Doctor, Doctor: Why Do Men Ignore Their Ailments?

Men are infamous when it comes to not going to their doctor.

Some don’t even have one. It’s a badge of honour for men to brag about how many years they haven’t darkened the door of their surgery. Perhaps it’s a male show of strength. I call it stupidity.

Consequently I’ve never been a stranger to my doctor but when I read about how the NHS is under the cosh and doctors are retiring early, I have to admit to holding off if there was something wrong, often for weeks or months.

Being brave and sensible were never good bed-fellows. But I’m finally showing signs of falling apart in my sixties, so it’s time to grasp the nettle – and get an MOT.

This was rammed home to me earlier in the year when my younger brother passed away from heart failure. If there was ever a wake-up call to get checked out, that was it.

So last week I was referred to the cardiology department of the nationally renowned St James’ Infirmary in Leeds (known locally as Jimmies) and had a heart monitor fitted recently which I wore for 24 hours without showering. 3 pads held microphones on my upper body detecting heart rate as I went about my business. I await the results.

Interestingly, whilst there I discovered they’ve a Lead Clinical Psychologist who specialises in the mental effects heart problems have. Dr Penny Morris and her team do not dole out pills but do talk you through the anxieties this illness brings. It was a relief to know there was someone I could discuss my worries with.

My second concern was hearing. After decades of being a DJ and a rock music fan, I’ve noticed when people talk to me in noisy situations I struggle to hear them in my left ear. I suppose sticking my head in the bass bin at Motorhead concerts wasn’t the wisest of my teenage moves.

Hearing (sic) Brian Johnson, lead singer with AC/DC had given up singing live with the band after being told he would be stone deaf if he continued, I decided it was time I took this seriously too. Head-banging has a price.

So at the weekend I rocked up at the audiology department of Bradford Royal Infirmary and had my hearing checked.

Sitting in a sound-proofed room a smiling specialist nurse placed tight earphones on my head and then played a series of increasingly quieter beeps at various pitches into them. I held a button and pushed it when they began and again when they stopped. I was then shown a graph of the results.

For a 62 year old man, it appeared I was in surprisingly good shape despite the battering I’d given my ears. Just missing some top end notes. Give Lemmy and his mates a swerve from now on was the advice.

Finally, this morning I attended the Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Service in Pudsey and met Oliver.

Some months ago one Sunday night I had an episode causing me so much pain from the bottom of my spine I ended up in A&E at the BRI. This led to the destruction of the nerves in my upper left leg so I no longer have feeling there.

Oliver is very tall, fit, thin with an exceedingly powerful hand-shake. He listened carefully to my tale of woe and then explained I’d suffered a sacroiliac joint dysfunction at the bottom of my spine. This has resulted from years of poor posture and lifting heavy disco gear alone.

Would my nerves recover? Would I regain feeling in my leg? He couldn’t say. “Nerves are sensitive and unpredictable. They might grow back, they may not”. He discharged me. I made the mistake of shaking his hand again and walked out.

A recent blood test with my GP at the surgery I’ve attended since I was a child showed a cholesterol level higher than it should be. I made a mental note to give up bacon butties. I also declined a prescription for statins as I’d read once you start taking them and then stop there is a far higher risk of heart failure.

I said “what about my liver?” She said “it’s fine”. Registering the surprise on my face my doctor smiled and added “well, you probably just have good genes”.

I’m 18 months away from retirement. It seems financially if I carry on until then I’ll have a chance to live a decent, stress free and happy couple of decades. Maybe more.

After 50 years working I could finally have the freedom to do what I want every single day.

I’m planning on moving to Norfolk to be nearer my daughter and two grandchildren. I want to play football on the beach with Cole and take Emila-Rose to school. I want to finally learn to play guitar better, perhaps volunteer to help others, go metal detecting – and write. I want to write.

More than anything though I’d like to be the Father of the Bride a year from now when my daughter Charlotte takes my arm and I walk her to say “I will” to her beloved partner Kyle.

She will be beautiful and I will be proud. What a shame it would be to have that chance cut short.

When I lie awake at night staring at the ceiling, I worry. We all do this and it achieves nothing. Currently my concern is I live between two major cities with some of the best medical facilities in the UK. If I moved to East Anglia I wouldn’t have that.

Would I want to be in the countryside with a sudden medical condition? It’s a quandary I beat myself up about.

The answer I suppose is to look after myself. Not something I’ve ever been much good at.

As my doctor says I have good genes – so I’m going to gamble, move to be nearer my family and away from the medical help I’ve always, er enjoyed.

Wish me luck.

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  1. Moving to be near your grandchildren will be the best medicine you could possibly have. You will not have time to be ill as little ones take priority, every time. You will be only interested in where your local hospital is in case you need to whisk them there in an emergency! It’s a brilliant decision to move nearer them! Also everyone will think it’s for your family’s benefit when secretly it’s for you…shhhhhhhh! Ha ha

  2. I do hope you will write! And continue to write for Annabel and Grace – your insights are very valuable. Wishing you good health and a smooth move.

  3. I think as we age we mostly end up with High Cholesterol with LDL being the worse it seems my Dr. keeps wanting to prescribe me statins but prefer not to take them, now on Fermented Red Rice & my cholesterol levels are improving so will continue on the red rice supplements

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