Photo Credit: Jewish Press
heart with stethoscope

While many men and women in our community are trying to become fit, it’s time for the klal to get “medical” as well.

In my previous column, I wrote about flying home from a recent visit to Texas and that I wouldn’t take “no” for an answer until I was convinced it was truly coming from a “know” position.  Thus I was able to get earlier connecting flights home at no extra cost –ensuring I made it on time to a “VIA” – a very important appointment.  It was important because it was health-related and, luckily, by leaving Texas earlier than I had planned – rather than postpone my appointment – I avoided being “embraced” and delayed by Hurricane Harvey!

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In my book, all medical appointments take priority. But just as vital as going to your medical appointment is actually booking one (pun intended) in the first place.

Too many people feel it’s not necessary to see a doctor/dentist/specialist as long as they are “okay.” In fact, many people avoid doctors for years, using a plethora of reasons: “I’m fine, I’m just not as young as I used to be”; “All my friends have aches and pains”; “I have heartburn, that’s all this is,” “I’m tired because of the kids,” etc.

Fear that leads to a “head in the sand” posture stops otherwise sensible people from going for a checkup. However, today, it’s not always fear; sometimes it’s a lack of health insurance that leads to deceptive denial in order to prevent what is perceived as arous gevarfen gelt” – literally, money thrown away.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It is money whose dividend can be an extended lifespan.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur found us beseeching our Merciful Father to give us and our loved ones good health, to inscribe us in the Book of Life.  We are hopeful that our prayers have been answered.

But wishful thinking is not enough.  We have to do our own hishtadlut – and be proactive about our health care. We are very familiar with the program: eat nutritious foods, maintain a healthy weight, exercise on a regular basis, never smoke and be moderate in our alcohol intake. What is just as crucial is seeing a doctor for an annual physical and possibly preventing high-level medical intervention that may or may not save you.

As I mentioned, the most likely excuse for not going to a doctor even for a yearly checkup, even if one feels some discomfort, is a lack of health insurance or even the high co-pay.

Health insurance is a priority that should be addressed, and all efforts should be directed to obtain it.  My suggestion for engaged couples: Refrain from registering for cutesy and possibly redundant household gifts and instead “register” for gifts of money for the sole purpose of enhancing their ability to purchase comprehensive health insurance if they aren’t working for a company that provides it.

A married woman looking for a more updated wig, for example, should go ahead and purchase one, especially if it will make her feel good, but opt for a less expensive one and squirrel the difference away towards a future co-pay rather than not make that potentially life-saving appointment for herself, spouse or child in a misguided attempt to save money.

Likewise, if you are making a simcha, consider downsizing and spending less, and use the money saved for health-related premiums or – just as crucial – life insurance. Health and life insurance are not a luxury, like spending Pesach at a resort. They are an absolute necessities!

As I have mentioned in previous columns, I had thyroid cancer twice, 24 years ago and 14 years ago – and actually the appointment I wanted to ensure that I got to was with my thyroid specialist.  During his examination, he mentioned that statistically, almost 50 percent of the population would, at some point, gets some form of cancer. That is almost one person out of two.

I asked him if that percentage wasn’t somewhat skewed by the fact that people in the ‘80s and ‘90s were being diagnosed with cancer, and these are people who years ago would have died at a younger age from heart disease, stroke or diabetes. He agreed that this did affect the cancer numbers somewhat, but maintained that, even so, almost one out of two people will get the disease. I admit I was shocked.

If I have startled you into reconsidering your avoidance of timely checkups; if you are more motivated to obtain some form of health insurance before upgrading your car or remodeling the dining room furniture, than I am glad Hashem orchestrated the necessity of my seeing my doctor.

Having cancer isn’t necessarily fatal; many forms are, in fact, curable, especially if caught early. That is why it is crucial to get blood work and urine tests done annually, accompanied by an examination to check for any lumps or bumps where they shouldn’t be.  My gynecologist found my original thyroid cancer during a check up that I had postponed for three years – because I had gained weight and was embarrassed to see him. He routinely palpates the thyroid because being pregnant and giving birth with all its hormonal fluctuations can affect thyroid function. It was just a fluke that my “lumpy” thyroid was in the 5% that are malignant.

In addition to annual checkups, it is lifesaving to have timely mammograms and colonoscopies and prostate exams – even eye exams. Dental care is also vital, as the dentist can spot infections and oral cancers.

Like I’ve said in the past, davening and reciting Tehillim are crucial elements of your health care, but Hashem expects us to make the effort to watch over our souls.

As I write this article, I am preparing to travel last-minute, which I don’t enjoy, but I have a follow-up “VIA” which I consider a priority.

In my neck of the words, health care is supported by taxes, but one can wait a while to get seen, so I was not going to postpone my appointment. I am mentioning this reality for two reasons: One, so you can see that I practice what I preach. And two, because again, I ignored a, “No, there is no way the airline is going to waive the $200 change fee,” and got the fee waived and my flight rebooked.

Make the effort medically and be in the “know.” You matter!

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