Over Christmas, I got the flu…the plague. There was a well documented H1N1 outbreak going on at the time, and I’m pretty certain that’s what I had because it’s been years since I’ve been that sick. I hardly ever get sick. I might get one cold per year. Anyway, it was the middle of January before the symptoms were fully gone, but even then I had a nagging cough. By the middle of February the cough was still there, although less severe. By the middle of March, the cough was pretty much gone, but my lungs still felt kind of congested and I didn’t feel like I could draw a full breath. I decided to go to the doctor.
Now…I’m not a day-to-day hypochondriac, but if something gets to the point where I think I should go to the doctor, I’ll be able to give you a detailed rundown of what the problem probably is and how long it’s going to take before it kills me. My first thought was that I had mild pneumonia, but it was only a few hours before I realized it was actually lung cancer.
This isn’t as crazy as it sounds. My friend Fiona went to the doctor because she had a sore throat, and a couple of years later she was dead. Turned out the sore throat was a symptom of multiple myeloma. She was 6 months younger than me.
When I get to the doctor’s office, he does the usual doctor stuff with his stethoscope and all that, and then he says, “I want you to go get an x-ray. Here’s the requisition.”
“Oh shit”, my brain says to me.
“Go this afternoon.”
“I’ve flagged this as ‘stat’. I want you back tomorrow.”
That’s confirmed then. It’s cancer. I’d better clean up my email so my parents and kids don’t discover what a depraved loser I am after I die. I’d better figure out who all the people are that I owe an apology to. That’s going to take a while.
I left the doctor’s office and went directly to the radiology lab, and went back to see my doctor the next day. He says “the x-ray is clean. Tell me something, do you get heartburn often?”
“Uh, yeah. Mostly when I’m in bed”, I say, confused by how my cancer hasn’t shown up on the x-ray, and trying to figure out how invisible cancer can cause heartburn.
“OK good. I think what’s happening is that the acid reflux is leaking into your lungs. Go get this prescription. Take one pill a day.”
Turns out the valvey thing* that’s supposed to keep all the juices in my stomach is a little bit worn out and leaky. A small amount of acidic goo is dribbling out of my stomach, up my esophagus, and somehow making it’s way into my lungs. It’s a bit like when your shitty old car’s shitty old engine starts blowing blue smoke because it’s worn out and too much oil is getting into the cylinders. My doctor said it’s common in babies because their valvey thing is not fully developed yet. I stopped him before he could say “but your problem is that yours is old and shitty.”
When I were a lad, 20 short years ago, I used to complain about what an ordeal it was to go anywhere with kids. Everywhere you go you need a stroller and a bag filled with diapers and creams and a change of clothes and bottles of milk and snacks. Nowadays I look at my backpack that I take to work, and the only real difference between it and a diaper bag is that I also carry a book. The rest of my daily needs are a variety of creams and pills and drinks and snacks. It won’t be long until carrying a change of clothes and underwear is prudent.
Getting old sucks, and anybody who says it doesn’t probably wasn’t very physically active in their youth. The slow deterioration of my body is depressing. I’m fine with my aging brain and personality, but physical aging has absolutely zero redeeming qualities. Even in my mid to late 30’s, I loved being able to go skateboarding with impunity. The potential of a heavy wipe out at some point was no reason to not do it. Cuts and road rash and broken bones heal. Now I worry about falling off my bike if I have a stroke while riding to the grocery store that’s two blocks away.
I have gout.
My right knee makes an interesting but alarming grinding noise when I stand up.
I’m getting my 78 year old dad’s arms.
And now I have a god-damned prescription that I have to take every god-damned day for the rest of my god-damned life because my god-damned valvey thing isn’t even as good as a god-damned babies.
I guess I need to buy one of those little plastic pill boxes with separate compartments for each day of the week, and set up a bunch of reminders on my phone so I don’t forget to take my old-guy chemical cocktail every day.
People like to say “50 is the new 40” or “40 is the new 30”. That’s nonsense. You can’t just subtract a decade from your age to make yourself feel better. I’m 50.
50 is the new 50.
*(the lower esophageal sphincter)