Your health is your greatest wealth.
One of the first things that came to mind when I came up with the brilliant idea that I wanted to be a millionaire in one year was that I need to be well mentally, physically, and emotionally in order to achieve my desired outcome. I knew that any illness could stop me dead in my tracks, delay my goal, or perhaps even bring it to a screeching halt.
I started the Journey in October 2009, the same month that I started a new consulting gig in the DMV (DC-, Maryland-, Virginia-area). At that time I had only been here for two short months, so I hadn’t yet coordinated any sort of medical care locally (doctor, dentist, etc.). But, since I saw maintaining overall good health as being part of the Journey, I included all foreseen medical treatments, including, Orthodontic appointments, Orthognathic surgery, and my annual visit to my physician's assistant, on my road map to financial independence. I developed what I now call my Millionaire Self-Care Plan.
The month that I started the Journey also marked the 18-month mark that I'd had braces on my teeth. The original treatment plan was for me to wear the braces for 18-months, have orthognathic surgery at that point (an oral surgeon would break and then realign my jaw), and then wear the braces for two to six more months. But, somewhere in between all of that happening, life stepped in. The project that I was working on ended, and I left Minnesota in hopes of finding a job in another state. During that time, I saw my Orthodontist only one of the four times that I should have. And my lack of self care resulted in the wire on my lower teeth being bent and lifting a tooth in a way that my Orthodontist didn't want it to. The result: another six- to 12-months of treatments.
That's when I had to get real with myself because, as a mother, I never would have neglected my kids' health. So why was I neglecting mine? Whenever one of my children got sick, I didn't miss a beat. If it required me moving mountains, then that's what I did. But, here I was now making excuses for not taking care of myself: I can't afford to fly back to Minnesota every other month. Or, I don't want to be out of town if I get a call for an interview. Or, I don't want to buy a plane ticket, and then get a call to start work before I can use it.
Excuses Be Gone
I'm that mother who told an employer that they would have to hold a job indefinitely, or give it to someone else, when I got a call from the hospital the night before I was supposed to start, telling me they didn't think my daughter was going to make it through the night. I'm that same mother who was primed and ready to tell her supervisor exactly where he could put his job when my daughter's Orthopedic Surgeon decided to fuse her spine after her orthosis failed to correct her scoliosis. I needed to take a month off work during her recovery, and he told me he didn't know why I needed to be with her since she had nurses at the hospital to care for her around the clock.
This Journey has awakened this mother to her need to take the same proactive approach to keeping herself healthy.
The Self-Care Plan
My first stop: the Orthodontist office. There was no sense in delaying the inevitable. As much as I didn't want it to be true, I knew I had to face the reality that I was going to have to wear braces for at least six months longer than originally planned. And then it was time to see my physician's assistant "PA."
I love my PA, and I think she's very competent. But I try to avoid her like the plague, because if it ain't one thing, it's two or three. The last time I had been in her office, she referred me to a radiologist because my uterus felt big (just stay with me here). She said that it could be fibroids, and asked if I had been having heavy periods. No, and no was my answer, so she continued poking and probing. At the end of the exam, the technician drew blood, and my hemoglobin level was 10, and my red blood cell count was low. These were indicators of my overall health, which wasn't faring in my favor.
"Have you been feeling dizzy, because your hemoglobin level is in the range of a cancer patient"?
"Nope, haven't felt dizzy at all."
"Well, since you've had some rectal bleeding, and your dad has colon cancer, I'm going to refer you to a gastroenterologist."
So, not only did I leave with a referral to a radiologist for an ultrasound to see if I had fibroids, but also one for a mammogram, and yet another one for a colonoscopy.
What I didn't tell her was that I had been having rectal bleeding for exactly one year and 11 months because I was afraid of the "possible" diagnosis. After all, my dad was given two- to six-months to live when he was diagnosed with colon cancer (nine years later, and he's still doing well). And that's around the same time that bestselling author and Spiritualist Iyanla Vanzant's daughter died of the disease at the young age of 31. So I kept telling myself, "It could be cancer! It could be cancer!" in my best Chicken Little impersonation. But once I finally faced my fears head-on, I was relieved that it wasn't cancer, and frustrated that I hadn't taken better care of myself. I was also frustrated that the gastroenterologist told me I had hemorrhoids and prescribed a laxative. Surely, I would know if I had hemorrhoids, right? And if I had them, were they the cause of the heavy rectal bleeding?
When I got home that day I decided to do my own research online. I searched fibroid symptoms and treatments (My PA had suggested a hysterectomy, but that wasn't an option I was willing to consider.) The only symptom my PA had mentioned during my visit was heavy menstrual bleeding. But, I soon found out that I had a host of other symptoms, including pain and numbness in my hip, leg and foot; pelvic pain (at times I felt like I was carrying a bowling ball); and frequent urination. This explained my recent visits to the Podiatrist and Orthopedic Surgeon.
The Podiatrist couldn't explain the pain in my foot, so she simply suggested that I get orthotics (shoe inserts). And after an MRI that showed that nothing was wrong, my Orthopedic Surgeon thought that a series of cortisone injections in my lower back should take care of my hip pain. At that point, I was willing to try just about anything. And since he was the doctor, I set up the appointment for my first shot. I was instructed that I wouldn't be able to drive myself home afterwards, so I arranged for my daughter to take me.
Well, let me tell you, I was in far more pain after that shot than anything I had been experiencing. The radiologist ensured me that this was normal, and that I should slowly start to feel better. Nope, didn't happen. The pain got progressively worse throughout the day, and the only explanation I got from the Orthopedic Surgeon and a co-worker who had similar symptoms, was to stick with the treatment and keep getting the shots. Since I failed to see any logic in continuing getting steroid shots that made me feel worse, that was my first and only one.
The next day I called an aunt who swears by herbs and prefers homeopathic treatments over steroid shots any day. I'd overheard her talking about a detox system at the family reunion that year, and I wanted to give it a try. The products are only available online at http://www.drnatura.com/. I ordered a three-month supply and got started immediately. One of my co-workers who suffered from fibromyalgia and had an autistic son said I needed to also change my diet by eating strictly organic and free-range foods. So, off to Whole Foods I went.
At first I thought I wouldn't be able to keep this lifestyle up because I couldn't afford it. (Eating organic is NOT cheap.) But the reality is I couldn't afford not to keep it up, because I couldn't afford to be sick. I was taking time off work. And the pain and discomfort I was felt was affecting my lifestyle in such a way that I couldn't enjoy spending any of the money I was making. At that point I started seeing an investment in my health as one of the greatest investments that I could make. As part of my lifestyle change, I ordered Jordan Rubin's book, The Maker's Diet. Rubin nearly died from an inflammatory bowel disease that caused him to lose 50 pounds and suffer severe pains. His diet is based on Biblical teachings.
A New Normal
Within two weeks of starting the detox system, the rectal bleeding stopped, and the pain in my hip, leg and foot were gone. I also noticed that my periods were lighter and I no longer felt like I was carrying a bowling ball in my abdomen. Remember when the doctor I asked if I'd been having heavy period and I told her no? Well, I had been "sick" for so long that sick felt normal.
I was surprised how much more energy I had when I went for a follow-up visit a month later and my hemoglobin level was 12.8.
Welcome to the DMV
Last week a co-worker who is a fellow consultant, didn't make it into the office (she lives in another state) because she was having chest pains. She said the pains had started on Tuesday, but she toughed it out until she went back home on Friday and could see her own doctor. That's when I knew it was time to get local insurance, along with a local doctor for myself. I'll still get my Orthodontic treatments in Minnesota. But, as for health care, I need a doctor who can coordinate all of my treatments. I don't commute back to Minnesota each week. And since I no longer consider that home, it's time for me to drop my insurance there, and sign on with CareFirst, a division of Blue Cross/Blue Shield that offers insurance for freelancers and the self-employed.
It's important that I keep myself well on the Journey. Because my health truly is my greatest wealth.