Friday, April 5, 2013

Testing, Testing

When you hit 40, all your medical providers suddenly start doing extra exams.

Even my dental hygienist started checking for oral cancer.

Already, I have had an ophthalmologist suggest follow-ups to rule out glaucoma (I didn’t have it), a dermatologist called me back in to make sure he had removed all of a mole that turned out to be "slightly abnormal" and I recently had two vaginal ultrasounds because, even though, at 48, irregular menstrual cycles are to be expected, the doctors still had to rule out cancer.

Even the hygienist is watching a bite mark in my mouth. (Ironically, I think I chew the inside of my cheek as a nervous habit.)

Recently, my voice became weirdly hoarse. My husband, a doctor, set me up to see his buddy, an ENT. He ran his little lookie-thingy up my nose and down my throat and saw that one of my vocal cords wasn’t moving. CT scan, here I come.

I swear I will never again look up a health concern on the internet. Because “paralyzed vocal cord” brings up throat and lung cancers and several horrible neurological diseases.

I was so scared.

CT scan normal. My vocal cord started moving again by itself.

I realize, someday, one of these medical providers may find something early enough so I don’t die.

I also realize I am damn lucky to have health insurance.

But these tests come at a psychological price. According to one study, women who had what turned out to be false positives on their mammograms showed signs of increased stress even three years later.

So, periodically (every 6 months in the case of the dental hygienist), I am going to have these reminders of my own mortality – and that terrible things can happen without warning.

I’ll just have to deal. After all, so far, I’ve been so lucky.

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