I had my yearly checkup last week -- I have an under-active thyroid and have to have a blood test once a year to make sure my thyroid prescription is the right strength. I'm very fond of my doctor -- we tell each other what books we've read recently and she always answers my questions. And she treats me like I'm a reasonably intelligent and informed person -- which I really appreciate.
So, she began to review my health care -- shingles shot -- check, tetanus shot booster -- check, eye doctor - check, colonoscopy -- check, mammogram -- check, pap smear . . . nope, haven't done that in a while. As it happens, pap smears are not recommended for women over 65 who have previously had a history of normal pap smears (see LINK.) And I am almost 72.
"So, what about mammograms?" I asked her. "When do I age out of that? There's no history of breast cancer in my family."
She shrugged her shoulders. "Go on with those. . . until you reach a point where you decide that you wouldn't do chemo if you were diagnosed with breast cancer."
(Deep breath.) "Okay." And then she continued on to ask if I had a medical power of attorney in place along with end of life instructions.
(Another deep breath.) "Yes, but it probably needs to be updated."
And we chatted some more about books -- I told her about ON IMMUNITY and she told me about her recent reads and then I had blood drawn and went home.
With quite a lot to think about. I appear to be in fine health, by the way. But . . .
Did we just have an end of life talk? Or, maybe, approaching end of life talk?
Yikes! My reaction was identical to when I was in my early teens and my mother insisted that I needed to shave under my arms -- I'm not ready for that yet!
But, obviously I am. According to the Biblical three score and ten, maybe a bit past ready. And I truly appreciate my doctor's candor and the gentle reminder of my mortality. I have already thought a good deal about these things -- but it's a good idea to get stuff in writing and notarized.
(Let me just say I would prefer to drop dead this minute rather than spend years and years in a dementia unit in a nursing home. As for all the other dire possibilities -- it would come down to quality of rather than length of life.)
A few days after my chat with my doctor, I came across an article that really sums up my own feelings. It's called 'Why Doctors Die Differently' and you can read it HERE.
But, will I schedule a mammogram for next year?
Addendum: As June points out in the comments, a mammogram can detect lumps etc. treatable by surgery rather than chemo. . . she's right -- I will, after all, schedule that mammogram next year. As long as the insurance covers it.