Back to school is in full swing and if snatching up this year’s hottest school supplies and trendiest clothes isn’t enough to stress you out coming off a much needed summer, scheduling those back to school physicals surely will. Wanna get all 3 kids in at the same time? Frankly you have a better chance of winning the lottery than finding that perfect scheduling unicorn, but a mama can still dream – right?
But year after year, we somehow find a way to get the kids in for those important annual physicals and (hopefully) send them off into the school year with clean bills of health. You know what we don’t do though? We don’t prioritize our own annual physicals and well-checks. We allow the role of being a mom and the millions of little (and big!) things that come with that title to distract us from listening to and paying attention to our own bodies, and this is something that really hit home for me after a recent health scare.
Without going into all of the details, it started off very simple:: I was rejected from donating blood for low iron in early June. This came as a bit of a shock, considering that had never happened to me before in over 20 years of donating blood. But I shook it off, went home, ate a cheeseburger and tried again the next day. To my dismay, my iron level had actually gone down, not up, by a whole 4 percentage points. Obviously, that sent my anxious inner MD into overdrive and within hours, I “knew” more about low iron than any non-MD should. What followed were 6 weeks of a lot of uncertainty, anxiety, lots of doctors appointments, just as many blood draws, and an excessive amount of late night Googling.
Everything has thankfully turned out fine and as of this past week, I received word from a specialist that everything looks good, she doesn’t see any cause for concern and to come back and see her in a year. Obviously that phone call was a huge relief and burden off my shoulders, but it got me thinking about things that I had in my favor during the health scare. In the end, what helped speed up the process of determining whether or not my symptoms and lab work were of concern boiled down to the fact that I already had a solid understanding of my medical history and was already an established patient with my medical provider.
So mamas, if that does not describe you, it is time for some tough love on this topic because it is not fair to you or your loved ones to put off something so important. It is high time for us to normalize annual medical checkups for moms and stop putting them into the category of “self care”. I was shocked to learn during my recent health scare how many of my close friends and family members have not been to a medical provider in years (and no, that one Teladoc visit 2 years ago when you were convinced your toddler had given you Hand, Foot & Mouth doesn’t count). We prioritize checkups and maintenance visits with our kids, homes and vehicles – so why is it so hard for us to do the same for ourselves?
If you take nothing else from this post, please consider the five tips below to ensure you are prioritizing your health and staying on top of your medical history::
- Establish a Primary Care Provider (again, Teladoc does not count):: Schedule a new patient visit with a medical provider before you actually need one. I know, I know. It’s annoying to have to check this box when we’re busy enough as it is, but most primary care providers do not see new patients on a moment’s notice. Some won’t even get you in as a new patient for several weeks (or even months!), so get a new patient visit scheduled ASAP.
- Learn Your Family Medical History:: Again, I was shocked to learn that several people in my life are not at all familiar with their family medical histories. This is such a critical piece of your overall medical history for you and your medical provider to know and understand, so call your parents tonight if you aren’t really sure how Aunt Mae or Uncle Ron passed away all those years ago.
- Know Your Numbers:: I knew that my low iron was abnormal because I had nearly 20 years of hematocrit/iron levels stored in my blood donor online profile and I had the past several years of routine blood work (from a couple of different providers) stored in a digital medical file. Having that historical information not only gave me some comfort that if what I had was serious, we had hopefully caught it early but it also helped my medical providers troubleshoot and get to the actual root of the problem. That saved not only time but money along the way.
- Stop Ignoring Your Body:: The human body is just about one of the most fascinating things on the planet, in my opinion. One of the most fascinating things to me is that our bodies frequently “talk” to us, giving us early warning signs of potential problems – we just have to listen. Have frequent migraines? Have have high blood pressure? Know you’ve been more run down than normal lately? GET.THAT.STUFF.CHECKED.OUT, y’all! Ignoring it will do absolutely nothing; but addressing it can prolong or even save your life.
- Decide on a Schedule:: For me, I schedule all of my annual medical checkups each year during my birthday month. It’s easy for me to remember and aligns with the fact that at certain ages it is suggested that you receive various screenings (age 40 for mammograms, age 45 for colonoscopies, 65 for bone density scans, etc.). But if another time of year is more convenient for you, that fine – just decide on an annual schedule and stick with it. Put a recurring reminder on your calendar if you have to so you don’t get too busy with life and forget.
The suggestions above obviously heavily rely on being fortunate enough to have health insurance, which is sadly not a reality for so many. However, there are a number of alternative resources available through the Department of Health and Human Services to protect your health. Check here for more information.