Being a woman of a certain age, I get the regular letters the NHS sends, dropping through my letterbox, encouraging me to be screened for this, that or the next thing.
I can cope with the things you do at home and send off. I am not so keen on the personal appearances that some of these screenings require.
Actually, that’s a gross understatement. Those personal appearances fill me with dread and have me wishing I was on another planet. I am so glad they don’t take your blood pressure at the same time because if they did, mine would probably be off the monitor.
Truth be told? Lovely and kind though the staff are, I cannot get out of the likes of the breast screening clinic or the smear test office fast enough. And because they cause me to cringe with every fibre of my being, I can understand why there are those who simply cannot bring themselves to go to these appointments.
And for men they are equally as personal.
But it is also true that I realise that the minutes of embarrassment may well save months of a life-shortening, tough-to-endure illness from which there might be no coming back.
Which means while I might put off making the appointments for as long as I can, I do eventually bite the bullet and I would never think of ducking out of them altogether.
I do realise they are for my benefit. But with the physical ordeal over (until the next time) there is then the wait for the letter with the results to arrive. It’s not something I consciously bother about, but I do know that I breathe a sigh of relief when I have the note in my hand saying that all is well.
But sometimes a letter takes too long and a phone-call is needed. A person is asked to go for further tests. And if the results of those are not straightforward or good, there is even more for people to get their head round as the minutes of embarrassment turn into weeks or months of treatment. Treatment that can often leave a person feeling worse than they did before they ever went to the doctor.
And once more there is the need to stop and weigh up the trauma of the treatment against the consequences of not having any at all.
In these circumstances the choices before us are stark. We go or we don’t go to appointments. We accept or we don’t accept treatment. We know that whatever we decide – that decision will have consequences that we need to live with.
But we make equally as important choices with barely a thought.
We choose to drink too much, drive too fast, spend too much, eat what’s not good for us and assume that the consequences will never quite catch up with us. They will eventually.
Worse still, when it comes to the world around us, the choices we make have consequences that affect not just us and future generations, but they affect people everywhere as well as the world itself.
I look around my kitchen and I am embarrassed by the plastic containers that I buy which can’t be recycled. I look at the number of times I use my car to make short journeys that ought to be walked.
I think of the shops I sometimes choose to shop from whose prices are lower because they fly things in from other parts of the world, hundreds if not thousands of miles away. I think of the full kettle that I boil and only use half of its contents, wasting electricity.
I have done these things for years without batting an eyelid but now I realise they are not ‘rights’. They are not ‘just the way things are’. They are a choice on my part that harms instead of helps.
It seems that the truth is that I am quick to look after ‘me’ and slow to bother about anyone else. I will put myself out and beyond my comfort zone to go to screenings for my own health. But I’m not so keen to put myself out for others by buying only local fruit, using environmentally friendly wrapping for food, opting for the likes of soap nuts for the washing machine as well as walking more or advocating for better public transport in these rural areas in which we live.
There are those who choose to opt out of NHS screening and we try hard to encourage them not to.
There are many more of us who choose to opt out of nurturing and caring for the natural world around us.
We really need to be encouraging each other to think beyond ourselves.
For us. For the world. For God’s sake.
The Right Rev Susan Brown is minister of Dornoch Cathedral and the former moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland