If you’re reading this column, it’s safe to assume you’re alive. Congratulations. Lord knows there are a million ways to punch your ticket and buy a non-stop window seat to the pearly gates.
Just Google the words “odd deaths” and you get a grocery list of bizarre ways people have kicked the bucket. I think my favorite was Joao Maria De Souza of Brazil, who died in his sleep. That’s not uncommon until you realize he was killed by a falling cow. No kidding, the thing escaped from a pen, somehow climbed onto the roof of Joao’s house and since it weighed 3,000 pounds came crashing through. Talk about breakfast in bed.
From slipping in the bathtub, to chainsaw mishaps, to some poor sap who got run over by a runaway bale of hay, there is no end to the ways you can reach your end. I mention such morose things because this month’s magazine is all about health and I want to make sure you stay alive as long as possible.
The best way to do that is to avoid the number one reason people die—fear. Fear of the doctor. Fear of tests. Fear of facing the truth and dealing with it.
I used to be one of those people. The “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” types who only set foot in a doctor’s office if something wouldn’t stop bleeding. Then I turned 50. It’s depressing enough to know you’re half a century old but the big 5-0 comes with strings attached. Strings that lead to a doctor with a tiny camera and the necessity to let them put it in the most personal part of your anatomy. I’m talking about a colonoscopy, of course.
There are many things men would rather do instead—a root canal by a blind dentist with no anesthetic or being trapped in an elevator with a Kardashian for a month—but the test is important. Like breast exams and a myriad of other screenings, it could save your life.
The funny thing is that when it comes to doctors, tests and treatments, we always make it worse in our own mind. Once you go, remove your clothes (and any shred of dignity) the actual “event” is a breeze. Anyone who has ever had a colonoscopy done will tell you the night before when they “clean you out” is the hard part. I remembered sitting there on the porcelain throne having a flashback to the movie “Dumb and Dumber” where Jeff Daniels is on the toilet after drinking something called “turbo lax.” You’d think that scene is an exaggeration but it’s pretty spot on.
There is very little in life that will go away if you ignore it and usually it just gets worse. I remember my first house had an issue with water seeping in by a window. Just a little drip. It would have been an easy fix but I ignored it. Then one day I heard a strange noise coming from the wall. I pulled the boards back and discovered, to my horror, hundreds of carpenter ants. When the pest control guy came, he explained that the reason they were there was because of the moisture. My leak turned into an infestation and my hundred-dollar repair was now going to be closer to a thousand bucks. The moral to that story: when it comes to life or your health, get off your butt unless you want ants in your pants, literally.
I know that everything about the doctor’s office seems designed to keep you away. Half the people sitting around you are sick, and the office has six copies of the same tired magazines with a celebrity on the cover telling you how to look like them. (Note to Gwyneth and J-Lo, it’s easy to look good when you have a personal trainer and chef at home.) And of course they don’t call it the “waiting” room for nothing. Most doctors are more overbooked than LaGuardia on Christmas Eve.
But hey, if a little discomfort and patience buys you an extra 20 years on the right side of the grass that’s a trade worth making. So take it from this slightly seasoned stubborn stooge who spent decades avoiding anyone in a white coat, make this the month you make the call and get yourself checked out, especially if you feel fine. If you won’t do it for you, then do it for the people who adore and need you around. Certainly their love is stronger than your fear. It was for me.