Conventional wisdom tells us we should see our doctor once a year, whether we're sick or not. Unfortunately conventional wisdom never checked with the economy. Or our schedules.
Quick, do a survey of your friends and family to see who has actually seen their family practitioner in the last year? The last two years? Unless they've actually been sick, chances are it's been awhile. But the whole point of a once-yearly doctor's appointment isn't to get you better, it's to keep you that way. They're about prevention, catching something that could turn more serious in its early stages.
Thank goodness for your medical team. What? Those are for the rich? You'd be surprised how many of us regular joes and janes have our own team of folks watching out for our health every step of the way. They're the people we encounter every day, the people who could save our lives. It turns out these are the people we need to sound the alarm that it's time to make that doctor's appointment:
Pedicurist -- When you settle in that chair to dip your tootsies in the warm water, you think you're just turning your toes over to the polish gods. But this is a lady (or man) who works with feet day in and day out; they are bound to notice when something looks a little off. Whether it's a foot fungus or a wart that's started to take root in your plantar region, the person doing your pedicure has the best look at a place of the body most of us don't spend a heckuva lot of time inspecting. It behooves you to listen if they mention something looks a little funny. Don't believe me? It was my aunt, the woman who has painted my toes since I was a tot, who caught the plantar wart on my right foot as she was drawing flowers on my big toe. And according to my doctor, she caught it just in time -- before it starts to hurt from the pressure of walking, it's less likely to have rooted deeply in your flesh.
Hairstylist -- There are few people who get a good look at the back of a woman's neck on a regular basis, especially if she prefers to wear her long hair down. But the cosmetologist who gives you a trim every six weeks has an eagle eye view of what's going on back there, and on your scalp too. She's (or he's) the person most likely to catch a mole or other type of growth that's looking funny or enlarging at an exponential rate. It may not be cancer that they catch, but then again, it's always better to have these things checked out, isn't it?
Dentist -- You're there to have your teeth cleaned, but the mouth is connected to other parts of the body too. So don't be surprised if the guy with a drill aimed at your mouth notices that goiter on your neck and says it's time for a thyroid check at your physician's office. And while he's in there, he's got a good look at your tonsils and the health of the mouth itself. Which means he could notice the tonsils swollen due to allergies or an autoimmune disease manifesting itself in peeling skin inside the mouth.
Waxer -- To you they're just caterpillars that MUST be removed from the space above your eyes. But the thickness of your eyebrows is much more than your archnemesis. It's a sign of health. Hair loss in a particular spot of the brow can be a sign of a thyroid condition or a skin condition such as eczema. On the other hand, extra hair growth can be a sign of a problem too, from Cushing's syndrome to polycystic ovarian syndrome. As someone who sees you every few weeks, a good waxer can help you differentiate between a flux in hair growth and your own neuroses about your brows and 'stache!
Facialist -- Spider veins, rosacea, you name it, they notice it on your face. If it doesn't seem like regular acne or dry skin, a good facialist will send you to a physician for a more in-depth look at what's going on.
Massage Therapist -- Who else gets a look at just about every part of your body in the buff? Not even your real doctor has access like this, which gives the person rubbing down your sore muscles a unique opportunity to save your life (or at least make it better). That means they'll see the freaky mole in the middle of your back, how out of whack your pelvis actually is (scoliosis maybe?), and get a feel for whether it's stress that's making your neck ache or those are really swollen nodes pointing to the body fighting off something more serious.
It seems like it takes a village to keep a body healthy. Who has helped keep you on the straight and narrow? Is it your doctor or someone else who caught something you didn't?
Image via truthout.org/Flickr