There are countless reasons why people don't want to go to the doctor. But Queen Latifah wants to help them change their minds. The acclaimed actress and singer-songwriter opened up to FirstForWomen.com about why she thinks so many folks are uncomfortable about annual checkups, and how she hopes she can help put their minds at ease.
"I have members of my family who I know have been kind of scared to go to the doctor," the 48-year-old said. "And once they went, it became something that wasn't so scary. It wasn’t the news that they thought they were going to get. They found out that there were things going on, but there were things that could be done."
Queen Latifah knows that checkups are crucial for all families — including every family member — no matter what the reason is for someone's hesitation. That's why she's partnered with global health service company Cigna in a new campaign that emphasizes the importance of going to the doctor every year to evaluate your physical health as well as your emotional and mental health.
If the thought of having a personal conversation with your doctor makes you uneasy, you're not alone. Queen Latifah says that some people might not like to go to the doctor because they fear they haven't been taking care of themselves properly. Others may be wary because they saw a beloved relative get terribly sick or even pass away from an illness. And other folks may even suspect that something's "off" about their health that they haven't discussed with anyone at all.
"Often, a lot of people are afraid because they’re the ones who have to carry the weight for their family," Queen Latifah said. "And they don't have time in their mind: 'I don't have time to be sick.' They’ll try to push through everything."
But she thinks the stigma that comes from going to the doctor needs to go away: After all, if you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to take care of anybody else. So the next time you go to the doctor for your annual checkup, Queen Latifah suggests opening up more about your health in a natural way.
"I know it can probably be a tough thing," she said. "But your doctor will generally ask you, 'How are you feeling?' Maybe instead of just talking to them about how you’re feeling physically, talk to them about how you're really feeling."
She suggests that you could potentially say, "I'm feeling blue." Or perhaps: "I've been a little snappy." Or even: "I haven't been feeling like myself lately."
No matter what you reveal, Queen Latifah wants to remind you that this conversation is private and confidential. Once you start to get a little more comfortable with the dynamic, you can start to build a real relationship with a doctor as time goes on. Queen Latifah says her father has done an excellent job of building that type of connection with his doctor.
"He will go to the doctor for every little thing, and I love that about him," she said. "I think he’s a good example, especially for the guys, because guys can be like this: They don't want to go to the doctor. 'Oh I'm fine. I'm fine.'"
As for Queen Latifah herself, she says that her doctors know her like the back of their hands and can tell when something is wrong with her health — and also when something is right with her health. But no matter who you are, going to the doctor is not only important for you but also important for your whole family.
"We carry a lot of stress," Queen Latifah said. "We work really hard. We work long hours. We’re trying to figure out what's going to happen next. Sometimes, these things can take a toll on us, so it's really important to kind of open up."
While you open up to your doctor, you can also add self care to your everyday life without sacrificing care of your loved ones. Queen Latifah said this might include a brisk solo walk. Perhaps it might involve staying in the shower for an extra 10 minutes, or it may be as simple as sitting in the car for just a moment before going indoors.
"You know what? If you've gotta have your coffee first before you jump into that superman or superwoman suit, you gotta have your coffee," she said.