As James approached his 50th birthday, checking in with a doctor was a gift he knew he needed to give himself. It had been 10 years since his last annual checkup, and he was overdue for some important tests, like a colonoscopy. When his appointment with Vera uncovered prostate cancer, his birthday visit turned out to be a life-changing gift.
“Unless I cut myself and there are fluids pouring out of me, I don’t go to the doctor,” says James. Ten years without a general checkup is a long time for anyone. For James, it just didn’t seem worth the hassle. Getting an appointment with a general practitioner could take months to pin down. And as the Superintendent of Street Maintenance for the City of Anchorage, he was a busy man who didn’t have a ton of time to go to appointments.
But as his birthday approached, James knew he should get an annual checkup. When he got an email about a new partnership between Vera, Anchorage, and Blue Cross, he decided to act.
“I thought it would be a low-cost way to get in and see a doctor, but they actually paid me to go,” says James about getting an incentive to complete an Annual Whole Health Evaluation. He spoke to a provider, had his blood drawn, and got most of his lab results back before he left his clinic, which told him that he had high blood pressure. Two days later, he got a call.
“It was from the largest urology center here in Anchorage. They told me that Vera had referred me as a patient because my PSA levels were high,” recalls James. “It shocked me. Because I knew that was a bad sign.”
PSA stands for prostate-specific antigen. Providers look at PSA levels to screen patients for prostate cancer. James’ lab results had come back with high PSA levels that triggered Vera to refer him to the local urologist. Just a few days after his initial appointment with Vera, James was in the urologist’s office for follow-up tests. The results weren’t great. As James tells it, “I found out that I had full-blown prostate cancer.”
In December of 2018, just four months after his initial appointment with Vera, James was scheduled for surgery. After a successful operation, James got great news. His cancer was gone.
And regular checkups will ensure that any recurrences of prostate cancer are dealt with immediately. James jokes, “The doctor seems pretty confident I’ll probably just die of being ornery.”
In the meantime, James has a clinic and a provider he can count on for regular checkups. “I never had a doctor, but I’m learning to trust people a lot more,” says James. And he’s got a message for others, “Gentlemen need to go in and get their PSA tested. It’s easy. Getting your numbers checked isn’t an invasive experience. It’s just a blood draw. It’s simple, and if they catch it early it’s a huge deal.”