I remember thinking early in my diagnosis with type 1 diabetes at 14 years old that nothing (else) bad would ever happen to me. I think it was both a mature and immature concept–I’d lost that sense of invincibility that is so common in adolescence, but I was holding tight to another kind of pie in the sky kind of denial. Diabetes was so bad, that nothing else could possibly come my way, right? (for those of you who are thinking, what about all the complications of diabetes? I wasn’t worried about those. My doctor always told met that as long as I kept myself in good control, I didn’t need to worry about complications and besides, those terrible complications were decades away, too far for a teenager to worry about.)
So I pushed boundaries to test my theory throughout my teen years and mostly, I was right. Bad things happened of course: divorce and the death of my best friend in college-those were the worst. But as far as my own physical health went, I was okay.
Now that I am a 40 year old mother of 3, I continue to be somewhat blase about going to the doctor (I spend enough time there with my kids), so I don’t make appointments for myself. I knew I was living a healthy life, so I didn’t worry about seeing my eye doctor or going to my dentist as often as was recommended. But when I realized I hadn’t been to the OBGYN since Reid’s birth 2 years ago, I knew it was time.
The day of the appointment, I felt a little sheepish when the doctor asked me my history, when was your last appointment? 3 years ago. when was your last mammogram? never. But I made up for my poor attendance record with tales of my health and well being. She was so impressed with my diet, A1c and consistent exercise routine, that she said it was nice to have a patient in such good control. I left the office feeling like it didn’t matter that I rarely went to the doctor because after all, I was doing just fine. Then yesterday, Saturday, I got that postcard in the mail. The one that usually says your pap smear is AOkay. The one that in years past that I’ve opened, glanced at then “normal” result and tossed aside.
This postcard said my pap smear was not AOkay, and that I would need to return to the doctor’s office for another exam. This was unexpected. I got that sensation in my chest, that thrill of adrenelin that you feel when you are doing something dangerous like riding your bike at night or running past an alligator who is resting in the sun near the trail. That feeling that is a strange combination of good and bad.
It was Saturday so I couldn’t call the doctor’s office or my mom who is out of the country. So instead, I went to the computer to Google “colposcopy,” the procedure I would need to schedule. And according to my research, abnormal pap smears are fairly common and can result from infections. So I’m most likely fine. But still, here the postcard lies, breaking my bubble that nothing (else) bad can happen to my body.
The postcard has woken me up to the fact that yes, things are going to happen to my body as I age, and it doesn’t make a difference that I already have diabetes. I am 40 years old and beyond eating mindfully, exercising and getting enough sleep, I need to check in not only with my endo, but my optometrist, my OBGYN, and my dentist too. Just because I have diabetes, doesn’t mean I get a ‘Get out of Jail Free’ card for everything else. And maybe I’m waking up to something else too, maybe, I’m thinking as I write, maybe all this time I have avoided doctors because I don’t want to hear what they have to say. Maybe by avoiding them, I don’t have to think about possible complications? I feel a bit like the imposter who is running along with the pack trying to blend in. If I act like a healthy individual, shouldn’t I be able to assume that I am one?
Tomorrow morning, I will pick up the phone, open up my calendar and schedule appointments for all of the above, starting with my colposcopy. Here’s to hoping for a false positive. Here’s to maybe, moving closer to the center.