In my pre-senior days I was not one to complain (much) about my body. Colds, flu, minor aches and pains, bad hair days (the norm for me), extra weight – another long-term issue, I occasionally ruminated about these things but went about my life. They did not consume my time, energy, money, mind. I rarely went to the doctor for more than regularly scheduled appointments, and besides my doctor, OB/GYN and dentist, no specialists probed my body.
How life changes.
Now that I am a card-carrying member of the Medicare crowd, not too many weeks pass before I visit some kind of medical professional. Sometimes I cross their threshold one time only; usually more frequently. My calendar is replete with appointments for my doctor, gynecologist, dentist, dermatologist, dermatology specialist, gastroenterologist, podiatrist, neurologist, optometrist, endodontist, chiropractor. Then there are trips to the lab for blood work, the medical imaging center for a test, the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions, and the urgent care center when my doctor can’t see me and my body screams, “MEDICAL ATTENTION! NOW!”
I am exhausted reviewing my new medical reality.
Yet according to my doctor I am fine.
Healthy, relatively speaking. For my age.
My cholesterol is on a slow, steady uphill climb and it is a challenge maintaining my blood pressure within recommended limits. I am ¾ of an inch shorter than I used to be.
I have officially become the incredible shrinking woman. I am compacting - less height, no less weight.
I could (should) lose a few pounds, exercise more, eat less cholesterol-clogging foods. But most Americans over the age of 50 should heed this advice. We can blame our parents or greedy corporations that produce unhealthy foods or restaurants that serve huge portions or all these plus other culprits, but can only blame ourselves for indulging in the great American lifestyle.
And now we are paying the price. Of course simply accumulating years takes its toll, too.
Now whenever an ache or pain occurs in a body part long ignored, I start imagining what the problem might be. Major, minor, temporarily disabling, perhaps costly…the scenarios get worse as the condition intensifies. I can’t sleep, my body aches, my mind makes me crazy and I turn into an emotional and physical wreck.
I remember vaguely as a little girl listening to the old folks – my grandparents and other relatives of that generation -
complaining discussing their aches and pains. I rolled my eyes and occupied myself with more important matters, such as what’s for dessert, what’s on TV, homework…
Now I fear I am too much like them. I try not to chatter on about physical ailments, but too often am drawn in by my peers.
Is it inevitable? Another benchmark of aging we cannot defy?
Do we have too much free time now to dwell on our troubles?
Or are we becoming – I hate to say it – BORING (I fear my grandkids might use this term to describe me, in addition to words like: old lady, old-fashioned, slow (physically? mentally? afraid to ask).
Meanwhile right now I have to shuffle off to go take my pills. And record my blood pressure. As I stand on my toes to brush my less-than-pristine-white teeth and lean forward over the bathroom counter to examine my gray hair and squint at the mirror with my less-than-20/20 vision I ask myself – who the hell is that old lady staring at me?