Guest post by Laverne H. Bardy whose humorous, often irreverent, slant on life in general, and aging in particular, draws a large readership. She has been syndicated with Senior Wire News Service since 2004. Her book, How The (Bleep) Did I Get This Old? was released in January, 2012, and is a compilation of the best of her columns.
I’m tired of doctor’s offices. I’m fed up with driving there, sitting there and filling out forms that take longer to do than the duration of any of my illnesses.
Once upon a time a visit to the doctor meant answering a handful of questions: Name, Address, Why are you here?, How long have you had these symptoms? Today, the time spent at a doctor’s office rules out time for doing anything else. The day is shot.
The other day the receptionist handed me seven sheets to fill out while I waited for the doctor to grace me with his presence. Two of the sheets only needed my signature. One gave me the option of allowing others to know my medical background. Why would anyone want to know my medical background? She had her appendix removed in 1947? We can’t hire her; she’s defective.
On the other sheet I listed people to contact in case of my death. I was there because of an annoying toenail fungus. Dying never entered my mind. Now I wondered if I should worry.
Because there’s never room to list all seventeen of my surgeries, seven medications, and seven allergies I opened my wallet, withdrew my prepared list and handed it to the receptionist to copy for her records.
Forty five minutes later the doctor, who obviously believed his time was more valuable than mine, was ready to see me. But I wasn’t ready for him. I still faced two sheets of questions, so he had me bring the papers with me. Of course there was no way I could continue filling them out and fight off the nurse who was trying to weigh me. I saw no reason to humiliate myself on the scale. I had stood on my scale that morning, naked. I didn’t like the numbers then. Why would I like them better when I was fully dressed? And besides, what did weight have to do with a nail fungus?
Then she asked, “What medications are you on?”
She looked up from her desk. “You’re in your seventies and you’re not on any medications? Do you have any idea how unusual that is? You’re so fortunate.”
“It’s not really luck,” he said. “When I married my wife four years ago, we agreed she would do medications, and I would do yard work. We’ve both upheld our ends of the bargain.”
I’m not a hypochondriac. Every sickness, ache, pain and disease I have is real – at least to me. I’m concerned that when I write on my income tax return that I’ve traveled 2,500 miles to and from doctors this year, a red flag will be raised and I’ll be audited.
My last problem started with pressure and pain in my lower left abdomen. I tried ignoring it but when I no longer could, I visited my Internist.
“We’ve got to stop meeting like this,” I instructed him.
“Because I’m sick and tired of seeing doctors,” I answered.
“Truthfully, I’m fed up with seeing patients,” he quipped.
He pressed and palpated and decided I probably had diverticulitis, an irritated colon; a common condition in older people, but not to be ignored. He sent me for a CAT Scan, which wasn’t conclusive, so he put me on an antibiotic for five days. When that didn’t help he suggested I see my gynecologist.
GYNECOLOGIST!! Uh oh!
Once home I did some online research. By the time I arrived at my gynecologist’s office I was hyperventilating, sweating and in a state of panic. I even took a Valium, which I’d not done since before my last surgery seven years earlier.
The gynecologist walked in and found me sitting on the edge of the examining table.
“Sit down,” I instructed her. “I have some bad news.”
Her brows furrowed. “What kind of bad news?”
“I don’t want to upset you, but I have ovarian cancer.”
“WHAT? How do you know that?”
“I read it on the internet.”
“Lie down and assume the position,” she commanded.
Within seconds of her physical assault she began to laugh out loud.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
“Honey, your ovaries have dried, died and gone to Ovary Heaven.”
“Really? And that’s a good thing?”
“Unless you want more children,” she said. “I suggest you see your gastroenterologist and have either an Ultrasound or another CAT scan. I feel certain it’s diverticulitis.”
I hugged her and cried tears of relief. Then I left her office with prescriptions for an Ultrasound, an MRI, a Bone Density test, and a Mammogram. It was then it occurred to me I’m not going to die from a common disease. I’m going to die from radiation poisoning.