While most of the world was busy planning summer vacations, I was in the throes of cramming for my physical exam.
It’s not like I don’t know a year in advance that this annual assessment is on the calendar. Since I’ve fallen short of a health makeover once again, looks like I’ll rely on my wits and winning personality to pull off a passing grade.
Did you know there has been evidence rattling around for decades showing no benefit to this once a year ritual? But the medical community is slow to embrace change, especially when it brings in change.
Since I can’t reform American medicine, it is time to bone up and get prepared. After all, if I don’t show up for class once a year with my medical provider, I won’t get recognized when I raise my hand in mid-February with a fever of 103 and a chest full of phlegm. Instead I will hear, “Sorry, you’ve been expelled!”
The first hurdle: the public weigh in
Tell me why a health care system that spends billions of dollars per second, cannot afford a scale in each exam room? I have one at home that was not expensive, and it is thinner than the new MacBook Air. If I used it, I’m sure it would be accurate.
At any rate, there is one upright scale located in the public hallway, as intimidating as airport security. It waves people through to the inner sanctum after it reveals your digital weight carried out 5 decimal points.
Since I like to get down to bare essentials for a weigh in, it is very embarrassing to stand in my underwear with others looking on. So I’ve come up with a different approach.
A carefully timed dose of ipecac syrup will result in ejection of stomach contents as I approach the BMI police. By the time the medical assistant has called for the clean up crew, I’ve been ushered into an exam room.
Depending on what my last meal was, this should result in a stamp in my chart placing me on the “NWL” (No Weight List).
‘Preventive’ tests should be labeled ‘Tests to Look for Diseases.’ I offer up blood and tissue sacrifices, and squeeze delicate parts of my anatomy into radiation emitting de-vises. Then I wait for my scores, which I hope arrive in envelopes instead of via the dreaded Phone Call.
I have issues with criticism, so I carefully consider the consequences of subjecting myself to this cellular scrutiny. I am also mindful that results could be wrong, like my siblings who say I was a spoiled and lazy child.
Describe your alcohol intake?
The latest guidelines for women are: 1 but no more than 2 drinks daily, for maximum of 7 drinks per week. I have a proven technique for making this warped math equation work. If I’m in danger of reaching that magic number 7 early in the week, I simply start the week over.
Answer: “I follow the guidelines for healthy drinking in women.”
Do you smoke? I like to have multiple-choice answers ready for this question.
a) Do I need to count the cigars I smoke around the back yard fire pit?
b) You mean tobacco?
c) Not yet.
d) Only when I dress up.
What do you do for exercise?
I stand at my desk for 3-4 hours/week, flex my feet and toes while I watch TV, and power walk multiple times from the living room to the refrigerator each evening. I toss and turn in bed most nights, with minimum of three trips to the bathroom.
Answer: “I stay active both at work and at home.”
How would you describe your eating habits?
Answer: I follow Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules.” (My version: Eat food. Too much. Mostly sugar).
When your twenty something medical assistant begins to stifle a giggle, you know she has come to the sex questions. Her nimble mind, still capable of doing mental math, calculated your age from your date of birth, and she checked off the box ‘not applicable.’
I’m relieved when I don’t show signs of a terminal illness during the 15 minutes I spent with
the principal my doctor. Now all I have to fret about are the 364 days, 23 hours and 45 minutes I manage on my own, hoping to avoid detention or worse: a ‘final’ exam.
Next year I’m due for a colonoscopy, which is a graduate level ‘test looking for cancer.’ Instead of spending time at the head of the class, I’ll be doing time in ‘the head.’
How do you prepare for your physical exam? Do you have some Cliff Notes you’d like to share? Do you strive to make the dean’s list or settle for ‘pass/fail’?]