Sunday, December 7, 2008

Better Safe Than Sorry - Target Speech for Evaluation

This speech was delivered on the 16th of November 2008 at the Toastmasters Division Conference in Bangalore as the target speech for Division B Evaluation Contest.
The bomb was ticking. It had to be dismantled fast. It was Diwali. Yet, we did not want this bomb to go boom!

The bomb was ticking inside my mother’s body. For the last two years. She heard the ticking only last month. The bomb was a tumour that had first appeared as a lump two years ago. All tests for malignancy had come back negative then. But last month she noticed a change in the shape of the lump and became alarmed. A new round of tests suggested immediate removal. My mother had been diagnosed with stage-II Breast Cancer.

After a successful Mastectomy and one round of Chemotherapy, she is doing well. The bomb has been dismantled.

We could have avoided all the panic, the stress, the shock. Even after repeated requests from my sister and me, my mother refused to get periodic health check-ups done. And when she did feel the need to get one, the cancer had reached second stage.

In today’s world where so many toxins enter our body through the air we breathe, the quick-fix food we consume, the hybrid vegetables we eat, there is a lot of metabolic pressure on our bodies as compared to earlier times when the food was simpler and the air was cleaner. The human body has adapted to certain materials and its inputs are changing now. And unable to cope, our bodies react adversely.

The only way to pre-empt this is to go for a complete health check up at least twice in a year. No matter what age you or your children are, it is a procedure we cannot do without anymore. Our society believes that health check-ups are the prerogatives of those who have crossed the 40-year threshold, that children are somehow immune to major and terminal diseases. Further, we tend to believe that the only monsters to guard against are Diabetes, High Blood Pressure and Heart Diseases. But we need to watch against a lot many other silent killers now and in all age-groups.

Consider this. The youngest breast cancer patient that my mother’s doctor has treated is 20 years old whereas we believe that it is a condition that occurs late in life for women, usually post-menopause.

Here’s another example. One of my mother’s colleagues has a lovely daughter who is very active – a good student who attends Abacus classes on the weekend and learns Bharatnatyam. She has had no apparent health problems in life so far. Last month she complained of severe stomach ache and a scan revealed a pancreatic tumour that had burst and spread as far as to her lungs and intestines. Here’s the shocker – she us 12 years old.

This is why I stress that the entire family needs to get a full-body check up done very regularly. That should include basic blood tests for cholesterol and sugar what with cases of juvenile diabetes on the rise. Also included should be scans of vital organs. The family doctor should be kept in the loop at all times.

I realized the importance of health check ups when I lost my father to Kidney Failure 4 years ago. A history of High Blood Pressure and Gout coupled with misreading symptoms like skin asthma and swollen feet led us to not realizing till the last minute that his kidneys were going down the slope very fast. He hid other symptoms till the last minute from us and by then it was too late. He had full-blown Kidney Failure and was on dialysis for 3 years.

Apart from the fact that he personally suffered a lot, eventually we lost a precious part of our lives with him forever. Things might have been different today had there been regular complete health check ups and having his Kidneys scanned given his history of Gout.

Find out your family history when it comes to diseases. And tune your check up accordingly. And never ignore symptoms like frequent headaches, occasional black outs, dizziness, anything. Let a doctor certify that it is just migraine or low blood pressure. Don’t take chances. Don’t sit on symptoms till the last minute.

Some of you might argue that all this will lead to unnecessary paranoia and hypochondria. Believe me, once you get a check up done and get a clean bill of health, there is no better feeling. And if something is starting to malfunction, the sooner it is detected the easier it will be to treat it. Do not be apprehensive of what the scans might reveal, do not use it as an excuse to procrastinate.

Go get that complete health check up for your family today. You will never regret it. Because when it comes to health, the old adage makes sense – Better Safe Than Sorry.