Your Money or Your Life?

This year in the middle of February I was on vacation. I didn’t go anywhere, but I did manage to make my home an oasis where I could sip freshly brewed coffee and curl up with a digital book. When I wasn’t doing that, I would spend time pecking away at my computer keyboard recording my most salient thoughts.

I was in heaven.

Until Tuesday.

I didn’t do it on purpose, mind you. But medical professionals urge you to do regular self-examinations. So I was just being responsible, right?

But everything was not …. Normal.

So like a naïve seeker I sought wisdom from the Internet. I typed in my symptoms and like magic a list of forums appeared in my browser. I clicked on a few of them. Page after page revealed the same thing.

TESTICULAR CANCER.

I made a trip to a doctor the NEXT DAY.

There are three lessons I’d like to share with you today about taking charge of your health.

The first lesson is if something is wrong, go see a doctor sooner instead of later.

I hope you have insurance. Unfortunately, I don’t. The first thing they ask you after finding out why you’re there is, “How will you be paying for this?”

The truth is either the insurance company will or you will. Health care is not free, no matter what they tell you. So just as you might save money by repairing your car at the first sign of trouble, you might also spend less on your health when you first notice something out of the ordinary.

The waiting room was cold and full of people with sniffles. Chances are they were waiting for a prescription for antibiotics that would make their congestion disappear like darkness does when the sun rises.

I was there awaiting my death sentence.

When I got inside the examining room, the doctor fired off a few questions, then asked to see it. I lowered my pants. He poked me with his latex covered finger.

“It’s a hernia,” he said.

Relief washed over me like a warm shower. It wasn’t the “big C”, but what was next?

Lortabs and a another doctor visit.

This lesson cost me $100.

The first lesson is to go to the doctor sooner rather than later.

The second lesson is like it but with a twist. Unless you’ve been to medical school, don’t play doctor yourself. You could be wrong, and the stress that might bring will make your symptoms worse. I know the more I thought about my problem, the more it seemed to hurt.

Thank God for the Lortabs!

The next Monday I took off to see another doctor, one who had seen thousands of hernias and treated them with finesse.

I went through the same “How are you going to pay for this” ritual at his front desk. The staff there was businesslike. I don’t think the lady at the desk had a sense of humor. My witty remarks fell off her ears like she was wearing armor to protect herself from levity.

The waiting room was dark, dull, and depressing. There were no windows to remind you that a world of sunshine existed outside those walls. The examining room was even darker. When they left me there to roast in my thoughts, all the nagging questions assaulted me at once. It was like I had walked into target practice at an Indian reservation.

Suddenly the door creaked open.

A man resembling Herman Munster entered, accompanied by a young blonde female resident that I thought was Marilyn. She had the same manner as the lady in the waiting room. After a few questions, Dr. Munster asked if I minded if the lady remained and I replied, “Sure, I don’t have anything she hasn’t seen before.”

Besides, I might as well contribute to her education, right?

Dr. Munster then turned off the light, took out a flashlight, and shined it on me.

“It’s not a hernia. You have a hydrocele.”

A what?

He referred me to another doctor.

I shelled out another $100.

By now, I’d learned that if you pay cash, you are charged the real fee.

I was wrong about having a hernia, or cancer.

Lesson two is don’t play doctor yourself. Leave it to the professionals.

The third lesson will seem to contradict the second. But stay tuned because you will need to read on to get the whole picture.

Lesson three is doctors aren’t God.

This doctor’s office was a lot brighter than Dr. Munster’s. One wall was lined with floor-to-ceiling windows that took away any need for artificial light. There were comfortable chairs to sleep in, an array of magazines to please anyone, and a flat screen TV showing I Love Lucy reruns. It almost seemed more like a sports bar than a doctor’s office. I would have ordered a beer if they’d sold it.

This place was really nice, and it was reflected in the doctor’s fee.

I was handed a tablet when I came in.

“Just bring it back when you’re done,” the friendly uniformed attendant said.

Since this was a visit to a urologist, I had to give them a urine sample before they’d see me.

By now, my worries had become old hat. I was working. I still had a couple weeks of vacation time if I needed it to recover from any surgery. The only doubt that lingered was “What if the other doctor was wrong and it is cancer?”

The doctor confirmed that the previous doctor was right. He then assured me that it he were a betting man, he would say it wasn’t cancer. But just to be sure, he wanted me to get an ultrasound.

I did.

I called for results. The answer I got was that I would have to keep my follow up visit and find out then.

At least I did find out that nothing was “emergent”.

That lesson cost $900.

The follow up would have cost me at least another $100. I decided since there was no threat, I’d just take my chances.

Remember, doctors aren’t God. They don’t know everything. You can use the information they give you and decide for yourself.

These lessons cost me about $1100. Consider yourself fortunate because today I’m offering them to you for free!

I dodged a bullet. If you’ll follow these lessons, the chances are good that you can too.

Here’s a recap. First, if something is wrong, go to the doctor sooner rather than later. Second, don’t play doctor and try to diagnose yourself. Third, remember that doctors are humans like you. They don’t know everything.

I leave you with this. Don’t be like Jack Benny when he was mugged. If you haven’t heard this bit, Google it. The robber asks Jack, “your money or your life?” There’s a long pause. The robber asks again and Jack snaps, “I’m thinking it over!”

If you’re going to spend money on your health, spend it to stay alive.

You think about that.