Don’t Be a Forgetful Expat – It Can Cost you!

Just after finishing a one-hour racquetball workout with a friend, I remembered he had made a visit to his doctor earlier in the week. He had been complaining of some knee pains a few weeks prior and finally had it looked at. When I asked him how his visit went, he told me that the doctor said that he was likely suffering from “TMB.” Somewhat perplexed, I had to ask “What is TMB?”  He replied “Too many birthdays.”  Ah, same thing I got!


As age becomes a factor with all of us, our health becomes a major concern and an affliction can be compounded in different ways when living in the Philippines. From lack of excersise to poor diet to the air one breathes – All factors that can alter one’s health quickly and dramatically if not paying attention or taking the necessary precautions to stay healthy.  I retired to the Philippines at the age of 58 and considered myself fairly healthy, aside from some lower back problems which I have had for several years. Over the course of 4 years living in Calbayog City, I seemed to suffer from a slew of new maladies – from a swollen face to unusual joint pains, colds and congestion. Then there was bronchitis… not just once but 5 times (I can blame that on poor air quality). Prior to moving to the Philippines, I’ve only had one previous bout with bronchitis many years ago, from which I suffered an inguinal hernia from the violent cough it produced. After that ordeal, I quit smoking.

From mosquito bites, and exposure to polluted waters and air… living in the Philippines can expose you to a myriad of maladies, and if your immune system is not up to the task (and in decline), you can expect to become affected now and then. As you age, these afflictions can become more complicated and lead to serious outcomes. I’ve seen guys get a scratch on their leg and end up with a very serious infection. In two other cases, I’ve known fellow expats to die of sepsis.

Back to my racquetball partner. When he told me that the doctor suspected just a little arthritis in his knee from getting old, I then asked “Did you ask him about your hip?” (Which he has also been complaining about.) He said “Naw, I forgot to mention it.” Now, here is where that TMB thing complicates things even further – as we age, we all have a tendency to forget the little ailments that really NEED to be reported to the doctor during checkups and visits. Any visit! Every little ailment can be an important piece of the health puzzle when sitting down with you doctor. I have also been guilty of not volunteering these seemingly unrelated issues to my doctor when addressing my main complaint. For example, when pain showed up on the bottom of my left foot (near my heel), it was automatically suspected by my doctor to be the result of a pinched sciatic nerve, which then led that doctor to offer a series of facet joint injections to alliviate the pain. After receiving injections on two occasions, I later discovered on my own that my foot pain was actually caused by another affliction, plantar fasciitis, which was just a sideline symptom indirectly related to my lower back problem. What I self-diagnosed over time was that I had subconciously changed the planting angle of my left foot (outward) in order to alliviate the pain in my lower back when I walked. By being more cognizant of this and correcting my step, I was able to eliminate my faciitis. I also eliminated an occasional mysterious pain in my left knee that would come and go. If I had only reported this fact to the doctor earlier, I could have potentially avoided a mis-diagnosis and the subsequent facet-joint injections altogether.

Unhealty conditions are found everywhere in the Philippines.

Where am I going with this you might ask? Because it is natural for people to forget the seemingly small stuff in life, it becomes even more critical when these things are health issues.  And it gets much harder to remember all those things when we begin to suffer from CRS disease (if you have to ask what CRS is, then you really do need to keep a journal!) 

I have since learned that keeping a medical diary is a good thing. Using a journal to record everyday ailments and/or health symptoms is a great way to keep organized and accurate records to assist you and your doctors. Just because your doctor may know you on a first name basis does not necessarily mean they remember all your health complaints, or the meds that they have prescribed to you, currently or in the past (some doctors have CRS also). I know this because my regular doctor years ago would always ask me to remind him what meds he prescribed to me. Yes, he could have looked through my records to find out, but many times doctors are in a hurry so they don’t bother. The point is that they simply don’t remember each and every patient. They need all the help they can get. And so do we!

So, to help your doctor help you, start your health diary or symptoms log today. You can use a simple written record or you will find there are  mobile apps available for free. From a sharp pain in the neck to a mosquito bite to a leg scratch – keep a record of it all. In the long-run, it just might save you some money… and maybe even save you your long-run! Especially in the Philippines.

Want to know more about staying healthy while living in the Philippines? Click on a previous article below…

Staying Fit While Living in the Philippines

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