I cannot believe that right off the bat for 2017 I feel compelled to discuss things that many of you are not interested in…but should be. There is a process in life that we all go through eventually. It’s called getting old and it stinks. Not smelly stinks—well, sometimes smelly—but stinks in the way it treats your body. And, maybe…maybe maybe maybe…there are things one can do at an earlier age that will help ease the horrors down the Birthday Candle Highway. And that, if anything, is actually the message I hope to convey.
I am a few months away from celebrating (is that the right word?) my 72nd birthday. I’m not sure how I reached this age so quickly although I have definitely accumulated a lifetime worth of memories, relationships, successes, failures and tons of after-effects which folks nowadays call baggage. My baggage, unfortunately, is the older kind. It doesn’t have those little wheels on the bottom to make it easier to drag them along with me. Other things that I have accumulated are pills, lot of ‘em, and a collection of medical paraphernalia allegedly designed to help whatever ails-yuh.
I didn’t sense I was getting older until I was in my 60’s. That’s when things began happening…little hints of what was to come. There were the sore knees, loss of mall power (the ability to shop and never drop), the telltale signs of rashy psoriasis, less patience waiting for things to get done because of less time between needed trips to the bathroom . Stuff like that. Nothing excruciatingly painful…just annoying. Now, a decade later, things have progressed considerably.
In the past six months the doctors have added psoriatic arthritis and neuropathy to my list of diagnoses. Add these to my sleep and motion disorders, plus my lifelong high blood pressure and you can see why I made poster boy in December for the National Hypochondriacs Foundation. Neither one of these new ailments is curable while they slowly erode my joints, numb my extremities and prove why an aluminum walker, not a Toyota Camry, is the vehicle of choice for many elderly. And, oh yeah, add in last week’s MRI that shows two bulging disks that have pinched a nerve causing me enough pain that I’m actually thinking one of those walkers may not be such a bad thing.
Meanwhile, it takes several weeks to be approved for financial support for the more effective medicines for my diseases. No, I am not at poverty level (give it time) and that is why I have been turned down for one already. It happens that the co-pay for these medicines will cost me—no kidding—over $1000 for a one month supply. And I have the better insurance, not the HMO. These are the same medicines you see on those TV commercials with all the cheerful not-quite-so-elderly appearing people who are happily swimming with friends or tossing bowling balls. These are the same commercials in which the announcer reads off an endless list of all the horrible things the medicine can do to you if your body doesn’t like it. It happens that death would be one of the less stressful side effects.
And this is why older people have nothing to do but talk about all their medical issues. It is overwhelming and much of it cannot be ignored…especially the painful part. Bad things seem to be happening all the time and guess what results from the bad things: other bad things! As horrible as my back pain is, it is unbelievable that my appointment with the back doctor is still two weeks off. No one will see me any sooner. I call every day to check if there have been any cancellations, but demand is high so it’s like a lottery win if you happen to get in early.
So listen up all you 30-60 year-olds out there. Check your family history. See what’s in store for you and then add in all the unexpected issues that could start ruining your so-called Golden Years. Explore opportunities that may be present now that will help you fend off many of these calamities later on. You don’t think they can happen to you? Well damn, yours are the generations that seem to like reality shows, so…Get Real!