Wednesday 15 December 2021

How I Feel about Tomorrow's Appointment with My Doctor

Written Tuesday December 7, 2021.

Two weeks ago I described how I was inspired by an International Men’s Day presentation to book an appointment with my doctor for the first time in decades. My follow-up appointment for blood and urine tests, and an internal examination, is tomorrow. The idea is to — hopefully — rule out any issues with my prostate and get a better handle on what’s going on.

As I prepare to take this next step, I’m acutely aware of the anxiety and uncertainty it’s brought to the fore. I can’t be the only person who feels this way ahead of a medical appointment, so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts and feelings, in the hope they may help others.

It’s Out of My Hands

I was chatting with my friend Aimee Wilson earlier today and she offered an insight which I found really helpful.

I’ll be glad when I’ve got this appointment out of the way tomorrow.

Oh yes! Are you getting anxious or….?

I’m a bit on edge about it, yeah. Just because I’ve not had an in-person GP appointment in so long. Also that sense of well, if there is anything wrong, tomorrow is when the process of finding out and dealing with it starts, if you know what I mean.

Of course I get it. Maybies just remember that if there is anything wrong, you’re doing everything you can about it. Like, it’s kinda out of your hands. That might be intimidating or scary but I hope it’s comforting!

It’s kinda both, but comforting too! Thank you, it helps.

That idea of things being out of my hands, and in the hand of professionals instead, is something I’ve not experienced since I was in hospital years ago. I was in a lot of pain back then, which isn’t the case now at all, but Aimee has reminded me it can feel good to let go of worrying about things and allow others to take on the responsibility for a while.

It’s Not a Competition

I feel nervous, but I’m aware that the anxiety and apprehension I’m experiencing are minor compared to what many people go through when they engage with mental or physical health services.

I don’t say that to dismiss or minimise what I’m feeling. I’m a firm believer that whatever someone is going through is valid and important, no matter how it might compare with someone else’s experience. Depending how things go tomorrow, maybe I will have more to be concerned about next time I’m waiting to see the doctor,

It’s very easy to allow your thoughts, fears, questions, and uncertainties dominate your thinking. I can’t simply stop feeling anxious or stressed, but I can do my best not to dwell on how things might work out after tomorrow. I give myself permission to feel what I’m feeling right now, for what it is.

My friends’ courage in seeking professional advice, support, and treatment, especially when it may be difficult, painful, or triggering, helps to ground me. If my friends can do that, I can do this.

Educate Yourself but Don’t Self-Diagnose

I was finally nudged into making an appointment by an online session about men’s health I attended through work. Listening to some of the symptoms and issues men — especially men around my age — are prone to made me realise I could no longer ignore some things I’ve been putting up with for a while now.

Before my first — phone — appointment, I researched my symptoms online, some of the underlying issues that could be causing them, and how those conditions are diagnosed. Having that information to hand helped when I spoke to the doctor, as I understood the questions she asked, and the next steps she recommended. Those next steps are what is happening tomorrow.

On the other hand, it’s important not to rely on the Internet for information, and not to use it to self-diagnose. My degree was in pharmacy so I have some medical knowledge, but I’m happy to leave any relevant diagnoses to the professionals. It’s kind of what Aimee was saying when she said about putting myself in their hands.

I’ve not looked into the more serious possibilities. If I end up going down that road, I’ll want all the information I can get, but at this stage it would serve no useful purpose and is only likely to worry me further.

Take Notes When You Can

It’s a good idea to jot down any questions and concerns before going for any medical appointment. It means you’re less likely to get outside and realise you forgot to ask that one question you really wanted to ask, or mention something that feels important to you.

One thing I want to ask tomorrow is when I might expect the results of the tests they’re doing, as well as what the next steps might be.

It’s also worth taking time immediately after an appointment to record what was said, and how you feel about it. Do you have a follow up appointment booked? Are you now waiting on some test results? Do you have decisions to make about treatment options? Capture them as soon as you can, while things are fresh in your mind, and refer back to them in the days and weeks ahead.

Don’t Ignore What You’re Thinking and Feeling

Whether you feel you’re handling things well or poorly, pay attention to how it’s all affecting you. Stress and undertainty aren’t pleasant but they can be useful if you don’t try and push it all aside.

There’s no right way to handle these things, so do what works for you. Writing is a big part of my self-care toolbox, whether it’s in the form of blogging for a wider audience or journaling privately. Just sitting here now and writing this blog post is helping to distract me and calm my nerves about tomorrow.

I also find it helps to share what I’m going through with other people, although that does depend on what’s going on for me and who might be available to talk it over with.

Whatever coping strategies work for you, do that.

Ask For and Accept Help and Support

Everyone I’ve told has been incredibly supportive. Thus far, I’ve not had anything particularly difficult to handle, but having mentioned my concerns early on, such as they are, reassures me there are people I can turn to in the — hopefully unlikely — event there’s something serious going on for me. I can’t know what support might be necessary or appropriate but I know they are there for me.

Keep Going

One of my favourite mottos is “Baby steps are steps too.” Often, we get overwhelmed by everything that is going on in our lives, or in the wider world. It can feel like there’s nothing we can do to change things or make a difference. I’m not in that place right now but I can imagine being there if things were to develop in less than favourable ways.

One thing my close friends have in common is that no matter what’s going on for them, whether it’s health-related or not, they rarely stay stuck for long. They may feel overwhelmed by doubt and uncertainty but they remain open to new ideas and possibilities. It’s never long before they are taking that next step forward.

In the words of Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Over to You

In this post, I’ve shared some of my thoughts and feelings as I await my medical check-up tomorrow. Have you ever been on the brink of medical tests or assessments that might potentially prove serious, even life-changing? How did you feel about it? What steps did you take to deal with how you were feeling? What helped? What didn’t? I’d love to hear from you, either in the comments to this post, or via our contact page.

Further Reading

I’ve included a few links relating to men’s physical and mental health. It’s good to be well-informed, but if you have concerns about your health don’t try and self-diagnose. Do what I (finally) did and make an appointment with a health professional.


Photo by Online Marketing on Unsplash.


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