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I'll never qualify for life insurance
When doctors give you a referral to a specialist, I sometimes wonder what they write. I found out recently and was shocked.
It's not as though we don't know our own medical history, but we never see it catalogued as a lifetime of ailments.
Here in Australia, our system requires us to get an assessment and a referral from a GP in order to see a specialist (the referral remains valid for 12 months).
Usually, the referral is emailed over to the specialist's practice. I recently saw my GP as I wanted a check on cataracts I have in both eyes and a referral to an ophthalmologist. My doctor simply handed me the referral in an envelope and indicated that I should give it to the specialist directly.
I noticed that the envelope wasn't sealed, which aroused my curiosity. But I was torn between my curiosity and the thought that I should be careful what I wish for - there's always a catch.
Still, what could go wrong? I have lived my medical history - right?
What caught my attention were my "current problems"!
I peeled open the envelope and slipped out the paperwork. As my eye slid down the form, a heading caught my attention. "Current Problems", in bold.
What I read next stopped me in my tracks. The first two items were my cancers:
The most common cancers in Australia (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) are prostate, breast, colorectal (bowel), melanoma and lung cancer. About 10% more people die of prostate cancer than breast cancer, and about half of the number that dies from breast cancer die from melanoma annually.
It is correct that I have had those two - potentially lethal - cancers. But I had expected to see them further down the page under the next heading - "Inactive Problems".
Seeing them categorised as "current problems" was like receiving a whack on the head, reminding me that these two cancers have no cure. Neither of them responds to chemotherapy nor any other current treatment. If they spread, it is then just a matter of time.
At least my melanoma came back with a clear report from the pathologist - a clear margin. That is, no cancer cells were found at the outer edge of the tissue that was removed (the tumour along with the rim of surrounding tissue). Not so with my prostate cancer, and prostate cancer can spread quite aggressively.
The positive outcome is that having seen both cancers as "active problems" made me realise that my 6-monthly checkups are important, and not something to stretch out for months longer each time.
Diabetes - a lucky break
Next on the list of "Current Problems" was Type 2 Diabetes, and for that I am thankful. It was the diagnosis of diabetes which changed my life, causing me to lose weight, get fit, and eat better.
Learning how to manage diabetes took me 6 years, and since then I have controlled it well through diet and exercise. There is currently no cure for diabetes. Managing it takes diligence and consistency, and these habits flow positively into other parts of your life.
For example, each of the surgeons who operated on my cancers remarked on how quickly I recovered compared to their average patients. In fact, both said "half the time". That's because I was fit, thanks to the changes I made to my life after being diagnosed with diabetes.
Recovering in "half the time" means a lot more than it seems at face value. For example, it means:
For these reasons, all stemming from my health and fitness, seeing diabetes on my list of "current problems" gave me a warm feeling of how much I had benefited from the misfortune of allowing myself to contract it.
The tail end of the list wasn't much better ...
Other of my current problems included:
Other than that, I'm fine. I'm still running 5km every day!
Reminded me that I am lucky
My sneak peek was sobering, but it reminded me that I was lucky, and to book my next checkup.
Honestly, I count all medical issues as blessings. They taught me to just keep putting one foot in front of the other - like running 10km. Just keep going.
After all, life doesn't always make sense. What you make of life lies with the choices you make today not what happened in the past.
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Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building fitness training which lowers my age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter