Published on July 20, 2015

A new lease on life

Doctor visits helped Yvonne Jarvis take charge of her health

Chances are that going to the doctor doesn’t make your list of favorite things. Then again, that might mean you don’t have Joyce Duckett, MD, an internist at Mercy Philadelphia, for a physician.

But Yvonne Jarvis does. Since 2011, the 74-year-old Philadelphia resident has trusted Dr. Duckett with her health, seeing her four times a year. And she looks forward to each visit more and more.

She even arrives with a gift of healthy food—fresh fruit perhaps, or nuts. That gift is a symbol of the healthy new lifestyle Yvonne gradually achieved with Dr. Duckett’s help. It’s also Yvonne’s way of saying thank you.

An amazing turnaround

“I really can’t wait to see Dr. Duckett,” Yvonne says. “She’s my mentor and motivator, who cares about keeping me healthy—not just treating me if I’m sick. She’s given me a new lease on life.”

That’s no exaggeration. When she first started seeing Dr. Duckett, Yvonne often became winded climbing only a few stairs at home. A former smoker, she struggled with poorly controlled chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a disorder that makes breathing difficult. Her blood pressure was also high, and she was closing in on 200 pounds. Her go-to food was Chinese carryout. She never exercised.

Today—after Dr. Duckett referred her to a specialist in lung diseases—her COPD is so well controlled that she rarely needs medicine. She’s dropped 25 pounds, and she’s committed to losing more. Her diet is low-fat, low-salt and packed with produce. And she’s active daily. Those stairs? She’s up and down them regularly. And her blood pressure is now under control too.

Invaluable advice

Yvonne credits her turnaround to all the guidance Dr. Duckett provided at every checkup. She followed through with Dr. Duckett’s advice to make small, manageable changes in her diet and routine—such as starting her day with a short walk or eating fruit for dessert—and building from there.

And when she stumbled—or thought she did—Dr. Duckett always encouraged her. “If I hadn’t lost any weight since the last checkup, she’d say, ‘But you didn’t gain anything. Don’t lose heart. You can do this’.”

Check up on your health

Even if—unlike Yvonne—you’ve never faced a significant health problem, you too can benefit from regular checkups.

“They’re your opportunity to learn about possible health risks you face and help keep problems from ever developing,” Dr. Duckett stresses. “Regular visits and screening tests can also find problems early, when they’re most easily cured.”

So if it’s been a while since you’ve checked in with your doctor, it’s time to get reacquainted. “You owe it to yourself to protect your health,” says Dr. Duckett.