Last Friday I had a heart attack. I mean, it was just a heart attack in my mind, but let me tell you: it was scary. My chest hurt like someone was sitting on it (and not in a fun way) and I felt pains radiating down my arm. Convinced I might be having my last day on Earth I went on my health insurance website page, found a doctor nearby and asked if he could see me that very afternoon. You have to know that I was sure I was a goner for me to clamor to get in to see a doctor. I am somewhat Western-medicine-averse.
I arrived at the little office, not a mile away from my house, and was handed a massive packet of papers. Is it just my imagination or are doctors’ questions getting more intrusive? I opted for the straight up and down line through the “no” column for everything, mostly because I’ve been ridiculously healthy all my life but also because I didn’t want to discuss my intestinal history with a stranger when I came to find out about the state of my heart.
Eventually I was ushered in to a little office with yellowing pictures in frames and med school diplomas from the decade I was born. The doctor made only the most perfunctory show of caring about me as a human, then told me to take off all my clothes and put on a paper gown. After a few moments of allowance for modesty, he came back in and poked and prodded me, then had me lay back so he could get busy with my boobs. I mean, I have a pretty sweet rack so I’m sure it’s hard to resist them, but let me just say that they last time they were manhandled that way there was at least dinner involved. EKGs are, apparently, also something you do topless with a contraption that looks disturbingly like a nipple clamp disturbingly close to my nipple. When he suggested that he should examine my rectum I drew the line there and demurred. Our relationship had just not progressed to that level.
I’m not suggesting that he was doing anything inappropriate. It’s just Western’s medicine’s view of a body as a thing not really connected to any feelings or embarrassment. Or, you know, a human. He drew blood (pretty painlessly, actually) and brushed away my questions about what he was testing for with a quick, “Everything.” The whole experience reminded me of why I avoid doctors except for in cases of extreme leprosy.
The EKG was clean and the blood tests came back two days later with every reading at optimal levels. I swung by his office to pick up a copy and Googled every value on the three page report to understand just what the paper said about me. (The good part about a daily bus commute: lots of free time to Google three pages of blood test results line by line). Triglycerides low. Good cholesterol good. Bad cholesterol low. It filled me with a warmth and affection for my hard-working little body. I eat pretty well (New York City is like a hunter gatherer’s paradise) and I’m active enough but, of course, I’m not 18 anymore. I had been worried about what the results might show. But what they showed is that my body keeps on going, being strong.
His diagnosis about the chest pain? Anxiety. I had been having a particularly stressful week at work and I am definitely one to let things get to me. And, now, knowing that my body still chugs along making the right number of platelets and keeping its calcium levels good, I am moved to do better by it. Deep breath. And no more showing my boobs to doctors.