|Fisher Price vintage toy exhibit at a children's museum|
Taken by me, May 9, 2009
I am - how shall we put this? - not very diligent when it comes to my health.
I mean, I do the easy shit. I wear my seat belt every time I get behind the wheel. I haven't eaten a morsel of red meat since 1996. Don't drink, don't smoke. I've even been known to take the steps on occasion instead of the elevator.
That would be about it.
A yearly physical? You've got to be joking. A mammogram, even though I'm almost 43? Never had one. (I'm kind of chicken, truth be told. And I know. I KNOW. I used to work for the American Cancer Society. I know the statistics and the stories.) Regular dental visits? My teeth are so far gone it's a miracle they're even here. Cholesterol and triglycerides creepin' up there? Plaque, schmack. Pass me my Limited Edition bowl of Edy's Eggnog Ice Cream, stat.
I have a toddler-like thyroid that doesn't want to do what it is supposed to do, which necessitates my kicking it in the ass by taking a little white pill every day. That's it, one little pill. (Well, and occasional bloodwork, which is another issue. Every time I've had it done has been an insurance battle, and I don't have time for that crap.) So, when we moved, my prescription ran out and ... well, for three months I haven't bothered to deal with it. It was kind of nice not having to be bothered with the morning pill taking, truth be told.
But, feeling a little more sluggish and in the blahs and more on edge than usual (and blaming the season and weather, knowing that winter ain't even officially here) I thought maybe it might be behoove me to get back on track with this thyroid nonsense.
So, I made an appointment with a new doctor.
Who, instead of being like my other doctors and saying platitudes like,"Oh, jeez, that's not good," when I've confessed my wayward transgressions in the thyroid department (I have a history of this nonsense), this one grabbed the Grim Reaper's scythe and waved it over my head.
"Don't you EVER do that again! You could have wound up in a COMA!"
"Huh. Really?" I said, suppressing the urge to quip that there were more than a few times during this hellacious year that I would have welcomed a coma.
"A COMA!" she bellowed again, as if I was either deaf or unfamiliar with the word.
"Oh. I guess I didn't realize that."
"Please promise me you'll never do anything like that again," she implored. "Please."
On her MacBook she tapped out a prescription for four times my previous dosage, then reversed course. "I want you to get a full blood workup," she demanded. "And I want to see the results on my desk by Monday. This is an EMERGENCY situation. LIFE AND DEATH."
I wanted to tell her that I thought she was getting a bit dramatic, that I was pretty certain I wasn't going to lapse into a coma right then and there. And that my definition of life and death was ... well, something different than my sitting there perfectly healthy (in my opinion) on the edge of the exam table, reading The New Yorker on my Kindle before she came in the room.
(Life and death to me is more along the lines of getting called out of your 10th grade homeroom on a day when your dad is home sick with the flu and informed that your mother is out front to pick you up RIGHT. NOW. because your father is now #4 on the heart transplant list at the university's hospital downtown.)
My father's untimely departure from this Earth at age 44 was, thankfully, not brought up in this medical conversation. Otherwise, there's probably a good chance I'd be writing this post from a hospital bed and undergoing every test known to man, if my new doctor had her druthers.
We went through this routine - minus the coma predictions - a bit longer. No mammogram and you're 42 years old? March yourself down to the imaging center, now. (This one I internally laughed at, knowing there likely wouldn't be an opening until months from now. Just my luck, they have a slot open for Monday afternoon. Who can blame them? Of course they do. Who the hell wants to get a mammogram two weeks before Christmas and worry about getting a cancer diagnosis all gift-wrapped? And then repeat that shit every year at this time?)
Getting migraines that last three days, several times a month? Another prescription, and another. Why haven't I ever had an MRI or a CAT scan? (Um, because this is the longest conversation I've ever had with any doctor about my migraines.)
I emailed The Husband when I got back home, with nearly $1,000 worth of medications in my possession. (Thank God for insurance.)
"It's about time," he replied, meaning that I was long overdue for some tough love in this department. He reminded me that we were getting to the age where we needed to pay attention to these sorts of things and man (or woman) up to tests like mammograms and prostate exams that tend to leave people quaking in their boots.
I don't know how to account for my lazy, tomorrow's another day attitude about these matters. I know that I have two young kids who I very much would like to be around for, and I know there are many others who are in the fight of their lives and would love nothing more to grab the Grim Reaper's scythe and bash my selfish self over the head with it. I'm more than well aware, thank you very much, that I am creeping ever so closer to the same age as when my dad died and I'd be lying if I said that didn't cross my mind more often these days than it used to. And I'm conscious of the irony of all of this - I KNOW exactly what it's like to grow up without a parent.
Which makes me - what, exactly? Feeling like I'm invincible? That if you can survive a parent's death at 15, you can survive anything?
One of my very, very favorite writers is a woman named Marion Winik. I love every word she writes. While driving back from the doctor's office, I thought of this essay of hers ("Decline and Fall of the Party People: The Hepatitis Chronicles, part I"), published just two days ago. She's a kindred spirit of sorts with this medical procrastination business and her essay is about her days of reckoning. When I read it, I thought how very much I wanted her to be OK, how much I was rooting for her, how I was hoping it wasn't too late.
I'm not looking at this doctor's visit of mine today as my Come to Jesus Day of Reckoning, but maybe it was a little bit of a preemptive strike.
A wake up call from this oblivious, selfish coma I really have been in.
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