When the Friends for Life and ProMedica HealthConnect editors told me they were focusing on men’s health awareness this month, and suggested that I write a column relating to that subject, I had to giggle. I knew EXACTLY what I would explore: Why don’t men ever want to go to the doctor? I know I’m not alone in this. My girlfriends and I talk with great frustration about the difficulty of this task.
I have had first-hand experience with this for more than 17 years. Yes, that’s how long I’ve been married. I will admit, I am married to one of the toughest guys you’ll ever meet.
My husband, Tom Runnells, is the bench coach for the Colorado Rockies baseball team. He’s been a baseball player, coach or manager all his life.
He once finished playing a game with a wound that needed 17 stitches, and passed a kidney stone while coaching a game in 102-degree heat at Yankee Stadium. That’s superhero-tough in my book!
Maybe he’s too tough, because getting him to the doctor is nearly impossible. Now, he is required to get a pretty comprehensive physical each year in Spring Training, which I’m sure he doesn’t fight at all since it’s related to his baseball job. And while I am grateful for this yearly check-up, it also comes back to haunt me at times.
During the “off-season,” when Tom is home, he can be sick for days and will still argue with me when I suggest calling the doctor. “I had a physical in February and I was fine,” he’ll say, as if his clean bill of health comes with a 12-month warranty.
I’ve tried to get to the bottom of this anti-doctor-visit attitude with my husband. I know it’s not about the doctors because we have terrific physicians. “I would rather give it an opportunity to heal itself,” he’ll say.
Last year, Tom finally had to admit he needed a knee replacement. I say finally because truthfully, he probably needed it about four years earlier, but he kept putting it off; putting up with the pain. I know he didn’t think that knee was going to “heal itself.” Still, he probably would have let it go for who-knows-how-long if I hadn’t intervened.
For several months, I had been seeing Dr. Joe Assenmacher for a shoulder problem. I knew Tom would hit it off with Dr. Joe, and I knew Tom would be home for ONE day in July for the MLB All-Star break, so I scheduled a consultation appointment for his knee without asking. A bit sneaky, I’ll admit, but I knew if I didn’t do it, Tom might not ever make the appointment himself.
I went with Tom to the consultation, where Dr. Joe confirmed he needed a knee replacement ASAP, and asked when he could schedule it.
“Well, I’m not sure exactly when I’ll be getting home in October,” Tom said optimistically hoping the Rockies would make the playoffs and extend his season. “I can just call when I get home.”
Now, in Tom’s defense, he experienced complications with a hip replacement more than a decade earlier, so I could understand that he was less-than-enthusiastic about another similar surgery. But Tom is only home for four months in the winter and I knew beyond the surgery he would need extended rehab to be ready in time for Spring Training in February.
“Let’s get it on the calendar today,” I insisted, “And if we have to change it because you’re in the playoffs, we’ll do that.”
The surgery was scheduled for October 23. Sadly, the Rockies did not make the playoffs and Tom was home in plenty of time for the knee replacement. A few days before the surgery we had a pre-op appointment with Dr. Joe and started making plans for Tom’s care and rehab. That’s when it started.
“Do I really want to go through this this year,” Tom asked. “My knee doesn’t really feel that bad right now. I could probably get another year or two out of it,” he said.
For a split-second, I thought about grabbing one of his baseball bats and taking out his other knee. “You’ve been living with this pain for so long you don’t even know how bad you feel anymore,” I said. “You are having this knee replacement surgery!”
And he did. And I was right: He does feel like a new man with that new knee!
So ladies, don’t be afraid to push a little when it comes to the health of your men! November is the perfect time to grab a baseball bat and escort them to all those appointments they put off the rest of the year — just like the big-leaguers!
For 20 years, Chrys Peterson was the face of WTOL news, anchoring the 5, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts. She is now a correspondent for ProMedica HealthConnect and spokeswoman for Friends for Life, a monthly newsletter for women that offers health and wellness advice with a focus on cancer prevention.