Baby Boomer Men, Meds, and the Moon
Our parents and grandparents stormed the beaches of Normandy and helped put a man on the moon. Our brothers remember when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Our sisters helped unlock unprecedented opportunities in the workplace and in society. We fought in Vietnam or watched it on our black and white television sets. We enjoyed Bonanza and The Brady Bunch. We idolized Mickey Mantle or Ted Williams or some other ballplayer, gridder, or cager. We are baby boomer men and we are still around in droves.
I am a baby boomer, but just barely. By most accounts, baby boomers were born between 1946-1964 after World War II when America also experienced an economic boom. So, there was a baby boom and an economic boom that propelled our country into the 1950s and 1960s in ways we have never experienced. I was born in 1964 and had my 55th birthday a few years ago. I can now purchase discounted meals on the back page of my favorite pancake house and (as my dear mother pointed out) am eligible to live in many retirement communities. So, that’s fun.
Putting off the doctor
By most accounts, men my age put off going to see doctors, dentists, basically anyone in a lab coat. I don’t blame us. Making a phone call involves talking to people we don’t know to set up a time to wait in multiple sterile rooms to see multiple people we don’t know who will poke, prod, pinch, snip us and tell us to lose weight and that we have funky looking moles. Would I rather do this or watch a ball game, see a movie or even read? I get it. It’s no day at the park. After a long day’s work, I want to relax and would rather not know my cholesterol ratios.
Of course, inconvenience, embarrassment, and potentially bad medical news are nothing anyone wants in the middle of their day. I will admit that I have put off routine physicals, annual exams, and have ignored potentially dangerous symptoms because I just would rather do something (anything?) else. I have had a parathyroid disease, pulmonary embolisms, malignant melanoma, and a host of odd maladies for someone my age. I’m still here and thankful.
We all have our own reasons for notseeing a health care professional. A recent article from The American Heart Association highlights several.1 Here is my summary of their work:
- I don’t have a doctor.
- I can’t afford seeing the doctor or I’d rather spend my money on anything else.
- There’s probably nothing wrong, so why go?
- I am too busy.
- Checkups are basically a waste of time because the doctor really does nothing.
- I don’t want bad news.
- I hate needles and prostate exams.
- I am one tough guy and I can handle it on my own.
- My wife, husband, girlfriend, partner, significant other has been nagging me to go and I refuse to give in.
There's so much left
These are all valid points. I understand. Some of these reasons are big challenges and difficult to overcome. So, here is my point: we are all getting older and we have seen many of our friends and family experience medical issues and maybe we ourselves are facing something right now. Yet, we have so much to experience and do. Grandchildren’s recitals, vacations with loved ones; these are the reasons why I now see the doctor. The benefit of time with those who are special to me outweigh the costs and objections of seeing a doctor.
Think of your future
When I lost 70 pounds two years ago (and have kept it off) I did it because I wanted a better future and hopefully a longer life. I made dietary and exercise choices, including seeing medical professionals, not because I couldn’t wait for my colonoscopy, but because I can’t wait to see my kids graduate from college. Seeing people in lab coats and eating vegetables became about them, my family and friends, and what I could experience with them.
There are a ton of men our age roaming Panera Bread lines, hitting golf balls in the trees, and wondering if we should contact our doctor. Make the call.
What would you say to the men in your life to encourage them to go to the doctor?
Since your diagnosis, how has your faith or spirituality changed?