Are You Ignoring Your Body’s Warning Signs?

January 2, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

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As I mentioned earlier, my husband was hospitalized for an internal infection about two weeks ago. While the specialists he has been seeing have not yet come to a conclusive diagnosis yet, we’re thankful that all of the supposed possibilities have established treatment and management plans. Still, having to emotionally process that’s happened to us lately has left me with even more questions, including the most obvious: How did we ignore the warning signs that his body was telling us for so long?

My husband and I are both fairly educated in the medical field — he is a practicing physician and I am a health writer who comes from a medical family. Still, we found a plethora of excuses to justify subtle and not-so-subtle changes in his daily living. The following are just a few of the excuses that we made for the rapid decline in my husband’s general health. Please note that not all of them are related to his recent hospitalization; however, all of them are signs that something more serious may be wrong:

  • It’s probably just cold season. My husband had been experiencing fatigue and a general feeling of malaise for the last month. He tends to be prone to minor ailments like sinus infections and allergies, and we both had been sick with colds and sore throats since November. We attributed his change in health to a bug that he might have picked up during our travels during the week of Thanksgiving. It didn’t occur to us that feeling that sick for nearly a month probably wasn’t normal.
  • Frequent napping is normal if you have a stress-filled life. Napping is not unusual for my husband. In fact, he enjoys his slumber so much that my nickname for him is my hibernating bear 🙂 Over the last few weeks, he had been so tired that he often went straight to the bedroom within just a few hours of coming home from work. He has a particularly stressful job as a medical intern which requires an average of 60+ hours a week and overnight shifts every four days. I have to admit that I sometimes got aggravated with him during this time thinking his fatigue was probably because he was just out of shape. I didn’t realize that his napping could be due to his body’s need to fight illness.
  • I’m depressed because of the holidays. To my husband, Christmas is the holiday to which all other holidays model themselves after. He enjoys everything about it — the magic of Christmas spirit, spending quality time with family, the general sense of goodwill. He had been pretty down ever since he realized in early December that he was scheduled to work on Christmas day, and we both thought that the mild depression he was suffering from was holiday-related. Because he wears baggy clothing both for work (scrubs) and at home (t-shirt and trackpants), neither of realized that his sudden loss of appetite had lead to a rapid weight loss that eventually clocked into over twenty pounds in a month, a clear sign that something was seriously wrong.
  • It’s probably due to my pre-existing medical condition. Since he was a teenager, my husband has lived with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis, a disease of the immune system. Unfortunately, he also has a cluster of other problems that are associated immune system disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis and frequent ear infections. When he came down with the last ear infection, he told his family practice provider that it was probably due to his pre-existing medical condition and just went on antibiotics.

Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, and I finally did get him to go to a doctor after a few major alarms went off including a two-day fever that didn’t abate with over the counter medication and a cycle of antibiotics for his ear infection that didn’t make him feel better at all. After he was admitted to the hospital, we found out that he had an internal infection so large that three teams of specialists still aren’t sure of the source or the cause. While we have been told that there was little he could have done to prevent it, had we caught it earlier, he may not have been in so much pain.

Have you ignored any of your body’s warning signs? What have been your most “creative” excuses?

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