THE DOCTOR WILL GET BACK TO YOU

I always tell people they should get in touch with the doctor when they are worried. I know that doctors are far from infallible, but until recently, I thought they at least cared enough to make an effort to keep you from dying.

A few days ago, it felt like something was stuck in my gum in back of my mouth near one of the big molars. I brushed. I flossed. After a while, it was still bothering me, but I was turning my gums into hamburger, so I quit.

Yesterday, I took a flashlight and looked. Nasty. The gum is eroded and puffy, slightly grey. Not pretty. Too late to call the dentist, but I had an appointment next Wednesday and had prophylactic antibiotics in hand.

I had a mitral valve replaced last year, among other heart-related surgeries. Oral infections are particularly dangerous for heart patients. They will spread quickly from mouth to heart valve.

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I followed my own advice.

This sort of thing can be scary. Fast as a speeding bullet, I could be dead — which is why I take antibiotics before I have dental work done. It’s also why I have to be ultra careful about infection in general.

Not knowing what else to do, I starting taking the antibiotics. I figured taking antibiotics I might not need would be safer than doing nothing. I would be upset and depressed if I died before I got to the dentist.

As it turned out, my dentist doesn’t have hours on Friday. He works alone — no associates — so there was no one I could talk to until Monday.

I called my cardiologist. Talked to the nurse. Explained I’m taking clindamycin which I got from my dentist just yesterday. It’s not a full prescription, but more than the amount I normally get before a dental appointment — 16 pills. Pharmacy error? If so, it was a fortunate one. I looked up dosage information on-line, and started taking it last night.

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I explained all of this to the nurse. She assured me the doctor would get back to me. It took a couple of hours, but he did.

Until other circumstances I would have  called my “primary care doctor,” but he has never bothered to read my medical history. He understands nothing, doesn’t listen, dismisses me as a weird, old hypochondriac. My cardiologist, on the other hand, is one of the good guys.

I like to think they balance each other out. Does medicine work that way?

So, here’s my advice. Talk to your doctor. But maybe you need to start by finding a doctor who cares. Shows compassion. Who will get to knows you well enough to recognize you if he bumps into you on the street.

Because mine wouldn’t.

DON’T STOP LAUGHING

Everything and everybody changes, but recently a couple of people I’ve known for a long time have changed suddenly and dramatically. Overnight, they became dry and humorless.

It appears they had a humorectomy. While they slept, their sense of humor was removed. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but it’s deeply disturbing. Have they been replaced by pods, like the  “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”?

I could not survive if I did not see how ridiculous my life is. If the absurdity of it didn’t make me laugh, I would do nothing buy cry and bewail my state. Laughter heals me. It’s better than sex. Better than yoga, meditation, medication, or street drugs. It’s free, unrestricted by laws, available to anyone who is not yet dead and is acceptable behavior under almost all religious systems.

Many friends are going through rough times. Their problems vary, but the results are the same. Stress, anguish, fear, worry, insomnia. You worry, try to keep it together until you’re ready to explode.

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What can you do? When the light at the end of the tunnel really is the headlight of an oncoming train, I say: “Buckle up and let your hair blow in the wind. It’s going to be a hell of a ride.”

Laughing at the craziness, insanity, ludicrousness, the utter absurdity of my life — and the demented world in which I live it — is my first line of defense against despair. Take away laughter, strip away my sense of humor, and I’m a goner.

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I laugh any time I find a reason. At anything that strikes me as funny, which isn’t always appreciated by other people. I even laugh when I’m alone (weird, right?). It reminds me why it’s worth staying alive.

My friends make me laugh. I make them laugh. When our lives are in tatters and everything around us is collapsing, we laugh. Then, we take a deep breath, and laugh some more. The more awful the situation, the more dreadful and intractable the problems, the funnier it is. We are not laughing at tragedy … we are laughing at life.

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The difference between tragedy and comedy is how you look at it. Laughter is the antidote for everything. Try it. It’s a cure.

BROWN RECLUSE SPIDERS DON’T LIVE HERE

In the last week, since Garry has been less able to do “the heavy lifting,” the question of who will help who and which of us can perform the more physically demanding chores has loomed large. We haven’t found an answer. Maybe there isn’t any.


The doctor said it looked like a brown recluse spider bite to her. She was looking at the swollen, scabbed over wound on Garry’s leg.

“It doesn’t look anything like a tick bite and Garry’s blood panel was normal. No indication of any other infection. All levels normal.”

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I said “All the experts say there are no brown recluse spiders in this part of the country.” Of course there are loads of apocryphal stories and data to belie that smug assertion, but experts are expert. They can’t be wrong so you can’t argue with them.

The doc gave me a look and said “Right!”

The initial Lyme titre already came back. Negative. It probably would be negative at this point even if there were an infection incubating. I’m optimistic because my beloved shows no symptoms of a systemic infection. Only his leg hurts. Which makes sense — if he was bitten by the spider that doesn’t live here. The mythical spider reported by so many people, but completely denied by official experts.

Sometimes, experts sound like they are deep in denial. Or is that just me?

We’ll run another blood test for Lyme in about a month, but the odds are? Garry was bitten by a brown recluse spider. Which probably was living by the side of the house where the woodshed was until recently, when my son tore it down.

That’s exactly where these spiders (the ones that don’t live around here) like to hide. In old rotting wood piles, cardboard boxes, damp garages, and basements. Oh, I forgot to mention that these same experts assure us that these are very non-aggressive spiders and only bite when they feel threatened. What would make a spider feel threatened is left to our own imagination.

Nonetheless, experts say we don’t have brown recluse spiders around here. So — what, me worry?

ROCKS. BOULDERS. LIFE.

A rerun (with editing) from 2013. Shorter. Pithier. No less true.

Asking for help is easy. Getting it may not be.

I don’t mean getting someone to review your post or help you carry a heavy box up the stairs. Those are easy things, no big deal. You’ll happily do such things for anyone, even a stranger … and they for you.

What about when you can’t manage the basic stuff of life on your own anymore? When a bag of groceries is too heavy? When a flight of stairs looms Everest?

Ask you family for help? They’re busy. Maybe they can find a little time around Thanksgiving. Or New Year’s.

“But I need help today!” The silence is deafening.

Growing older has plenty of good, solid reasons for fear. Real issues of being left to the care of unfriendly strangers, unable to manage day-to-day tasks are more than a little scary. There’s nothing psychological about them.

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Everyone would rather not need help. Universally, people prefer self-sufficiency. When that’s no longer an option, the world has a frozen, dark look. It’s not your world any more.

There are boulders in the middle of your life. Immovable. Huge, heavy, solid. Waiting.

BECAUSE TOMORROW

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry … NOT

We are not eating, drinking, or being merry today. Garry is sick. He has been for about a week. It started with a bug bite. I thought it might be a spider — or a tick — but since we didn’t see what bit him (only the results), we can merely guess.

It was ugly and Garry didn’t realize what was going on because the bite site was on the lower part of the back of his left calf, right above the ankle. Not a body part easily accessible visually — or any other way.

By the time he found it and showed it to me, it was rather alarming. Large dark grey irregularly shaped blisters surrounded by a dark red, swelling. I’ve never seen anything like it and I’ve seen a lot of stuff. I cleaned it out with surgical iodine (the legacy of all those surgeries), slathered it with antibiotic cream, bandaged him up and he seemed to feel better. That was Thursday … and he had been limping and in pain since the previous Sunday.

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This morning he woke up with a fever, shooting pains up both legs, and a headache that feels like his head is going to explode. Garry never runs fevers. Never. In more than 50 years, I can’t remember him ever having a temperature above normal.

The area around the bite looks worse. Two of the lesions on his leg (there are four) have turned black. Nasty.

Found a doctor, got him there. There is talk of Lyme disease, exactly what I’ve been worrying about. This is Lyme disease central and we live in the woods.

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Before we can even begin to diagnose Lyme, he first needs to deal with the skin infection that has developed around the wound.

Monday, we need to try to get blood again. They couldn’t get anything out of his veins this morning. Three stabs was enough. He’s dehydrated and exhausted, so I brought him home. Garry is just where he wants to be right now. Home. Wrapped in sweat clothing, blankets, and head phones.

You won’t find him on the Internet today. Me neither, sorry.

I’m going to sign off after this, because I have to finish eating and drinking, then get to the pharmacy for antibiotics and antihistamines.

This is the first time I’ve driven a car in about a year, but it really IS like riding a bike, but easier — no balance required.

SERENDIPITOUS PHOTO STORY PROMPT – 2015 #4 – ON MEDICAL ADVICE

SERENDIPITOUS PHOTO STORY PROMPT –
WEDNESDAY – 2015 #4 – MEDICAL ADVICE

I’ve decided to do this once weekly. I will publish it out every Wednesday (because Wednesday is the middle of the week). Yes, that’s the real reason.

Please try to add your own ping back (links). If you aren’t sure how to do it, put your link in a comment. That works too.

Every Wednesday or until I throw in the towel, I’ll publish a picture and write something about it. You can use any of my pictures — or one of your own — as a prompt. If you find my subject interesting, by all means, extrapolate. Any length is acceptable from a couple of sentences, to a chapter from your upcoming novel.

Please link it back to this post (ping back) so other people can find it.

What do I mean by “story” and “pictures”?

Story. Words. Poetry, prose, fact, or fiction. A couple of lines, a fanciful tale.

Pictures. Video if that’s your thing. Scanned pictures from your scrap-book. Weird pictures from the internet. Cartoons. Pictures of your family vacation and how the bear stole your food. Any picture you ever took and would like to talk about.

SIMPLE

It sounds simple. It is simple. Every picture has a story or ought to. There are no rules. Follow my lead, ignore me, follow someone else’s idea. Any picture plus some text. Short or long, truth or fiction. Prose or poetry.

One final thing: If you want to get notices of these posts, you’ll have to subscribe to Serendipity. I’ll try to title relevant posts so you can easily recognize them.

My effort for this week follows.


MEDICAL ADVICE

I’ve had a hard decade and a half. The past 15 years have featured one life-and-death medical emergency after another. Just over a year ago, I went into Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston.

The cardiac surgeon replaced my mitral valve, performed a bypass and a cardio-myectomy, also known as a septal myectomy. For dessert, they installed a pacemaker because my heart has forgotten how to beat without an electronic reminder.

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I’m much better. My energy is coming back. I’m five-years post cancer — a big milestone for cancer patients. And my cardiologist says I’m doing great.

A week ago, my PCP demanded I show up and have a physical. Since he was holding my prescriptions hostage, I went.

Complaints aside, I’m a compliant patient. I have too many dangerous medical conditions to mess around with anything. So, I whine and bitch, but I take my medications on schedule and in the correct amounts. I am cautious about anything health-related.

I eat healthy. I don’t have much of a choice. Sugar free. No soft drinks. Don’t eat cake. Don’t have chocolate. I have complicated digestive issues after two bariatric surgeries, so there are a lot of things I can’t digest. I eat very little.

Imagine my dismay when my doctor sent me a letter informing me I have high blood sugar. I am “pre-diabetic.” Under other circumstances, I wouldn’t have been surprised. All 6 of m y father’s siblings were diabetic, so I knew it was a strong possibility it would strike me at some point. Having gotten this far, I thought … Well, maybe I just wasn’t thinking.

I’ve been hypoglycemic my entire life. “Low blood sugar” is not the opposite of “high blood sugar,” aka diabetes. Both conditions mean your body doesn’t properly manage sugar, which is why I eat like a diabetic. After all the shit I’ve been through, I thought I was entitled to — if not a pass — at least a respite. Time off for good behavior.

Somehow, I have to lose at least 10 pounds. It’s going to be an epic summer. I really know how to have fun.

YOU’RE JUST FINE!! GARRY ARMSTRONG

This week, I had my six-month checkup with my primary care doctor. I’ve had the same doctor for 15 years. She has seen me through some rough times. She knows me pretty well, physically and mentally.

I’ve been feeling my age recently and was sure it would be reflected in the examination. My vitals were taken, my prescription list tweaked and I received a pneumonia booster.

The doc chatted with me about how things were going at home, with life in general. I mused about recently celebrating my 73rd birthday and not feeling very celebratory.

I explained how my hearing was getting worse. Almost gone in my right ear. “My hearing aids help,” I volunteered, “But not enough.” I told her I didn’t socialize much anymore because of my hearing problems and found it to be demoralizing, if not outright depressing.

The doctor knows Marilyn fields most phone calls because of my hearing. To some degree, my wife is my “handler” in many situations because I’m so hard-of-hearing. I admit here my hearing problems are also the source of unnecessary arguments with Marilyn. She’s a trouper.

I hate the word “deaf.” but that’s probably the reality these days. The doctor shook her head sympathetically as I vented.

The conversation (my jabbering) crisscrossed over the lousy winter, the mediocre (or worse) Red Sox pitching, agitated conversations at home about old movies and too-often-watched repeats.

Frustration with lousy drivers involving a conspiracy to drive me crazy.

Garry with Bonnie and Nan

I’m absolutely convinced there is a conspiracy using high-tech eavesdropping and radio equipment to alert slow drivers I’m about to leave home. Marilyn concurs.

The doctor smiled as I whined. I was sure she could see how my world was turning.

A recheck of my pulse and then another careful monitoring of my heart. The doctor looked up at me with a funny smile, almost like she was flirting with me.

“You have the heart of a 25-year-old”, she beamed. She said I was in terrific physical condition, concluding with a robust: “You’re just fine!”

I groaned and left the doctor’s office.

MY BIBLE BUMP – THE CYST ON MY WRIST, REDUX

I’ve got a bible cyst (also known as a bible bump) on my left wrist. No kidding. It’s not quite as funny as it sounds.

It has been a nuisance for a while. Since the last round of life and death heart surgery, it has moved down the priority list from a serious problem to a minor aggravation. Everything is relative.

It’s been on my wrist for years. It’s annoying. It came and went (typical behavior for cysts) and has made it impossible to wear a watch. Hardly a medical emergency.

This is a ganglion cyst on the inner right wri...

One day, about two years ago, it blew up. Got huge. Too much typing? It hurt when I moved the wrist.

I talked to the doctor about it. He thought I should address the cyst and the arthritis in my hands at the same time.

Before that happened, the cyst deflated — and my heart blew up. It’s two years later. A lot of heart surgery, but I’ve still got the cyst, which still comes and goes. Sometimes it hurts, other times it itches. I live with it. I have bigger things on my plate.

What makes it a Bible Cyst? 

Ganglion cysts, typically located on wrists (though sometimes on knees, fingers or toes) are known as “bible cysts,” alternatively as  “Gideon’s disease.”

Why? Glad you asked. In the good old days, the treatment for ganglion cysts was to give them a hard whack with a heavy book, breaking the cyst and draining it. Since the bible was usually the heaviest book in the house (often the only book), though I’ve heard a full-size dictionary, Oxford or Webster, will do the job just fine. You see the connection, right?

Somehow, getting whacked on the cyst with a heavy book seems a solution I’d rather skip.

Ironically, the old “whack the cyst with the bible” apparently works every bit as well as any modern surgery. Better. Cysts thus whacked rarely return. I suspect the whackee would never tell anyone if it did recur. One bible whacking is probably enough for any wrist.

It gives a new meaning to the expression “bible thumper”!