Don’t be afraid of the big, bad doctor

There’s something to be said for good health. Certainly there is when it wanes, fades and goes. 

A year ago I was convinced I had testicular cancer when I found a lump on my right testicle. Did I immediately consult a physician? No, because I was abroad, my Spanish was poor and I’d yet to meet a Spanish doctor tolerant of those two things. 

Family members forced me to bite the bullet and see a series of older, male and (mostly) rude physicians between October and December to no avail. It wasn’t before I got home to Scotland at Christmas time that a benign cyst was diagnosed within a day. 

Back in Spain, and increasingly severe headaches became the new norm. By April, something put its foot down and left me unable to walk for three weeks with sciatica. No home visiting doctors meant I wasn’t seen until the middle of the second week, and I was reluctant to call an ambulance because I was petrified of being treated as before. And when I say ‘couldn’t walk’? I mean dining room chair converted to a walking frame (after week two). If my fiancee hadn’t been there, I don’t know what I would have done. 

I was signed off work for 19 days, in addition to the seven already taken. The younger female doctors I was treated by were lovely, and happy to accommodate, as was the physician in private practice, too. 

By June, the headaches (and now back pain) were excruciating. Back in the UK again and doctors determined that the headaches were both a product of dangerously high blood pressure and muscle tension in my neck pressing on nerves. 

Why am I telling you this? Well, for the most part, my symptoms are annoying rather than chronic. Bouts of agonising pain means that I can’t sit for long, including when, you guessed it, writing. 

The moral is to say take care of yourself. If you’re having negative issues with Spanish doctors, if the language barrier is too much, take a translator, go private or return home. Bite the bullet. Take care of yourself with a vision in mind of what happens if you don’t. 

What I would strongly implore everyone to do is to check what they eat, what they drink and how often they exercise. Get rechecked if there are health issues in your family. Know the score.

Summer is ending. We’ve all, likely, enjoyed a little bit of excess here or there. Let’s make sure we’re fighting fit for the next one and start looking after ourselves now. 

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Alastair Stewart 255 Articles

Alastair Stewart is a freelance writer, journalist, and teacher based in Edinburgh and Almería. He regularly writes about politics, history, and culture for magazines across Europe.


He was formerly a press officer at the Scottish Parliament. He graduated from Edinburgh University with an MA in International Relations.


Alastair founded DARROW in 2013 to support new and emerging writing talent in Scotland around the world.

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