Blood Tests and Lessons Learned

I had to get blood work done a few weeks back since I was applying for a new life insurance policy.  I was nervous about it. My current life insurance was up and I want Ray to have some security if I die before he does.  He thinks he won’t need it, but if something happens to me, he will need time to adjust.  Some extra money would make that easier on him. So, like I say, I was nervous about the blood test.  What if I didn’t pass?  What if they found something that signaled bad news?

Not that I have felt bad lately.  But I have been around the block a few times with my parents and siblings when it comes to heading for tests and then getting an unexpected diagnosis. A minor ailment sent them to the doctor for the infamous “blood work,” and the results changed their lives forever. I know I’m not exempt from this process. As I age, I am more aware than ever of this non-exempt status.

When I received the results from my blood test, most fell within the normal range. My cholesterol was too high, but I knew I could either work on getting that number down or else go on a minor medication.  But then I noticed that my glucose score was below normal – a 60 – and that worried me a bit.  I decided to look online and see what that could mean.  I looked up the possible causes and read: in rare instances, low glucose can be caused by a pancreatic tumor.  Oh, dear Lord.  Was that possible?

Of course, most of you know that my oldest daughter is a family physician.  I considered calling her to get her opinion, but then I thought of how tired she was after working all day and how the last thing she wanted after hours was her mother calling with lab results.  Besides, what if this really was bad news?  She would be upset and she’s been so tired.  No, I’d make an appointment with my own physician and see what she had to say. Alas, she was unavailable until October.  October?  I could be dead by then.  So, I made a same-day appointment at Kaiser just like the nice woman at the Appointment Center advised and scheduled it on the same day as my mammogram.  I knew that I needed to go talk to the doctor then or else I’d end up sitting around worrying until the life insurance company verified my fears by rejecting me.

Last Friday, I took my papers in with all my results and explained to the doctor, a friendly older man of around 70, that I needed to go over these since there were a few numbers I didn’t understand.  “Is this blood test the only reason you’re here?” he asked.  I told him about the annual mammogram and also a need for a Hep B vaccine since I work with the homeless.  “No problem,” he said.  “Let’s give this report a good look-see.”

I pointed to the first result, which was the low glucose test.  “I’m worried about that score,” I said.

“You do realize we’re usually happier about a low glucose number than a higher one?”

“Yes, but what can cause that?” I didn’t want to mention the tumor in the pancreas until he did.

“Had you fasted?”

“Yes, Overnight.”

“Were you really hungry?”

“Yes.”

“That number just shows you hadn’t eaten in a while.”

“Is that all?”

“Yes.”

We spent a lot of time on my elevated cholesterol results, ending with a three-month call to action to lose some weight and get those numbers down or else go on medication. I left with a plan in place.

This weekend I saw Sarah and showed her my results.

“This is the most boring blood test report I’ve ever seen. Nothing of note except the cholesterol.”

I told her how I was sure I was going to die for a couple of days.

“Oh, Mama, call me next time, okay?”

I promised I would.

Today I received a letter from the life insurance company saying I have been approved. I’m feeling happy, relieved, and most especially, thankful.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ve also learned I don’t need to go to the Internet for health information without at least noting “in rare instances” or else asking a health professional first.

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