I want to take some time out from the grim topics of homeless travel and travel writing this week and talk to you about something a little more lighthearted: your prostate.
I’ve gotten the impression in recent years through various awareness campaigns, often designed to send people racing in a panic to their doctors and pharmacists, that I should be thinking about my prostate on a semi-regular basis. Apparently you can get cancer there and if, for whatever reason, you had to choose where you were gonna get cancer, ‘prostate’ is right at the bottom of the list, just above ‘testicle’ and ‘all over’. (Ladies if it’ll make you feel more included, every time you read the words ‘prostate cancer’ substitute the words ‘osteoporosis cancer’ or whatever it is that you guys get.)
I bring up this subject because I’m going on 36 and a half and I’ve never gotten my prostate checked. From what I understand, I’m entering the age range where something like this should take precedence over the state of my abs and booty on my list of bodily concerns, but I have my doubts. If I listened to news reports and commercials, in addition to prostate cancer, I also need to be keeping near constant tabs on my cholesterol, heart disease, kidneys, spleen – What the hell is that anyway? Whenever you hear that someone loses theirs, people freak out! – gums, carpal tunnel whatsits and breath, just to name a few.
Furthermore, why is it that all these things that can kill you within days if you aren’t actively fighting them with expensive therapy and medication are never brought up when you’re outside of the US? I’ve lived abroad for over three years now and watched TV in about 30 countries during that time and not once have I seen a commercial or news report in these places warning me to consult my doctor right away about my arch support or risk dying a prolonged, undignified death.
In addition to not being brainwashed by the evening news about how many different ways I can die just by getting out of bed (or staying in bed on slow news days), I haven’t been indulging in regular doctor visits because, like many homeless, struggling travel writers, I have no health insurance. This isn’t as bad as it sounds when you’re not in the United States where something as simple as treating a bee sting in the ER can drive you into financial ruin. Indeed, with a few notable exceptions, paying out of pocket for heath care in the rest of the world isn’t any worse than paying to get your toilet fixed or having your tires rotated.
As luck would have it, in the three years that I’ve been living my “Alternative (But Not That Way) Lifestyle”, I have never had the need to seek medical attention. In that time, I’ve passed through 38 countries, some of them quite high on the list of “Places That You’re Most Likely to Suddenly Get Sick or Killed”, like Myanmar, Romania and that death box Australia.
Meanwhile, while I lived in America in my fastidiously clean house and worked all day in a precisely controlled environment at the Federal Reserve Bank, I inevitably ended up at the doctor’s office a couple times a year, usually for bronchial infections and the odd hypochondriac episode, probably subconsciously triggered by something I saw the previous week on an urgent news report, like how mowing the lawn can cause blindness.
Indeed, apart from the occasional cold and back spasms from traveling with too much crap, I’ve been the picture of good health. The only occasions that I’ve given fleeting thought to my prostate during this interval were when I did that thing where I’d identify the number of fingers I’d be willing to endure in a prostate exam rather than doing some other horrific thing like riding non-stop on a Romanian bus for 72 hours from Cadiz, Spain to Iasi, Romania in June or going back to Berlin (Answers: 2 and 2.5 fingers respectively).
That said, once in a very great while, when I’m between projects and I’m not answering fan mail from my mom, I give a little thought to this situation. Have I just been on an unholy streak of good luck with my health these past three years and I’m overdue to face the music or is all that hooey about monitoring your vitals signs, chemical balances, pH levels, etc every hour of every day really just paranoid bullcrap?
I’ll tell you one thing, my Italian counterparts sure don’t preoccupy themselves with that nonsense, after all there’s coffee breaks to take, cigarettes to smoke and 15 cellular phone calls to field every hour. They don’t give a rip about the fact that they’re walking time bombs for high blood pressure, lung cancer and brain tumors – though 15 minutes in front of American TV would probably straighten that right out.
Anyway, people please, go get your prostates and osteoporosises checked, if you must. I’m going to see how far my Wine Cures Everything regimen takes me. We can compare notes in heaven (or wherever).