I visited my GP last week for the first time in well over a year. During a miserable menopause, I was in and out of her surgery every few weeks, with one distressing or uncomfortable symptom after another, overwhelmed by what they used to call hypochondria, but now label ‘health anxiety’. I spent the better part of six years stressing about a host of discomforting symptoms. The worst of these, by some considerable margin, was prolonged bouts of lurching, pounding heart palpitations, lasting hours at a time. Every time my hormonally induced palps kicked off, which they did frequently, I could not suppress the fear that I was in some sort of cardiac crisis; worse still, that I had brought it on myself, through my failure to take control of my eating and unhealthy lifestyle habits. But it turned out I was fine – once the hormonal havoc settled, so did my blippy, ectopic heartbeat.
The last time I saw my GP in connection with one of those bewildering menopausal symptoms that there wasn’t anything to be done about, as I left her surgery, she said to me, “You don’t need to be here. You’re one of the healthy ones.” Her words stuck with me. She was of course politely – very politely – telling me to pull myself together and stop taking up appointment times. On one level she had a point, but that time-of-life thing is a prickly period for some women, physically and psychologically.
Anyway, cut to last week and as I sat by her desk, she noted she hadn’t seen me in a while. She could see I’d lost weight, and I wondered if she was wondering whether this was intentional or not – as in, has this woman finally got herself under some control, or is she really, really ill? But I don’t look ill. I’m actually looking remarkably… healthy.
She asked me how I was, normally the precursor to explaining whatever problem one is experiencing. I said I was great, absolutely great, thank you. Not the usual response when one occupies an appointment slot at the surgery. (Worth saying, I did have something else to see her about, so I wasn’t there under a purely indulgent pretext.)
I told her what I’d lost over the past eight months, and that it was through adopting healthy eating and exercise habits, including walking regularly and giving up added sugar. She was plainly delighted. I was her first appointment that morning and she said I’d made her day. That was lovely. After our all-too-frequent interactions of recent years, it re-set the clock between us, I feel.
I asked her if I could have an NHS Healthcheck. I had one just over a year ago, and you’re not supposed to have them more than once every three years or so. But I was hoping to get a check on the various important numbers as I reached my weight-loss half-way point. She readily agreed and I went off for my Healthcheck blood test.
An NHS Healthcheck is a fairly straightforward thing, not particularly detailed, but it does give you some useful data on things like blood pressure and heart health, as well as liver function and a few other things they can assess from your blood – like whether you’re heading for diabetes.
A few days ago, just as I was about to leave to walk down to the surgery for my Healthcheck (I walk everywhere I can these days, especially on lovely, sunny mornings), I got a phone call. It was the surgery receptionist, advising me that the nurse who conducts the Healthchecks ‘didn’t need to see me’. My blood test was ‘normal’ end-to-end and, well, that was that. I explained my situation, and that my GP had happily agreed to my having an interim Healthcheck, but nurse knew better – and seemingly had better things to do than monitor the healthy weight-loss of someone who is nonetheless still in the BMI obese category.
There are many, many good things about the NHS, the most notable one (for benefit of Stateside readers in particular) is that it is completely, totally free of charge at the point of need. Beyond what’s collected in our taxes, nobody pays. But that means too, that if the NHS doesn’t think I need one of its many services, facilities or drugs, I don’t get it. Fair enough, I have to say, though I was momentarily miffed – well, I’m human, and petulance is my middle name. So I walked down to the surgery anyway (still a good excuse for a walk on a sunny day) and collected a copy of my blood test results.
So it turns out, several of those important blood-related numbers have come down nicely. There wasn’t anything really wrong last time; one or two were a bit borderline (I’ve said before that I knew I was getting away with things) – but even those were now comfortably in the ‘normal’ range. A couple were considerably improved.
I know these numbers aren’t the be-all-and-end-all, but it’s great to have such tangible evidence of the good that my new habits are doing to my insides. There wasn’t much else I needed from the Healthcheck anyway – I can work out my own BMI and I didn’t need the healthy lifestyle lecture. It would have been nice (I’m a completer, remember?) to have had the full set of Healthcheck tests. But I can’t really object when the reason behind it is that I’m doing so well, I’ve already become medically unremarkable. I’ve still got quite a way to go, but what better way than that, to put my health anxiety to bed once and for all?
I hope you like today’s picture. Thanks to an infusion of nutritious compost and a proper prune, my rhododendron bush too, is healthier than it’s been for several years.