I just found out what my most valuable possession is - And it's not gold or silver!
Have you ever felt that your body seemed different from before? A nagging pain in your back, a recurring migraine, a discomfort in your tummy, a tingling sensation down your leg, a persistent dry cough perhaps? Many times, we end up dismissing these symptoms and brushing them aside thinking they would sort themselves out after a couple of days. Maybe I worked out too hard at the gym, perhaps I ate something bad, or did I sleep in the wrong position the other day?
When unusual symptoms do not disappear or end up getting more frequent and/or more intense in sensation, that is when most people start to consider that it might be more than just a simple issue. In passing, you might end up sharing with friends or family about what you are going through and most often, you get advised to seek medical treatment. This is exactly what happened to me.
It started with unnatural sensations on the right side of my face...
A few months ago, I felt a strange sensation on the right side of my face. I had never experienced it before, and I figured I must have overexerted a facial muscle. I did not think much about it when it happened again. But the third time it happened, I stopped in my tracks. I immediately took down mental notes in my head: How does it feel? How long does it last? Is there any pain or discomfort? What was I doing before this was triggered?
Consulting with Dr Google
You probably guessed that the first doctor I turned to was... DR GOOGLE. I spent countless hours poring through web pages trying to make sense of what I was going through. By the end of my "research", I suspected that I could have one of the myriads of serious conditions and that made me even more anxious and stressed. I even started evaluating whether I had enough insurance coverage should this turn out to be a medical condition! (Thanx to my occupational hazard!)
A referral to a Neurologist
When the intensity and frequency of these “episodes” (as I called them!) increased, I began to worry. A part of me felt lost at not being able to control my body. Another part of me wanted to know what the root cause of these episodes was. Was my body failing me? Eventually, I decided I had to see a doctor and figure out what was going on with my face. My GP gave me a referral to see a Neurologist. Armed with my notes about what I had experienced as well as video and pictorial evidence, I explained as best I could what had been happening to me.
Investigative Tests – Oh the fear!
The Neurologist decided to send me for an MRI. As a person who is claustrophobic, the idea of the MRI scared me more than the potential results I could receive! The MRI itself took around 45 minutes and it was extremely loud; Needless to say, the tunnel was way too small for my liking as well. I did a victory dance right after my MRI but that could also be due to the fact my legs felt like jelly after facing my phobia of confined spaces!
Frustration, frustration, frustration
The MRI looked normal (phew!). The Neurologist did say that should I experience an episode again, to return to do an Electroencephalogram (EEG), which would detect abnormalities in brain waves or in the electrical activity of the brain. Lo and behold, the very next day, I experienced an episode. This time I felt frustrated, and my spirits were crushed. I thought I had done my part seeing a doctor who told me my brain looked normal so why was I experiencing it again? And so soon after?
I went back to do the EEG. During the procedure, electrodes consisting of small metal discs with thin wires are pasted onto your scalp. It is not painful by any means and the test itself took around 30 minutes. At one point I started to feel like a cyborg being hooked up to all the wires. When I saw the Neurologist later that day for a review of the EEG, he said it looked normal and there was nothing wrong with the brain activity. I heaved a sigh of relief. The structure of the brain and the brain activity both showed that everything was fine. This was one of the few times I embraced that being normal was a good thing!
Seeking a second opinion
Since the occurrence of the first episode, the anxiety and frustration I felt wore me down more than I had imagined. I guess it is like having something hanging over your head where you are constantly worrying about what you are going through and why and if it will occur again soon. I felt absent in conversations especially with my friends and family as my anxiety over the condition constantly loomed at the forefront of my mind. I consulted with a family friend who is a doctor and he suggested going for a second opinion to set my mind at ease.
That is when I made an appointment to see a doctor at the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI). The doctor at the NNI said that all the test results looked fine but there was an additional Blink Reflex test that I could do. Simply put, the test assesses if there is any damage to the facial nerves by testing the pathway from the trigeminal nerve through the brainstem to the facial muscles. I had electrical nodes put on my face (not as wired up as the EEG!) that sent electrical pulses of varying intensity across it. It was painless and fast!
My big revelation
The test came back normal and this time I could put my fears to rest. It is possible the symptoms were due to lack of sleep, or likely stress-induced. They were my body’s way of screaming and protesting to get my attention to change before it was too late. To be honest, the past 6 months had been stressful and hectic. I had been without a helper for a few months, and I was not sleeping enough. All this took a toll on my body. I decided to heed my body’s warning signs and make changes in my life immediately.
I needed to take better care of my body and self. I began making lifestyle changes that I should have adopted years ago such as eating well, sleeping well and moving my body! Having children became a convenient excuse to say I was too busy to look after myself. My view now is that it is especially because I have children, I must look after myself so that I can be here for them for the long term. The episodes and symptoms have since stopped.
“It is health that is the real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver” - Mahatma Gandhi.
Sometimes, we end up taking our health for granted. However, the older we get, the more susceptible we become to illnesses and injuries. In this past year alone, I have had friends who have been diagnosed with critical illnesses such as cancer and heart attack. These are people in their mid-30s who have been healthy and active. Even in the news recently, I read about a musical conductor in his early 40s who died due to a cardiac arrest. Critical illness does not just happen when we are old and frail. It does not discriminate.
Can or cannot claim – is not the question!
I get asked a lot if investigative tests are claimable with any of the policies we have. Take my case for an example. Since the 3 tests I took were investigative in nature and did not require me to be hospitalised or undergo any surgery, it was not claimable. I was glad I went for the second opinion as sometimes, some doctors are better equipped to handle cases that are not as straightforward and have experience with new and cutting-edge technology. Thankfully, I was given the all clear!
Do not let the fact that you cannot claim for such tests deter you from seeking medical attention. Health is an investment and not an expense.
Even if such tests or consultations are not claimable, it is well worth the expense to set your mind at ease.
Prevention is better than cure!
Don’t sit on the fence about seeking medical attention early. You know your body best and if it is not performing optimally, and you feel that there could be something amiss, GET IT CHECKED! Doing health screenings regularly can also help find potential health issues before they become a problem. Health screenings also give you an insight into your current state of health so that you can make changes to your lifestyle or diet where needed.
Life in the era of Covid
The pandemic has altered many of our daily routines, from sleep habits to even our diet choices. Working from home has become the new normal. As such, there has been much less physical activity, blurred lines for a work-life balance and ordering take-outs have become frequent in many households! People are mentally fatigued with the different restrictions and lockdowns as well as with hearing news about the ongoings in the world. Instead of giving up hope and being unhealthy, let us embrace our bodies and build them up so that we are strong and able to fight this virus both physically and mentally. It is said that he who has health, has hope; and he who has hope, has everything.
Also, ensure that you are sufficiently covered before any medical conditions surface as you do not want to be in a position where you are underinsured and are unable to purchase more insurance. My wish for you is that you are healthy and happy! Stay safe!