Regrets after patients have lost their health

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Regret is a harmful emotion.  Regrets are best avoided.  Its one thing to regret buying a stock that plummets. It’s another to regret that you ever smoked because your chest x-ray shows a large tumor.

People often don’t appreciate what they have until they’ve lost it.  When you’ve lost your health, you will regret its loss for the rest of your (shortened) life.  Imagine that you were supposed to take your medication every day.  Your doc prescribed the medicine because, without it, you would be at risk of having a heart attack.  Imagine you decide that medications are expensive, bad for you, and that you are going to use all “natural” over the counter pills to treat yourself.

Now, imagine you wake up in the coronary intensive care unit.  Your doctor tells you that you suffered a cardiac arrest.  You try to ask him a question but gibberish comes out.  The doc explains that you are stable; but you were without oxygen for too long and you have suffered hypoxic brain damage.  You’ve had a stroke.  You realize you can’t move your right hand and leg.  You’re alive, and, for the first time in your life, you understand what being healthy was all about.

You understand that you may never walk, work, drive, or even make love again.  You understand that you will have to take medications, go to rehab, have full time help, and learn to live a new life.  You understand that you should have never stopped your medication.  You will regret that decision for a very long time.

Every day, I plead with patients to take their medications, get their colonoscopies, stress tests, and x-rays done.  I plead with them to stop smoking and drinking.  I ask them to give up cholesterol, sugar, and other goodies so that they can be healthier.  I write articles aimed at helping them understand how important their health is.

Every day, my patients tell me they are going to try to care for themselves.  I hate the word, “try.”  To me, try implies failure.  I ask them to work at being healthy.  I explain that the stakes are high, often to no avail.  You don’t know what you have until you lose it.  A healthy person cannot imagine what it is like to lose his health.  A healthy person cannot imagine how much regrets hurt.

Life is full of regrets.  Do everything within your power to be healthy.  Live a “wellthy” life by investing in your physical, nutritional, emotional and financial well-being with the same fervor as you invest in your financial health.  Work with your doctor.  Learn all you can learn.  Follow your doc’s instructions.  Don’t fall for the hype of the “all natural” neutraceutical world.  If you don’t believe you need a treatment or a test, discuss it with your doctor.

Staying out of trouble is much better than getting out of trouble.  Remember my favorite blessing, “May you be so blessed as to never know what disease you prevented.”  Be “wellthy” and live a long life without regrets.

Stewart Segal is a family physician who blogs at Livewellthy.org.

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