Getting old ain’t for sissies
by SARAH MORRISON STEPHENS
A couple of years ago I sat around my dining room table at my beloved lake house on Lake Bistineau in Louisiana with two of my friends I have known since grade school.
I had come in for the weekend to visit and the next morning found us sitting watching the sun rise, drinking coffee, and reminiscing about some of our “wilder” memories from the lake house over the years.
Instead of waking to bodies sprawled on couches and the floor, and beer cans in pyramids, we woke up, fixed breakfast, made coffee, swept the floor, cleaned counters and sat down to rest.
The table wasn’t covered with remnants from the party the night before, or cluttered. It was very neat and clean. Instead, in the center of the table were bottles of prescription medication, some for each of us. We dutifully took our medication for a variety of things that we all have. It dawned on me, and I said it out loud.
“We are getting old.”
A few feeble arguments ensued, but in the end they gave in and realized, yes, time has rolled over us like a Mack truck.
Time does that.
If I had any doubts, this past week has reminded me more than I desired that getting old is not for sissies.
I went in to my doctor to have my prescriptions renewed and that turned into a battery of tests to get me updated. A general EKG turned into, “We saw some irregularities, it may be nothing, but it is better to have it checked.” That is the long version speak for a stress test. “And we will take a lot of your blood while you are here, and also schedule you for a mammogram and Pap Smear.” Joy. Oh, Yippeeeee. That stuff, while I certainly don’t look forward to it, was acceptable. I have been down that road before.
A stress test? Seriously? I remember my parents having those. In their 70s. I am a young and perky 45, thank you. A stress test?
Here is the thing about stress tests. They bring on lots of stress. Your mind wonders and worries. Are my arteries blocked? Is my ticker on the way out?
And they never do a stress test right then and there. Oh, no, they make it a week out so you have even more time to worry and stress about it. You google all sorts of dreaded things about heart disease and learn more than you wanted to know. You remind yourself you have smoked far too long, and eaten way too much, and exercised way too little. You start wondering who would actually show up to your funeral.
Stress tests. Aptly named. Well played.
Now, this is where I would have liked to have told you that it was nothing, it all turned out fine, the doctors said they found nothing wrong. Truth is, I didn’t even take the stress test because the nurse said, “Your resting heart rate is higher than normal. So a generic stress test won’t work for you.”
As she watched my heart count she had the nerve to ask, “Are you anxious?” Seriously? I am hooked up to some type of halter device, surrounded by the smells of a doctor’s office, thinking I may be getting a horrible diagnosis, and you wonder if I am anxious?
I explained that my higher than normal resting heart rate goes back to my youth. I have always ran a bit faster than “normal” folks. As a friend told me, “Normal is just a setting on a washing machine.” Some folks just go at their own speed. They were not impressed.
A doctor walked in and looked at the printout. He didn’t call for an ambulance, or make a bad face. He did say something about “She threw a few PVCs.” I have since learned that isn’t abnormal either, especially when you are under STRESS!
He just said that I will need to come back for a different test that involves injecting dye into my body. Oh, that doesn’t stress me out at all. Then he and the nurse chitchatted about Beta blockers or something like that, and he said he would get in touch with my regular doctor.
I haven’t heard from my regular doctor, which leads me to believe whatever it is, it could be worse. Either way, I know that these kinds of tests and doctors’s visits are just a part of life. Not the fun part, mind you. But it could be that the fun parts are what landed me in a stress test to begin with.
So, for all of you out there who are dealing with these same types of issues, rock on! It is just a part of growing older, something that too many folks were never given the option of doing. I may be growing older, but I adamantly refuse to grow up.
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