Humour by Rehana Munir: This is going to hurt just a little bit

Published on Aug 27, 2022 12:29 AM IST

The empowerment of a comprehensive health check-up comes at a cost. When was the last time that you got one done?

Health check-ups are a necessary evil, but they’re the price we have to pay for growing older (Hexcode)
Health check-ups are a necessary evil, but they’re the price we have to pay for growing older (Hexcode)
ByRehana Munir

One of the rites of passage as one gets older, and prone to doubts about having accumulated any wisdom at all, is the complete health check-up. Figuring out what’s on your mind is a never-ending project. You’re no longer interested in certain friends (were they always mansplainers?) and foods (what was that paneer obsession about?). You need different things from travel than you did in your backpacking days (comfort trumps character-building). And your relationship with money is more confusing than the logic behind GST. But—if you put your body through the rigours of a check-up, you’ll know secret things about yourself that will bestow upon you an instant sense of control over your inscrutable life.

Enter Sandman

Well, that’s the hope. Before you reach the promised land of all-empowering knowledge, you need to negotiate the rocky terrain of tests and probes that push the limits of your self-possession. I’ve recently travelled through the deep, dark woods of the comprehensive health check-up and lived to tell the tale. It all begins with an innocuous form, creating the illusion that what follows will be a clinical process with no emotional import. The ample breakfast provided after the fasting blood test cheers you up: how bad can the rest of the day be?

You’re exhorted to keep sipping water so as to facilitate the impending sonography. Easy enough. The chest X-ray and bone density test are like those early questions on Kaun Banega Crorepati about popular phrases and common vegetables—merely a formality on your way to the serious stuff. You’re particularly chuffed as the lab assistant compliments you on your bone density. “Do you drink milk every day?” “Never!” you reply, feeling suddenly invincible. Rookie error. Enter Sandman. You’re ushered into the mammograph room and all bets are off.

The sinister photocopier

If this is your first breast examination, you’re expecting a combination of awkwardness and mild discomfort. You find yourself, instead, staring at a mammoth contraption with a resemblance to a photocopying machine, but with far more sinister implications. I’m eternally grateful to science and its various advancements—in this case, the early detection of breast cancer. Might I humbly suggest a less fearsome process? It’s the least fun anyone will ever have with their clothes off was a recurring thought I had in that warren of rooms in the diagnostic centre. The indignities of the mammograph withstood (a very angry vernier caliper is the best analogy I can provide), you realise you’ve OD’ed on the water they’ve prescribed for the sonography. Of course, the room is busy when you need it. You and your urban bladder.

When you’re finally ushered into the sonography room, it’s a peculiar pleasure to see your internal organs named on the screen; they’re where they should be, and they seem ok. That’s a good boost. One is so used to seeing these screens relaying images of babies, you’re half expecting to see one pop up on your monitor. It’s a significant relief when it doesn’t.

No-stress test

Urine sample deposited in an ignominious cupboard, you feel you can start over, shaking off the remembrance of tortures past. You say no to an eye test and diet consultation, for that’s the only place you get to exercise your agency. You go somewhat sheepishly into the dentist’s chamber and walk out with two cavities, which isn’t too bad. The worst is over, you naively believe. And then comes the pap smear. Which can only be described as the reverse birthing process. To put it delicately, it’s like someone’s pushing a baby back up your lady parts.

You walk in for your stress test with a sense of resignation. You don’t flinch when they wire you up, a dozen sticky electrodes and what looks like a battery fixed to your chest as you climb up a treadmill—the strangest sporting performance ever. Your body decides to reward you for your exertions with a steady heart rhythm, confirmed by a confidence-boosting ECG. “Your results are good. You can party tonight,” says the cardiologist. I mutter something about spoilsport migraines. “Depends on what you call partying,” he says wisely. I end up watching Brad Pitt’s Bullet Train in a nearby movie hall. Rookie error.

Follow @rehana_munir on Twitter and Instagram

From HT Brunch, August 27, 2022

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