I heard from a number of folks after yesterday’s post, many of whom worked with me at ABC. One of those people is Phil Sweenie, with whom I worked beginning 30 years ago and from whom I learned how to give a presentation properly – he’s a master.
In response to a health issue, Phil wrote the piece below. If you’re under 30, make sure your folks read it. If you’re in your 30′s, pay attention and get ready. If you’re over 40, you need to act on this. It’s great advice and could save your life. Spread the word!
As many of you may know, I recently had a prostatectomy — four weeks ago today. The cancer was caught at a very early stage and the operation was a complete success. Along the way I’ve had a few people say things like ‘You would be the guy to catch something like this early,’ which is a nice compliment. But I’ve also had a few guys in their 50s ask what a PSA was. Learned another hasn’t seen a doctor in 22 years.
I intended to write what follows out of concern for questions like the above but pretty much shelved the idea, thinking it wasn’t my place.
However in the past two weeks I’ve seen a former business colleague in his 50s succumb to a debilitating stroke. And today another colleague, maybe 50, died of a heart attack at NBC. Just like Tim Russert. So I’m going ahead and sharing a philosophy on pro-active health care. You don’t have to listen, but I hope you do.
I feel there’s one basic concept –
You have to be your own Doctor, pure and simple. By now most of us have learned it’s best to manage any process ourselves, this applies to health care — the most important process remaining.
Take complete charge of it, be on top of it, just do it.
We should all have an ongoing relationship with an Internist, Cardiologist, Urologist and Dermatologist. You may also need doctors specializing in other disciplines.
We also needn’t die from lung cancer, but it is difficult to detect — 90% of lung cancers are discovered after the cancer has metastasized, when chances of survival at Stage 4 are very slim.
When I learn of someone dying from the above I conclude it’s likely they failed to monitor their health. It probably shouldn’t have happened — and it doesn’t have to happen.
I’m disappointed when I ask someone what their cholesterol or PSA is and hear ‘It’s fine, had it checked last year.’
What’s the number?
‘Gee, I don’t remember. They said it was fine though, told me all was well.’
I know people who have requested tests and been told ‘you have no symptoms, blood work is fine, no need to do a stress test.’ When I requested my first colonoscopy at age 54 the doctor tried to talk me out of it — no family history of colon cancer, could pierce the colon (which is very rare), and he even asked who my insurance was with. Talk about a yellow flag.
How about I’m X years old and want to know? It’s my health, my life. That’s what I did.
Has someone you know had a stent or by-pass surgery? Not a problem that developed in the past month or so. The person was likely unaware of his cardiovascular health – could have had a heart attack, or worse. Or maybe he had a heart attack, glad he’s still with us.
With the above death today in LA, I was reminded of a colleague at WABC in NY, a marathon runner, who suffered a fatal heart attack at work 12 years ago. I suspect he wasn’t on top of his cardiovascular health, in spite of being a serious runner. Remember James Fixx?
We should see an Internist annually to get checked out. If something doesn’t seem right, go to the doctor. Our fathers’ generation figured it would just go away, it was nothing. That’s a flawed mind set in this day and age.
He’s also the guy who will refer you for that colonoscopy every 5 years.
See a Cardiologist annually. As mentioned above, we should have all had at least one nuclear stress test and carotid artery scan by now. Should be something done every 3 years or so.
See your Urologist on an annual or 9 month basis. Get that digital exam (never again for me) and have blood drawn for a PSA reading.
Tell you what, my PSA had always been around a 2.0 over the past three decades (any reading above 4 is cause for concern). Two years ago my PSA dropped to a 0.7, then went to 1.3, 1.7 and 2.5. By the way, that’s four readings within two years — all requested by me, not the annual look see. And the digital exams indicated all was well, just a bit of normal enlargement at this stage in life. So I had no symptoms, all was well.
A mere two months ago my internist looked at those numbers, said a 2.5 was fine, and suggested I get it checked again in 9 months or a year. But I went to a new urologist who didn’t bat an eye in telling me we had to do a biopsy. A week later I learned of my prostate cancer.
I was my own doctor. Otherwise I would have waited until the middle of next year — while the cancer grew or maybe even metastasized to the pelvic bone, the usual course.
See a Dermatologist annually — even if you never see a beach or play golf or tennis.
So get copies of all your tests, blood work, etc. And if you don’t have copies of your records, call and ask for them. This is a common request, one that has to be complied with by law in 10 business days.
You keep tabs, you be the doctor. Be pro-active in managing this process, take stewardship — because no one else is going to.
In addition, diet and exercise are a given, same with non-use of tobacco. And a daily multi-vitamin, aspirin and omega-3 fish oil capsules should be routine.
This morning I read of some cancer recognition award being given to ABC’s Robin Roberts, who waged an on-the-air battle with her breast cancer. She said she wouldn’t be alive today were it not for a colleague who took her aside and exhorted her to get on top of her health, to be aware. In doing so, she learned of her disease and beat it. In addition to that, today’s news from LA motivated me to write this.
So anyway, that’s how I feel about and care for my health at 64 years of age. It sure nailed prostate cancer and this philosophy has also enabled me to beat the odds with a bad paternal history of heart disease. I see a prominent cardiologist at Mt. Sinai in Miami who suggested that were it not for my diligence over the decades it was pretty unlikely I’d be around today, same thing was told to my brother. We’re talking a track record of fatal heart attacks at 40, 50 and 37 going back to my great grandfather.
I’m sending this to a lot of people. I hope, like Robin Roberts’ friend, it may help open some eyes.
Filed under: Growing up, Helpful Hints, Reality checks Tagged: | advice, Breast cancer, Cancer, Health, Heart disease, life, life lessons, Lung cancer, Prostate cancer, Reality checks, Robin Roberts, Tim Russert