Did my Aplastic Anemia occur spontaneously or has this issue been brewing over the past year? How can we know or be conclusive that my incidences of illness over the last 12+ months are or are not related to a decline of some sort of my bone marrow? The answer is, that we cannot know, as there is no history of labs to document any sort of decline, to bring to light or put in question where my levels were previously. And why, you might ask? Because I’m a healthy, active female. Not at risk of any particular medical conditions by nature of my family history or because of lifestyle choices. Even when I had a physical for the purposes of becoming a dependent on my husband’s health insurance, there was no requirement for labs, so none were taken. Does this make me blame my previous healthcare practitioners or question their practices? Not really, but it does make me question why over the last couple of years when a couple things went awry here or there that they never did a blood panel to see where my levels were.
What is the requirement for blood work on young adults, or are there even any actually standard established guidelines for those between 18-35, unless mandated by your insurance? Come to think of it, I can’t even recall the last time (before all of this started) that I had a Complete Blood Count (CBC). So while this experience has been a good time for reflection on the possible signs and progression of my decline over the last few months before diagnosis, it has also got me thinking about the need for more proactive healthcare amongst the 20-set. Those who are the “healthy sick”, the ones going, doing, and trying to start up a life and career, possibly at the detriment of their health. While as a society we are working to educate our elders and our youth on keeping active and living a healthy lifestyle, we are pushing the 20-set to work harder for less. With recent cases of young adults literally dying on the job from overwork or exhaustion (AOL Jobs staff at jobs.aol.com) it calls into question the need to slow down and asking how much is too much. Contrariwise, there are then those who might feel invincible with their youth and need to question and moderate of their inappropriate behaviors done to excess. It also calls for further evaluating of our own health.
While I do not feel that it is going to be necessary to become paranoid of conditions that could possibly befall 20-somethings, I do think and now certainly feel that it is important to have yearly physical exams including labs. Could this have caught the progression of anemia earlier for me? Possibly, but maybe not. What this would have at least given me, is a starting point from which to understand my overall health aside from the “appearance” of perfect health. And that’s the funny thing, even at times when my blood levels have been at their worst (WBCs of <0.01, platelets below 10, or Hgb below 8.0) I’ve gotten the comment, “Well, at least you look good!”. It’s just funny how appearance is not necessarily related to the status of one’s health.
So while I don’t want to freak you out, if you are a 20-something, 30-something, or wiser, I do want to bring into your consciousness the need for proactively approaching your own health. Not taking for granted where you are today on you journey towards health but also keeping an eye on where you want it to lead you. Do you want to stay active into your retirement (whether that’s tomorrow or 40 years down the road) or do you just picture yourself dropping dead at your desk, literally being worked to the bone? Approach your life as you will, but consider the wise words of Michel de Montaigne, that as you one day look back on your life, “you should no longer be concerned with what the world says of you but with what you say to yourself” (Montaigne, para. 3 from end).
AOL Jobs Staff. (2013, August 20). Bank of America Intern Died After Pulling Three All-Nighters, Reports Claim. Retrieved from http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2013/08/20/bank-of-america- intern-died-after-pulling-three-all-nighters-re/
Montainge, Michel de. (1991). On Solitude. In Trans. M.A. Screech, The Complete Essays (Kindle). Retrieved from Amazon.com.