As you can probably imagine, a cancer diagnosis means a multitude of frequent tests and doctors appointments. Constant monitoring of blood and heart and your actual organs. Pre-cancer I was pretty good about getting most of my annual check-ups (hello cold speculum) but there are a few things I wish I would have known about my health before the lung cancer diagnosis. Things that probably weren’t a big deal pre-diagnosis but now that I’m on a cancer protocol I wish I had a baseline to compare to.
So while I’m not making the assumption that you will get cancer, I am making the assumption that you want to take good care of your one and only body and in that case – this is just good information to have in general or at the very least educate yourself on.
- Bloodwork – I was pretty good about doing bloodwork every other year or so. The doctor would call and say “looks good, your such and such is within range and your other such and such is excellent. See you next time.” You know – the “such and such” – the stuff that’s normal and good and does not require that you remember it’s name. Being a woman in my 50’s I think it was mostly cholesterol, hormones, vitamin D, etc.
- The bloodwork I am paying attention to now: Vitamin D, hemaglobin, ferritin, platelets, white blood cells. In addition to the hormones that I feel like the medical world doesn’t quite understand yet.
- Bone density – again with the midlife woman thing #sigh. At the recommendation of my physical therapist, I requested a bone scan (also known as a DEXASCAN). This was never suggested by anyone on my oncology team but it’s probably a good thing they are focused on the cancer and not all of the outlying issues that may or may not be related. Anywho…turns out I am in the Osteopenia stage which is basically pre-osteoperosis. Seems early at 54 years old but since I didn’t have a baseline I don’t know if it’s related to my cancer protocol or if I’m just the unlucky recipient of a bone thing.
- Teeth – Okay I’ll own up to the fact that I am not good about getting regular cleanings and dental check-ups. My entire 54 years of life and I have 1 cavity. I brush twice a day and I floss. I never saw the need for twice yearly check-ups…until now. If you have a cavity or tooth problem normally they are relatively “easy” to fix. Once you start chemotherapy your mouth can become a very toxic environment and treating cavities becomes very difficult. In some cases, the treatment for some cancer patients may be tooth extraction. It might be good to keep those teeth healthy just in case.
Good health is a privilege – you factor in the cost of appointments, insurance or lack thereof, time away from work…I know there are many that don’t have the means to “just get a test” or even find time to see a physician. Our medical system seems to be a bit of a mess and there are definite disparities. I don’t have an answer for that but if you are not staying on top of your health because it’s a time issue I would lovingly encourage you to re-prioritize. Being healthy (physically and mentally) is a very unselfish act – you’re doing the people you love a favor. There will come a time when they need you and I know you’re going to want to bring your A-Game.