What causes us to stop? And I mean stop. Metaphorically speaking, dead in our tracks.
A health scare. Right? Honestly, is there anything more powerfully grounding than finding out there may be something wrong with us?
“Our brains silently and unceremoniously run the show.”
Most of us walk around, our bodies functioning, without much thought. If we’re lucky our machine is on autopilot — for the most part. We breathe without thinking. Swallow without pause. Our brains silently and unceremoniously run the show. Our network of neurons provides us, mostly, with a fail-safe machine by which to walk in, talk, feel, and commune with the world around us.
So much is taken for granted. Until it isn’t.
Back in July of 2022 I partnered with Life Line Screening to explore the notion of proactive healthcare. What do I mean by that?
I am an overall healthy individual. I do not have many of the typical issues that arise at this stage of life. My cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight all merit little gold stars on my report card. Yes, I am a hormonal barren desert but I address that through bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. Given this state of affairs, why would I be interested in ultrasound screenings of my carotid artery, or in taking a look at my abdominal aorta for the presence of an enlargement or aneurysm? Being asymptomatic, why would I bother to pursue any of these screenings?
I guess it’s stating the obvious that preventing a disease is way better than curing it. And now, at 58, with less time ahead of me than behind, prevention is what I am all about. Who wants to spend whatever precious time we have left in hospitals or doctors’ offices? Who wants to fight battle after battle coming back from any illness — much less one that we could avoid?
“This was NOT something they directly tested — but during the carotid artery screen of my neck, they “saw something””
Life Line Screening sent me my results a few weeks after the screening. All three test results came back as I expected. The three tests they performed were: Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm And Atrial Fibrillation Screen; Carotid Artery And Peripheral Arterial Disease Screen; and Osteoporosis Screen. I was already suspicious about my bone density — given that I am a petite, post-menopausal woman. And as I suspected, they flagged my bone density as something to explore with my primary.
What I was surprised by — my thyroid.
This was NOT something they directly tested — but during the carotid artery screen of my neck, they “saw something” that they suggested I further explore with my physician. Now, this was July and I was busy with weeks and weeks of travel plans so I put the results in my desk drawer with a mental note to bring it along to my next scheduled appointment.
Using The Results:
Fast forward to October and I dug the paperwork out of the drawer to take with me to my annual with my primary-care physician. If I am perfectly honest, this was after I’d finally remembered this paperwork even existed — when I’d already been on route to the doctor for a good five minutes. For a split second I considered ditching the test results altogether. I could always bring it to the next appointment. Afterall, it’s probably nothing. Not sure what actually triggered me to take the extra ten minutes to rush back home. But I am very grateful I did.
My primary physician, after examining the results, ordered an ultrasound to my thyroid and a DEXA scan. The DEXA scan is considered by medical experts to be the most useful, easy, and inexpensive test to diagnose osteoporosis. My immediate reaction was, “Well, I’m sure I have osteoporosis but I bet the thyroid is just fine.”
When Positive Is Bad:
“We moved swiftly and had a biopsy scheduled within two days of the ultrasound finding.”
And my immediate reaction was incorrect. Turns out that there actually was something in my thyroid — a nodule, one centimeter in size. Protocol for such a finding? A fine needle aspiration and biopsy. In one second my world turned upside down. I don’t think I’m unusual in immediately jumping to the worst-case scenario — cancer.
Determined to stay positive, I exercised my frontal lobe in keeping my thoughts strictly focused on an, in this case, negative outcome. We moved swiftly and had a biopsy scheduled within two days of the ultrasound finding. The actual procedure, while not pleasant, was fairly straightforward and painless. Well, painlight, I should say.
A couple of days later, a bluish-yellowish blemish appeared on my neck. For a second it brought me back to being a teenager after spending a few hours making out in the backseat of my parent’s car. At least this time I didn’t feel compelled to cover it up with a turtleneck. (Just so you know, I grew up in South Florida where temperatures rarely indicate turtleneck fashion. Yes, I got busted by my mother over that one — after wearing the SAME turtleneck for four straight days in 80+ degree weather.)
Thankfully, I only waited 24 hours for the test results — and the word BENIGN has never looked so beautiful.
Keep Preventable Diseases At Bay:
“our quality of life suffers if we are battling to bring our body back to health rather than working with our machines to keep it functional”
So, why am I sharing all this HIPPA-protected information? Who cares? We all need to care. Yes, it was benign. But what if it hadn’t been? The notion of early detection is incredibly meaningful to me.
I have so many plans and adventures left on my list. Tons of countries to visit. Kid’s future wedding to attend — way future. And who knows maybe even a grandkid to torture, I mean play with. The only way to achieve all these things is to keep my machine functional. I know you all may be tired of that particular soap box of mine. But, I stand by the idea that our quality of life suffers if we are battling to bring our body back to health rather than working with our machines to keep it functional.
And to that end, I encourage you all to take advantage of these screenings and heck, any other options presented to keep ahead of disease. Prevention may be a full-time job. But my contention is that it’s a way better position with enhanced benefits, perks, and allows us to keep our hard-earned money rather than dumping it into hospitals and doctor’s bank accounts. Wouldn’t you rather spend your dollars on trips, experiences with friends/family, or goodies for yourself and loved ones? I know I do.
Note: Please, please remember, I am NOT a physician and I am NOT dispensing any medical advice. I am sharing my journey in the hopes to encourage us all to be pro-active about the state of our own health.
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