All of us farmers seem to have a reluctance to go to the doctor. As a group, farmers put in long hours and often put our own health last on the list of appointments. We can meet with our own nutritionist, veterinarians, agronomists, bankers and farm service agents to make sure we take care of our cows and farm. But when it comes to taking care of ourselves, we often push back on making an appointment.
When my kids were young, they went to the doctor for their required checkups for vaccinations and physicals to participate in sports, but we were confident that the runny noses and coughs would clear up as their antibodies would kick in and fight the cold or infection. We did make appointments for ear aches or the occasional accident that needed to be stitched up. If it was an emergency, we went for care.
In the past, we didn’t have health insurance. Now, we have coverage. I am getting text messages and emails daily to remind us to review our plan and re-enroll or the plan will roll over automatically. Looking through what is available in the plans, I also noticed the providers in our area are limited. I value the time it takes to evaluate and check that we are getting the most for our dollars.
I am a breast cancer and brain tumor survivor. I struggled many years with a brain tumor without being diagnosed. I had symptoms of severe headaches, ears ringing and eventually black spots floating in my vision. I felt depressed and had bouts with anger that were thrown at my family. I knew something was wrong and getting worse. After seeking help from a local doctor, and then not being satisfied with the care I received, I got a second opinion from another physician. It was in her care that I was sent for an MRI and finally diagnosed with a brain tumor. Getting a second opinion saved my life. That was 16 years ago.
Annually, I have appointments to have an MRI. Nine years ago, the brain tumor returned. Shortly after I began treatments for the brain tumor, I noticed a lump in my breast. After the exam and biopsy, it was diagnosed as a cancerous tumor. I have been cancer free for nine years.
The mammogram and MRI scans are now only once a year. The appointments are always in December. The anxiety and tension that begins to surface after Thanksgiving has a lot to do with these appointments. But, I am exhausted with the emotions that come with the holiday. It has become more stressful on many people who have been struggling financially and emotionally with the holiday that seems to focus on spending.
I have less enthusiasm for the Christmas holiday each year. I don’t look forward to decorating and putting up a tree. I have reserved feelings about purchasing gifts that are not meaningful. The commercialization of the holiday is to blame, but I have never had to control a feeling of needing to spend money on useless items. It is a struggle to figure out why I have problems feeling sad.
After my appointments in the middle of December, I do feel a relief. Somehow, I carry a worry that I don’t recognize until the scans are read to me. It seems that my inner self is able to breathe easier, and I have a brighter outlook for the day. I must be darkened with depression and am able to pull myself free just with the hearing that I remain cancer free.
By recognizing the feelings of darkness within myself, I am able to feel the need to reach out to others in need in our own communities. Mental health is a crisis in our rural communities. Knowing the need to reach out to others to see how they are doing can save a life. Just be a listener. Have contact with someone with a text message or phone call. Ask how their day is going and if there is anything you can help with. Often a hug goes a long way to show you care. If you are unable to help or provide what is needed, reach out to the national hotline.
Since the pandemic, many people have reached out for help for themselves or others. Help is available by calling 988 or visiting https://988lifeline.org. The lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress and prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.   
    Tina Hinchley, her husband Duane and daughter Anna milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots.  They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin. The Hinchleys have been hosting farm tours for over 25 years.