Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I Hate Going to the Doctor

Today's the day of my checkup, the first in two years, so I can be forgiven when I wake up feeling a little bit on edge. She's going to tell me I have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and lord knows what else.

This will completely rule my day. I know this because it began last night. Every time I go to the doctor I have high blood pressure because I'm freaking out since I'm at the doctor. That's one reason why I don't go very often. The other is because I haven't done my cholesterol in over a year. I keep waiting to "get back on track," totally denying the probability that this IS my track, s-curves and all.

So I go through the morning all edgy and nervous, pretty sure that this will be the time I'm told I have six months to live. I go to the gym, which functions much as last-minute cramming for a test, which is to say not at all, but at least it makes me feel a little bit better, the thinking being that, hey, I work out; how bad can I be?

That's the most sickening part about my personal brand of hypochondria: it is equal parts neurosis and denial. Yes, she is likely to tell me that I have six months to live, but she is just as likely to tell me I am doing wonderfully, and send me on my way.

This is San Francisco and our doctor works in the Castro, so I am one of a few straight male patients she sees. The first year we were here, when I had a headache, she casually asked me if I'd ever had an HIV test. I now know that she specializes in HIV cases and always asks that of everyone, but at the time, let me tell you, given how little I knew and know about that virus, that was one long week.

I know I'm going to get scolded. If I were a tough guy, I'd blow it off and go on my way. If I were a sane guy, I'd nod my head gravely and promise to be more conscientious. Being me, I try to not gravely, end up looking vaguely constipated and ask if she knows of any good kennels for my dog. She is a dog owner.

Naturally, when the assistant takes my BP, it's sky-high. So high they won't even tell me what it is. And since they're all paid to be cheerful and play it close to the vest, her expression betrays absolutely nothing about my condition. Am I going to have a stroke right here? When she put the cuff around my arm I could actually feel my blood pulsing through my body. It was pretty gross, if you want to know the truth.

See, there's not much, except maybe live, slimy fish, that grosses me out as much as imagining the innards of the human body. The idea that someone would go to school for many years just so they can wipe ear wax off of a flashlight after sticking it in my ear completely baffles me. As many who know me can attest, I would be much happier if the entire human body was full of nougat, like a Three Musketeers bar.

Mine is full of inefficient blood-moving vehicles, given to me lovingly by my mother (bad heart) and my father (high blood pressure). This is their legacy, and I have accepted it, Christ-like, to spare my sisters the pain of these two particular conditions. I have had super high cholesterol since I was 28 and weighed 165 lbs. and have had high BP since I was 34.

Don't think I'm not aware that there are big fat guys walking around with perfectly normal cholesterol and BP. Don't think I don't sneer every time my father-in-law slaps another big old steak on the grill. He has nothing to worry about. After a lifetime of smoking and eating whatever the heck he wants, his cholesterol is something like 149.

So this time the news is not all good. The BP is too high. I haven't done my cholesterol. There are the beginnings of a hernia on my right side, which absolutely ticks me off because the scolding I get involves "going to the gym and doing more core body strength workouts."

Wait a minute. You're telling me that merely going to the gym, doing cardio and working out your upper body isn't enough? Now the fat guy is absolutely beside himself with glee, as are the millions of 1950s tough guys who went out to dinner every night, ate whatever they wanted, smoked cigars and drank scotch until they passed out. Did they have a nice doctor telling them that their workouts weren't good enough, and that they needed to get a blood pressure machine so they could take a reading every day and then email it to their doctor?

Hardly, I'm thinking. I'm thinking that maybe the dames they had draped on their arms occasionally worried about them, and if they felt bad they went to the men's club and took a shpritz (sp?).

I walk out of there feeling angry and decrepit, even though my doctor said, "Seriously, you look good," as she gave me a perscription for fish oil. "Take this twice a day and you'll stay out of trouble," she said.

"I'm thinking at this point, and chance I have to get into trouble I might have to take," I respond. She frowns.

They cut me loose onto Castro Street, the one place, thankfully, where you can be an aging guy who's falling apart and still get checked out by passers-by. I'm absolutely disgusted with myself for being old, disgusted more for not really being that old and yet having the problems of an old guy. Didn't I carefully buy flared jeans so as not to be mistaken for an old guy? Don't I have an LCD Soundsystem CD in my car?

I want decadence and youth. It's 3:00 on a Tuesday, and I want to get on the next plane, go to Las Vegas, drink and gamble for the next 72 hours. After 45 minutes of ridiculously lame small talk and going out of my way not to seem neurotic to my doctor, who in the age of HMOs is probably so overworked that she's not listening to most of what I say anyway, I want to verbally abuse someone for almost hitting me with their car as I step into the crosswalk.

But darn me if I don't know my limitations. Even though my BP had dropped to a manageable 128/88 by the time I left, I am still me. What would happen if I went to Las Vegas without my Atenolol and Zocor? My pressure would skyrocket.

I scale down my decadence. Now I want malted milk balls and I want them bad. Zelda has been on me to try the peanut butter chocolate malted milk balls. If I can find them, they're mine.

Castro street would have the proper kind of food store, the kind with emaciated cashiers and plastic bins full of grain. Sure enough, I find one. All they have, though, are tiny little malted milk balls, barely worth the effort, and surely not at $10.49 a pound, a good $5 more than I have ever paid and a solid $7 a pound more than they charge at malted milk ball mecca, across the street from the Jawa's school. I may be old, I may be falling apart, but I'm no health food store's patsy. Shame on them for taking advantage of the elderly like that.

Walking back up Castro Street, I take ironic note of the store names, most of which draw on a seemingly endless source of metaphors for the male sexual organ. Do I want pizza at the Sausage Factory? A new t-shirt at Rock Hard?

Finally, drinkless, Las Vegas-less, malted milk ball-less, running completely out of steam, anger and decadence and almost at Market Street, I settle on two overpriced cookies at a place called "Hot Cookie!" that sells not only cookies but also red briefs with "Hot Cookie!" written across the font. The two cookies cost $4.60. The Castro is a ripoff.

I'm sure, as Zin Gal suggested, that it probably would have been physically better for me to down six or seven alcoholic beverages, rather than eat two cookies. The cookies are pretty good, or rather, "hot," though. The bottle of fish oil capsules cost $6.19 at a pharmacy that specializes in "difficult and complex patient needs," which is a nice way of saying that they stock protease inhibitors.

Aging before my time or not, I'm still me, and I have to go pick up the Jawa from saxOphone practice, then go home. I've got two crossword puzzles waiting for me, and I'm really going to knock the crap out of them. I'll show those crossword puzzles absolutely no mercy.


Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

your sister has been on high blood pressure medication since she was 29. what is it with you guys?

9:23 PM  
Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

and i just got my cholesterol checked ,if its still high this year i'm sure a new pill is on the way. and have you ever had anyone say " oh, i better have someone else check this too." and run out of the room, eyes as big as saucers? after a routine BP check. fun!

6:42 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

My doctors kept saying that my blood pressure was "a little high" and it was not until I got my own sphygmomanometer that I realized that they were just "white coat blood pressure" spikes. My blood pressure is not great, but it is within normal limits and the only real reason for this comment is to use a word that I cannot even pronounce-sphygmomanometer.

We will make a sacrifice to the gods for your BP and cholesterol.

7:49 AM  
Anonymous flush puppy said...

You need a prescription for fish oil? Really? How bad does it gross you out that you have to put the OIL OF A FISH in your mouth? Ain't no fish oil in a 3 musketeers bar.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

you could just start eating sushi.

1:17 PM  
Anonymous anotherlefty said...

You can get fish oil at Costco for about $7.99 for 350 capsules. The spelling of the word for a sweat in the baths is shvitz.

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Noodle's Mom said...

I'm sorry...you spared your sisters what?? I take pravachol (for my high cholestoerol), and yes, I have had the doctor tell me I can't leave the office until my blood pressure goes down (which so far thankfully, it usually does), Normally I just warn them-"it will be high, just relax, it will go back down"... I too visited the doctor yesterday only to be told my back pain is the normal aches and pains of getting older. I, of course, came up with a much more sinister diagnosis.

6:28 PM  
Anonymous Marky said...

Iso-abs and flutter kicks work the "core" - not fun but chicks will notice.

9:15 PM  
Anonymous the hammer said...

Gee, your other blog fans are much more knowledgeable about blood pressure than I. I know that mine is, thankfully, low. When I go for my OSHA required annual physical at Kaiser Occupational Health (not my personal physician)attended by sadists, I always give them a rough time. I ask them when they last calibrated their automated BP machine and kindly (?) request that the physician take my BP the old fashioned way, which is always lower. Those morons take pleasure when drawing blood - many folks in the "treatment chair" (aka torture chair) end up with huge bruises after being used as a pin cushion during the blood draw. But I detract. Try the machine at a local Target or pharmacy at your leisure, when you're not nervous.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Lefty said...

FYI - s bullock gave blood today. they made her wait for a few minutes ... because her bp was too low: 100/40. i think she has trouble gaining weight, too.

7:35 PM  
Anonymous flush puppy said...

if she ate REAL food, like cheeseburgers and food made with ACTUAL milk, she'd gain weight just fine. Non fat lattes are just beige water.

9:41 PM  
Blogger zelda said...

okay, a few things:

a) oh my g-d all the old and mostly jewish people complaining about their health. i have never felt so young in all my life...not even when the prospective Kindergarten parents at our school asked me this week if i was old enough to drink legally. do i look that young? seriously. i'll suck it up and start wearing mascara if that's what it takes.

b) people who have trouble gaining weight deserve to be kicked, in my opinion. no offense to sandra bullock, honestly sister, good for you. it's just the jealousy talking here, sorry.

c) the chocolate peanut butter malted milk balls are on the "new stuff!" endcap at the westlake trader joe's. speaking of which, they re-did the seating there, have you noticed? i liked it better the old way. i went today at lunch and forgot to play the "give a different name" game and gave the actual name of the person for whom i was getting coffee, a hebrew name actually which understandably might present problems, and the barista asked me three times what i had said before finally asking me to spell it. at that point, please, i will feel less stupid if you just write "bob" instead of making me shout at you over the counter.

d) i once won the award at my doctor's office for lowest cholesterol of the day: 117.

e) fish oil=good and good for you, but i recommend flax seed oil instead. same health benefits and you don't feel like you're burping perch all day. just a thought. certainly you should work through the bottle you have now, though. no need to change boats midstream.

8:46 PM  
Blogger zelda said...

two more things, unsurprisingly.

a) props to the commenter who can spell the word "sphygmomanometer," which just is such a stark contrast to the whole "saxAphone" thing which I refuse to let you live down.

b) oh, and Hot Cookie is just so fabulous in all kinds of ways. i have purchased many a still-warm semi-sweet as a distraction from waiting at the bus stop just outside said bakery for the most infrequent bus in the city, the 24-Divisadero. who actually wears those underpants though is my question? hmm.

10:45 AM  

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