I had bad breath. I made an appointment. The dentist informed me that I had 12 cavities. I’ve had dental issues ever since. My dentist likely drives a nice car that I’ve paid for in full.
I wish I could report that that this turbulent tale of dental decay taught me my lesson. It did not. In fact, I’ve only become more wary of doctor visits with each passing year. This I could partly blame on my parents – more specifically, my mom. She died of cancer at 65. Healthy one year, gone the next.
It’s easy to trick myself into believing that avoidance is somehow correlated with survival.
My rational brain knows better. Of course, early detection and treatment of any medical issue is best. And any hope for a long life requires me to address inevitable health issues head on.
Last Friday night, I fainted. Friends were over for dinner. We stood by the door to say “good night” and the next thing I knew, I was waking up on the hallway floor with my husband and our guests peering over me. Other than embarrassment, I honestly felt fine afterwards. The next day, we went on a rigorous hike. I brushed the incident off as a fluke and had no appetite for potential causes that my doctor might site.
Nonetheless, I stewed over what happened the rest of the weekend and thought about how I would respond if one of my children had fainted. Easy. I would immediately have them checked out. Fear wouldn’t paralyze me, and I would remain optimistic about the outcome.
As I mulled this all over, I recalled a statistic I had read recently: about 40% of new moms skip their postpartum doctor’s appointments. Is there sometime about being a female, and moreover a mom, that compels us to ignore our own health? And when self-care is discussed, why is it most often equated with wine nights, mani-pedis, and spa days?
Monday morning, I called the doctor’s office. I went on Tuesday, Fear as my companion. The doctor had no explanation for the fainting. He did follow-up to say that my blood work was excellent and the EKG, normal. A few additional heart screens were suggested just to be 100% sure. I will do them.
Dr. Margot Savoy, from Temple University’s School of Medicine, suggests that “When you make that doctor’s appointment, you are taking back your power.” I’ll keep working to raise my shaky fist.