Due to all my recent travel, two pretty routine appointments got slammed together this week, lined up like God was my scheduler. I had little to do with it, in other words. I only had to show up.
A dental cleaning on Thursday morning, and a yearly physical exam on Friday. Both of them required me to set an alarm clock, an anomaly usually reserved for early flights. Oh, but it gets worse.
And not really worse, you understand. I’m just skimming here on the perception. They were fine.
Not fun, though, not consistently fun. Some fun. It was nice to see people again. My hygienist was the sister of someone I work with regularly. Both my dentist and my doctor are close enough to my exact age to share similar stories, and all of us are aware that I’m progressing on something that feels pretty much like borrowed time, a gift of health that shouldn’t necessarily still be giving. I was bad, and bad for a long time.
My teeth got nice and clean, bright and shiny, although it had only been six months and most of that had been without coffee. Coffee loves my teeth. Coffee wants to marry my teeth. Coffee and its intimate relationship with my teeth is the only reason I stopped drinking coffee last spring, and my upcoming forced hygiene the reason I was willing to drink a bit in the couple of weeks before my appointment. Not again, though. Or not until I need it.
My physical exam felt unnecessary, but it’s free (to those of us who like to parse current discussions of healthcare and zoom in on certain terms like “free,” let’s stop that now. I pay premiums in case I need the attention of medical professionals, although I never do. A benefit of my policy is a physical exam once a year with no out-of-pocket costs to me. I shall call that “free” for clarity, but of course nothing is free) and it’s not exactly a bad idea. I don’t think, though, that my doctor would find something that wouldn’t have already come to my attention, given that it’s just a well check and not hyperfocused.
But you never know, some random lab test could always send up a red flag, and it’s possible there’s a lump somewhere I might have missed, an early sign, the whole point of preventive care versus crawling into an emergency room way too late.
And then there’s the prostate.
Again, I would probably have symptoms. There are a bunch of them – urgency, frequency, dysuria, hematuria, nocturia – and I imagine I’d notice, but it’s a good idea to have the old prostate given the once over.
Note: It’s a bad idea. As well as being a good one.
I’m certainly not comparing my experience with that of being a woman. Women undergo all sorts of invasive exams on a routine basis. Definitely not comparing.
But men are made a certain way. When it comes to reproductive organs, important stuff that makes babies and inspires great art and leads to awkward first dates, men are pretty simple creatures. Our organs mostly hang outside the body, where they’re easily accessible and perfectly positioned for self portraits if you’re that kind of an asshole.
Not the prostate gland, though. It’s very important and prone to disease as men get older, so it’s best to get it assessed by a professional just to keep tabs on it. Hard to do yourself.
And God has also intervened to make the prostate also pretty accessible, although try telling that to me.
This is stupid. A prostate exam takes maybe 15 seconds, tops. Still, it’s not like listening to my lungs or looking at my ears. My doctor doesn’t just check to make sure my prostate still exists, I mean. This is an assessment, a measurement. It’s a hands-on experience.
Otherwise, though, my exams are always fun. They were sad for several years, all sorts of solemn conversations, and now they’re not. No drinking. No smoking. No dozens and dozens of unwanted pounds, crowding my health. Lab values I should probably post online, like pictures of my grandson, they’re so cute. I am a picture of health, knock on wood, wait until next year.
Which I intend to do. Barring something unexpected, I’ll see my old friend the doctor, now a comfortable couple after 15 years, around this time in 2014, just before Thanksgiving. I’ll be back in the dentist chair in May, just in case I get a caffeine monkey on my back again and just because.
And in the meantime I have much to be thankful for, including my nice doctor, who is a woman around my age, very witty, very relaxed, athletic and tall-ish and with very slender and small fingers, which matters more than you might think.