Thursday, December 10, 2015

Am I a Hypochondriac?

     I went to the doctor yesterday. Everything is fine. I'm a perfectly healthy person for my age. So, I wondered, why is it that I've been going to the doctor so much lately? Am I a hypochondriac? Or is this just what happens when you get older?

     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?



Anonymous said...

Well, at least, you have a sense of humor. Hope you don't go to the doc to ask him why people are laughing at you.

Denise said...

No, you are not. Be glad you never had cancer. I have four checkups with (2) the surgeon (this won't be forever, two or three years I think) and (2) with the follow-up oncologist. Forever, or maybe when they "declare" me cancer free after five years,

This was my year for the colonoscopy, and I was having trouble with digestion too. Had the endoscopy (same dr. couldn't she just do it all at once. No. insurance wouldn't pay for it) and have a hietal hernia and acid reflex. I was glad we weren't talking GERD or worse, Barrett's syndrome. So it's treatable and I do have a good drug plan!

Both me and my husband had arthroscopic knee surgery. I had torn a meniscus before my cancer diagnosis and some things just get put on the back burner. It worked for Jerry and didn't for me. I am looking forward to a knee replacement in 2016. Whoopee.

All of this on top of the PCP who does have my blood done twice a year. We share data with the oncologist. NO sense in doing it twice.

Because I take a pill for five years for the cancer, I am developing osteopenia, which is a precursor for you know what. So I am not far enough along for Fosomax, but I am taking Vitamin D and Calcium out the ying-yang. I need to talk to her about dropping the blood test for Vit. D. It is way too expensive and I think we have it under control. Maybe once every two years?

I take a BP and statin because these things run in the family. My Dad had a heart attack at age 45 and died two years later. He weighed 160. I weigh 200. Makes a little sense for me, but him? Well, I never have smoked.

You are in very good shape, but things can go wrong quickly. I probably don't have to tell your readers that once you've had cancer, even if you have been declared "cured," it's always in the back of your mind. So if anything weird is going on, I head to the dr.

And pain is pain. Your body is telling you something.

Oh and everyone should have a skin check once a year. I preach it. Skin cancers can develop into killers.


Stephen Hayes said...

If you were a hypochondriac your doctors would find anything to remove. It sounds like you're getting excellent care.

Celia said...

Some years are like that, glad you got good care. Nothing to do but sigh and laugh.

Anonymous said...

Now that you're on Medicare, did you have any co-pays? Do you have supplemental insurance? How's that working out? Just curious.

PS: I don't think you are a hypochondriac.

Olga Hebert said...

Oh, come on! Go for an even dozen.

Friko said...

Yes, you are.
What’s wrong with you, you think it matters?
You’ll outgrow it in the end anyway.

Dick Klade said...

Just back from a family doctor's appointment--probably about no. 7 for the year. My doc wondered why a specialist hadn't scheduled a return with me. He considered my legendary inattention to medical matters and said he would make an appointment for me. So on to no. 8. It's a race to the finish, I think.

DJan said...

So, you made me wonder at 73 how many times I went to the doctor this past year: my annual exam in January; once to the retina specialist for the macular degeneration issue (all went well); once to the dermatologist to get things burned off; and once for an infected hangnail. That was the worst one! And in January, back for my annual visit. I think I'm doing well, when I read about your doubled visits. :-)

Barbara said...

I just got back from the doctor today. So I feel you. I find myself going in and being embarrassed about thinking I might have something. I guess it is an aging thing. We realize that things will start going wrong so better to catch it in the beginning.

rosaria williams said...

I hope you have a great insurance plan because growing old means more doctors'visits, for checking up and tuning up as well as fixing up. I read that the longer you live, the more chances you have to get some sort of cancer, or ailment. Who knew!

Anonymous said...

I've gotten to the point that I simply refuse tests unless they can tell me exactly what they are looking for. Tests are expensive- not for me- but for my society. I like my decision and I am sticking to it!
Hope you don't have anything else this year!

Enjoy the season!

Anonymous said...

I got really ill with my right foot getting all swollen up and I could not walk..I went to a young doctor lady and she prescribed me off of my foot, Tylenol extra strength cautiously, wrapping it in a gauze she put on the foot..I am feeling much better..I belong to a HMO and it is great except for the monthly payments to belong but we get a deal thru my husbands union plan..We don't go in unless we feel really really ill and the tests are all covered ex-rays, shots, etc..But we don't go overboard..hope you are feeling great for all the holidays!

Tom Sightings said...

Well, honestly, I skipped my annual physical this year, b/c I figured they've already tested me for pretty much everything there is. I'm gonna try to go to next summer before running to the doctor again ... for next year's annual skin test and then the physical. But, who knows. Anyway, I've got to say, Medicare has been good to me. It offers almost as much coverage as my old insurance plan, but only about half the cost.

Karen D. Austin said...

Hmmm. I think I've gone three times, but I didn't keep a good count. Mammogram, blood sugar check, nutrition counseling, bone density check. I guess that's 4 that I can remember for sure. I'll keep a better tally in 2016. (I'm moving into my mid 50s.) I'm glad the doctors didn't find anything too serious. It's good that you are erring on the side of caution!

Linda Myers said...

I would say you're vigilant! My main deal this year was my second cataract surgery, pre- and post-appointments.

I want to get to the place where I am well taken care of (I already am) but don't give anything a second thought. Not there yet.

Tabor said...

I go to the doctor a few times a year. They rarely take anything I tell them seriously. I have been having pain in my foot so they sent me for an xray and that was months ago. I have heard nothing about it! I think as we age we get more sensitive to changes in our body and our body changes more as well.

Jane said...

Don't get me started! At least twice a month since August, I have been making the rounds for well checkups. There's a specialist for each body part... Three for my mouth alone. They didn't put this in the brochure! I know I should be grateful, but by Dec, I am just irritated. Next week it's the opthalmologist...