Because, even though there's "nothing wrong with me," I've been to the doctor ten times this year.
My first visit was in May, for my annual skin check. I have a history of cancer in my family, and I've also had several pre-cancerous growths removed from my skin over the years, so the dermatologist wants to see me once a year. In May he checked me out, burned off (do they burn it off, or freeze it off?) one little growth from my head. Nothing to worry about, he assured me.
A few weeks later, I experienced my episode of floaters, which I recounted in my post A Sign of Aging. I went to the ophthalmologist who checked my eyes. Floaters are normal, he said, but he was worried about a torn retina, so he told me to come back in a month. When I went back to him, he again peered into my eyes and said they looked good. But he was just a little worried about the flashes I was still seeing, so he had me schedule another appointment. Finally, on my third visit in September, he gave me the all clear. That was three visits to the eye doctor. And he didn't do anything except check me out. So, really, it turned out I didn't need to go to him at all.
But even before I was finished with my floaters, one day I was startled to find a purple bulge on my arm. That got me scared, so I hurried over to our walk-in clinic. As I described in Don't Overdo the Pills, the doctor told me it was a burst blood vessel. Had I injured my arm? No. Had I been taking aspirin or Advil? Yes, I had. I'd been taking too much. So he told me to cut back on the aspirin. And, sure enough, that solved the problem.
So that's five visits to the doctor, and the year was only half over.
In August I started getting a little pain in my stomach. It was just a mild discomfort. But it wouldn't go away. So eventually, in October, I went to to see my primary care physician. He thought it was likely a muscle strain or something like that. He did some blood work. My blood was fine. But given my history, he wanted to make sure a tumor wasn't hiding in there somewhere. So he sent me for an ultrasound.
The radiologist said I had gallstones. I didn't understand that, because the gallbladder is on your right side. My pain was on the left side. But when my primary care physician called me back he told me to make an appointment with the surgeon, for an assessment.
So I went to the surgeon. She told me that she couldn't find my gallbladder. Some people don't have one, she explained, or mine could be shriveled up. That wasn't the problem. The problem was that my bile duct was too thick. It's supposed to be six millimeters wide. Mine was ten. That could mean a gallstone was blocking the duct. Or it could mean that a pre-cancerous polyp was blocking the duct. Or . . . it could be normal, since some people have a wide bile duct, especially if they don't have a gallbladder.
She recommended I get an endoscopy. That's a procedure like a colonoscopy, except instead of looking at the lower digestive tract, the doctor goes through the mouth to see the upper digestive tract.
So, next, I went for an assessment with the gastroenterologist, who agreed I should have an endoscopy. Then I went back again for the procedure.
Is that what I did yesterday? Nope. I had the endoscopy on Dec. 1. That was my ninth doctor visit. The gastroenterologist couldn't find a gallbladder either. But he said my bile duct was fine. No polyp. He prescribed an over-the-counter anti-acid, in case I have acid reflux. But it seems that what I really have is . . . a muscle strain.
A few days before I went for the endoscopy, B noticed a growth on my back. Now, she thinks I am a hypochondriac. But what did she say? You should get that checked out, she told me.
So yesterday I went back to the dermatologist. He burned off -- or froze off -- the growth. It's nothing to worry about, he said. Some people have a predisposition for these things. I might get more of them as I get older. They are not pre-cancerous; but if they bother me I should come in and he'll take them off.
That was my tenth visit. So . . . three weeks to go in 2015. I hope I can make it without an 11th. But please tell me, I'm not a hypochondriac, am I?