Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)

Andrew Siegel MD    11/24/2022 Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is all about gratitude and giving thanks for what we have. I am most grateful for good health. Many take their health for granted until disease or infirmity strikes, only then realizing how special and extraordinary good health is. When you work in the medical field and are constantly exposed to the many ways the body can go awry, it gives one pause and reinforces the concept of not taking one’s health for granted.  My own health afflictions as well as those of my patients, family members, and others make me appreciative of the good fortune of being healthy and the importance of respecting, cherishing, and nurturing our bodies. After all, our greatest wealth is health.

Most people take their health for granted, particularly younger people as well as those of any age who have never had a serious injury, disease, or infirmity. It is often not until disease or infirmity strikes that one realizes how wonderful and extraordinary it is to enjoy good health and the miraculous functions of one’s body. As we get older and some form of infirmity or disability inevitably surfaces, many of us only then begin to genuinely appreciate our good health and no longer take it as a given. 

Our bodies are magically engineered and extraordinarily complex with numerous systems functioning simultaneously, synchronously, and flawlessly until some health issue will undoubtedly emerge. These systems among others include the following: musculoskeletal, nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, respiratory, urinary, digestive, lymphatic, sexual, reproductive, and immune.  Our brain and nervous system provide us with thought, creativity, memory, emotions, and function as the master regulator of virtually every system.  Our senses allow us to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.

My father suffers from macular degeneration that has effectively rendered him unable to read, drive a car, peruse his mail, participate in sports, balance his checkbook, etc.  My witnessing his struggles has made me so much more appreciative of eyesight, the absolute miracle of high-definition, binocular, 24-7 color vision.  When my wife had Covid and lost her senses of taste and smell for several weeks, I became so much more appreciative of these miraculous senses that allow us to enjoy eating and pleasant aromas.  When I experienced severe sciatic nerve pain due to a herniated lumbar disk, I developed a newfound appreciation for not feeling disabling pain and a profound compassion for those suffering with any kind of neuropathy. Recently, a patient related that his cervical neuropathy rendered him unable to button his shirt, a task assumed by his wife, so now I feel gratitude for this taken-for-granted motor skill when I am dressing in the morning.

One of my orthodox Jewish patients brought to my attention that there is a specific blessing of thanksgiving for bodily functions that is traditionally recited upon exiting a bathroom.  It is known as Asher Yatar (“who formed”) and it expresses gratitude for urinary and bowel functions, without which it would be impossible to live. She gave me a laminated poster of this prayer (see image below) that I keep in my office.

The English translation of this Hebrew prayer is as follows:

Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe, who formed man with wisdom and created within him many openings and many hollow spaces. It is obvious and known before Your Seat of Honor that if even one of them would be opened, or if even one of them would be sealed, it would be impossible to survive and to stand before You even for one hour. Blessed are You, Adonai, who heals all flesh and acts wondrously.

As a urologist, I interpret “if one of the hollow spaces be opened” as urinary incontinence (urinary leakage) and “if one of them be sealed” as urinary retention (inability to urinate).  Nowadays, when I exit the bathroom, I give a brief silent nod and feel gratitude for this simple act that when malfunctioning can cause so much grief, aggravation, and disability.   

Joni Mitchell’s lyrics from “Big Yellow Taxi” summarize the situation perfectly:

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

Bottom Line:  Many do not appreciate their health and amazing body functions until something goes awry.  We should all be grateful and appreciative for our good health before things break bad and make every effort to respect, cherish, and nurture our bodies. After all, our greatest wealth is health.

Wishing you the best of health and a wonderful Thanksgiving,

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Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro AreaInside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community. He is a urologist at New Jersey Urology, one of the largest urology practices in the United States.  He is the co-founder of PelvicRx and Private Gym.  His latest book is Prostate Cancer 20/20: A Practical Guide to Understanding Management Options for Patients and Their Families. 

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Video trailer for Prostate Cancer 20/20

Preview of Prostate Cancer 20/20

Andrew Siegel MD Amazon author page

PROSTATE CANCER 20/20 is now available at Audible, iTunes and Amazon as an audiobook read by the author (just over 6 hours). 

Dr. Siegel’s other books:

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual, and Urinary Health

Video on THE KEGEL FIX

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health

PROMISCUOUS EATING— Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

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