Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Do We Live and Die by the Number?

It’s amazing how we gauge our health by the numbers instead of how we feel.  In the show “RENT”, a young man in a support group whose numbers are poor is asked, “how do you feel?”  His response, “Best I’ve felt all year”.  We are so focused on the numbers that we often disregard the messages our body is sending us.  How can we learn to listen better?

Yesterday I went for lab work.  The side effect of the medication I take for my auto-immune disease is elevated cholesterol.  Left unchecked, the elevated cholesterol could wreak havoc on my body.  I just got the results back, lo and behold my cholesterol dropped by 40 points.  Needless to say I’m jubilant about the results.  The big question is do I feel any better?  Another question is now that my cholesterol has dropped drastically does it give me an excuse not to engage in other beneficial health activities?

It’s scary to think that a test tube of blood and a piece of paper can alter the course of our lives.  I wonder how much we fall prey to the placebo effect?  If I told you your numbers were better than they are would you feel better instantaneously?  Would the thought of greater health encourage you to continue health promoting behaviors?  I guess that depends on how much stock you put in the numbers. 

At this point in time my numbers are good, but I choose (notice the word “choose”) to move forward with my plans for health improving plans.  Tomorrow is the start of the walking season according to health experts so that would further my cause for keeping my numbers in the range I desire.  Maybe I will skip that ice cream since the fat isn’t good for my health.  I do realize that I’m a stress eater so keeping healthier food around is probably my best bet.

I think of the lab results like standardized tests; if your scores aren’t good does it mean your less smart?  In the medical world the numbers don’t always tell the whole story.  There are tests results that indicate the importance of looking deeper into the situation.  It doesn’t mean you’re sicker, but it could be a red flag for investigation.  It’s important to use multiple forms of information in making decisions about your health.  Have this discussion with your doctor and figure out how much you need to know, especially if you’re world view shifts with the numbers!