“Inhabiting a male body is like having a bank account; as long as it’s healthy, you don’t think much about it.” It’s my favorite John Updike essay, and I re-read it from time to time to keep track of where I stand in the story’s chronology. This whole Cap2K (www.Cap2k.com) exercise is sort of part of that, particularly the effort to raise funds for prostate cancer research (which also plays a minor role in Updike’s tale). I had promised earlier to tell about my most recent prostate adventure, and although the story is familiar to many in my workplace already, here goes:
One of the first things I did after moving back to the U.S. and getting a job with health insurance was to get a “physical”. My employer provides pretty good insurance, and everyone always says you need a check-up yearly, especially as you age. So, I made the appointment, showed up at the appointed hour, waited the federally mandated hour-and-a-half in the waiting room, and saw a doctor in non-emergency circumstances for the first time in about twenty years. “Why are you here?” were his first words. Admittedly, I am robustly healthy. But he had already scheduled a solid ten minutes for my 30-minute physical, so we both said “why the heck not?” and did the check-up anyway. Well, you don’t have to beat me over the head to tell me I’m not wanted, so that was the last physical I got for several years.
This last year, my employer and our insurance began strongly promoting preventive care, and offered incentives to undergo a check-up that included a biometric screening. My initial reaction was to assume that this was a ploy to eventually weed out employees with a pre-existing disposition to various expensive ailments that might develop in the years to come, but on second thought I realized that I am not one of those people. In fact, they might even consider lowering my premiums after a screening, so I signed up. Amazingly, given the rapid advances in the U.S. medical field, that federal hour-and-a-half wait was still in effect when I showed up for my appointment, but everything else had changed. First, I was met by an attractive young medical assistant who led me to the examination room. One of the perks of being an old guy is that you’re allowed a limited amount of low impact flirtation with young women because you are obviously not a threat, so I took advantage of the opportunity during our short walk. I find it relaxes me. Anyway, she left and the doctor arrived, a very professional, very tiny Chinese woman. I immediately liked her better than the last guy I had, because she seemed genuinely interested in giving me a physical. So she did her thing, top to bottom, and then explained that it was recommended that a man my age get a prostate exam annually, and would I like to proceed with that? I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me before (I would have worn nicer underwear, perhaps), but I found myself again saying “why the heck not” in a doctor’s office and instructed her to proceed. Again, a perk of being an older guy in this situation is that you are now theoretically mature enough to understand that the examining doctor is a doctor first, and being a woman doesn’t matter in the least, particularly when you think about the years of college and the enormous student loans she has to pay off. So I began to drop my drawers when she says “wait one moment, I need to get an assistant”. An assistant? What did she have in mind? I didn’t think my prostate exam would require even an entire hand, much less four of them. Then I realized that perhaps her gender did matter, because she maybe needed a witness that nothing unprofessional happened. We live in bizarre times. And guess who the witness was? Of course, the earlier victim of my suave flirtation. I grew a great deal in maturity during that short examination. I am a better man for it. The doctor even felt things were going so well that she had me rotate forward to check for hernias at the same time (I really would have preferred a warning on that one for grooming purposes). So there you have it, clean bill of health, plus an end to my uncalled for flirtation with women trying to do a difficult job.
Now my only remaining problem is timing. I wasn’t planning on getting another exam this year, because I really am in a low risk group. But strictly for the sake of my involvement with the Cap2K and this blog, I am leaning toward scheduling an exam so that I can share the adventure with everyone before I end this blog after the race. Have to think about that one, because “a man and his body are like a boy and the buddy who has a driver’s license and the use of his father’s car for the evening; one goes along, gratefully, for the ride.”