Time May Not Be On Your Side

Medical - December 21, 2013

It is my personal opinion that one of the most destructive things in our lives is the human tendency to procrastinate. We are all guilty of it. We all know that it doesn't help to put things off and yet nearly everyone does this regularly. When we do this in our career or in a social situation it can create unpleasant consequences. However when we procrastinate on medical issues it can sometimes be deadly.

For about a year prior to my husband's cancer diagnosis he was feeling increasingly tired. After months of this he saw a doctor who discovered he was anemic. There are many different things that might cause someone to be anemic so that physician gave him iron supplements and encouraged him to get more tests done to figure out the source of the problem. Soon after this he was busy with travel for work. Then we moved from Colorado to California. Then after settling into our new home it took him some time to find a new doctor. That new doctor told him to get more tests done because the source of his anemia was still unknown. Then, again, he had a lot of travel for work. Soon after that it was Thanksgiving, then Chanukah, then Christmas, then New Years. In early January he saw the doctor because he wasn't recovering from a cold. That doctor did basic blood tests and when the results came back he was ordered to go to the hospital because his red cell count was dangerously low. While in the hospital he found the time to have that test done and his cancer was discovered. The tumor had been stealing his red blood cells and causing his anemia.

In the months prior to his diagnosis he had legitimate, real things that made it difficult for him to follow the doctor's instructions and get the tests done. He was a responsible person who had every intention of following his doctor's advice. He wasn't afraid or worried about the test results, he was just busy. No one will ever know if an earlier diagnosis would have made a difference in the end. But it is well established that the successful treatment rate for cancer is much higher for individuals with early stage diagnosis.

In recent weeks, I've chatted with a medical advocate, a physical therapist and a nurse. All of them have mentioned that this year has been like most; between Thanksgiving and Christmas they aren't very busy. I've noticed a drop in my business as well. It's not unusual for other (non-retail) businesses to experience a decline in customers around the holidays because people are putting it off until the new year. However if someone is putting off seeing a medical professional the consequences can sometimes be significant.

Besides being busy, I think people sometimes avoid seeing a doctor because they believe that whatever is ailing them isn't likely to be a serious issue. This is a correct assumption in many cases. It wasn't statistically likely that the cause of my husband's anemia was cancer. He did not fit the profile for the typical gastric cancer patient. While the chances of it being that serious was well less than 1%, it still ended up being the cause. In many circumstances in life, I believe it is wise to weigh the odds or probability in your decision process. However when it comes to your health and well being, I think it is best to always follow the recommendations of your medical providers. The cost is just too high if you happen to be one of the few cases where time makes a big difference.

So why don't you turn over a new leaf this new year and make that appointment to see a doctor or contact that other healthcare provider you've been meaning to? As a matter of fact, why wait until the new year? Make that call today so you are sure to get it done soon.