Health Monitoring After Cancer: Should You Let Stuff Go?

November 2, 2018
Jane Biehl Ph.D.
Jane Biehl Ph.D.

Jane is a ten-year survivor of a very rare form of cancer Myelodysplastic Syndrome. She has enjoyed several exciting careers including a librarian, counselor, teacher, and writer. She loves to write about surviving cancer, overcoming hearing loss, and her hearing ear service dog, Sita.

When it comes to routine eye checkups and other appointments not directly related to my cancer, I become lax.

I was receiving a stern and deserved lecture from my eye doctor. “It’s been too long since you have been here.”

“Oh, two years,” I replied. Since I waited five years before that appointment, I was actually proud of myself.

“No, it has been three and a half years,” he corrected me. Time does fly when you are having fun and I must have been having a lot of it! I deserved this lecture and knew it. I have a family history of glaucoma and the beginning of cataracts. I have some vision insurance and live down the street from the office, so that is not an excuse, either. The main reason I went in today was because I had read that chemo causes cataracts. Since I had been on various chemos for eight years, I wanted to check it out.

I don’t know about other cancer survivors, but I do find it hard to balance all my medical appointments. I never miss chemo and always go for my bone marrow biopsy every six months. I immediately let my doctor know if I have an infection, so I can be put on an antibiotic. I faithfully see my family practitioner and dentist twice a year. I have my hearing checked often because the chemo has affected that, too. I also have to go in regularly to have my hearing aids taken care of. The main reason for this is because without them, I just cannot hear!

But when it comes to routine eye checkups and other appointments not directly related to my cancer, I become lax. I think because so many of my appointments focus on my blood cancer, I just find it difficult to find time for the other things. I try not to worry constantly about my health, and every time I am in any doctor’s office, that ugly beast reminding me that I have a chronic disease rears its head. It is not logical for me to wait so long between appointments, since I am deafened already, and need my vision more than ever. It is an emotional reaction from me.

I do think about cancer and all its side effects. I try not to over-focus, and think that every single twinge or pain of my body is caused by the cancer. I hate picking up the phone and making more appointments. I find sitting in waiting rooms is annoying, so I don’t always do what I should.

I did meekly tell the eye doctor I had been going in for chemo five days a month for awhile, but even that was lame since I stopped over a year ago. I should have been to him sooner — period.

When I was working, I was usually given positive evaluations for being organized. So I do not even have this excuse. Although some people would think my apartment is not organized, I do know where everything is most of the time!

I am not making excuses. I am just tired of medical appointments and let it go. I deserved the lecture I know. I need to be more balanced in my health choices. I need to take a break sometimes, and go watch some television or go out with my friends and family. That is a balance too!

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