LIFE CONTINUES WHEN YOUTH HAS FLED

I keep hearing that “age is just a number.” If that’s true, then youth is also just a number.

The whole “number” part of aging applies only to the years you’ve (so far) survived. The remainder of the equation has to do with how your body is doing. Whether you still have mostly original equipment or have had to install after-market replacements. Those whose DNA or good luck have allowed them to feel young tend to ascribe their well-being to a positive attitude. It’s easy to believe that when all the parts are in good working order.

After that, life isn’t about your attitude. It’s about what works, what doesn’t. And what you do about it.

96-Me Young in MaineI had a great attitude when I discovered I had cancer in both breasts. A positive approach was not going to make the cancer vanish. I figured it would be pretty clear sailing after that, but much to my surprised (dismayed) chagrin, a few years later I discovered I had a failing heart. Which I’d dismissed as “something else.” Maybe psychological.

Reality crashed in and I had to face it or I would die. A positive attitude wasn’t nearly enough. I wanted so badly for it to be untrue. A medical error. How could I be that sick?

I learned a positive attitude works best in conjunction with good doctors, appropriate care, and commonsense. Sometimes, you have to let your body take the lead. If you want to live, that is.

Mind-over-matter and “age is just a number” are overused platitudes. Being cheerful won’t fix a non-working heart valve, remove cancer, or replace your knees or hips. People who believe a bright smile and a positive attitude are the same as youth and good health are in for a rude awakening. Sooner or later, it comes to all.

Marilyn and Garry by Bette Stevens

Marilyn and Garry by Bette Stevens

On the day when reality crashes in, that is when you need to be positive. Life doesn’t begin and end with youth. Accepting the real limitations life imposes requires guts, determination, and an ability to roll with the punches. Courage is accepting that you can’t do all the stuff you used to do while finding stuff to do you never considered. Or figure out how to do old things in a new way.

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It doesn’t take much courage to face the day if you feel great and your body works. If fate decrees otherwise, you need plan B. That’s when you find out what you’re made of.

Unless you die early, youth ends. For everyone. During most of life, we aren’t young. That’s okay. If youth were the only thing worth having, we’d all be dead before 30.

There is life after youth. I think that’s when the real fun begins.

THE DAILY POST | YOUTH

LIFE? DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT LIFE.


Marvin: Life? Don’t talk to me about life!
Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 1979

There’s a lot of stuff going on. None of it — discounting, for the moment, the presidential election (which is a huge discount) — life-threatening, but much of it tiring and annoying — and all of it, expensive. These days, being healthy carries a hefty price tag.

When you live on a fixed income,  a few thousand dollars of additional debt is a big deal. It brings us to a screeching halt. It’s weird having to decide if ones health is worth the money. Even more hilarious, I find myself wondering if I’m going to live long enough to amortize the investment. If you feel inspired to encourage me with a platitude at this point, please don’t. I’ve heard them all, no doubt said them to myself and probably to other people. It will not make me feel better.

72-$ Ten thousand dollar bill

As a side note, last week, someone in New Hampshire won $457 million dollars on a $1 lottery ticket. It wasn’t us.

The only reason I’m bothering to write about this stuff at all, is it’s putting a damper on my joie de vivre.

So here, in his own words, are tidbits from the philosophy of Marvin, the Depressed Robot

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Picture credit: BBC

A Sunny Disposition:

Marvin: “My capacity for happiness you could fit into a matchbox without taking out the matches first.”

Arthur: “I think that door just sighed.”
Marvin: “Ghastly, isn’t it?”

Marvin: “Sorry, did I say something wrong? Pardon me for breathing which I never do anyway so I don’t know why I bother to say it oh God I’m so depressed.”

A ‘Can Do’ Attitude:

Arthur: “Marvin, any ideas?”
Marvin: “I have a million ideas. They all point to certain death.”

Trillian: “Marvin… you saved our lives!”
Marvin: “I know. Wretched, isn’t it?”

Marvin: “I’ve calculated your chance of survival, but I don’t think you’ll like it.”

A Strong Work Ethic:

Marvin: “I think you ought to know I’m feeling very depressed.”
Trillian: “Well, we have something that may take your mind off it.”
Marvin: “It won’t work, I have an exceptionally large mind.”

Marvin: “Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they ask me to take you to the bridge. Call that job satisfaction, ’cause I don’t.”

Marvin: “‘Reverse primary thrust, Marvin.’ That’s what they say to me. ‘Open airlock number three, Marvin.’  ‘Marvin, can you pick up that piece of paper?’ Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they ask me to pick up a piece of paper.”

A Good Education:

Marvin: “It gives me a headache just trying to think down to your level.”

Arthur Dent: “You mean you can see into my mind?”
Marvin: “Yes.”
Arthur: “Well?”
Marvin: “It amazes me how you manage to live in anything that small.”

Marvin: “I am at a rough estimate thirty billion times more intelligent than you. Let me give you an example. Think of a number, any number.”
Zem: “Er, five.”
Marvin: “Wrong. You see?”

A Positive Approach To Health And Well-being:

Zaphod Beeblebrox: “There’s a whole new life stretching out in front of you.”
Marvin: “Oh, not another one.”

Marvin: “Do you want me to sit in a corner and rust or just fall apart where I’m standing?”

Marvin: “The first ten million years were the worst. And the second ten million: they were the worst, too. The third ten million I didn’t enjoy at all. After that, I went into a bit of a decline.”

A Keen Interest In Philosophy:

Marvin: “Life? Don’t talk to me about life!”

Marvin: “I ache, therefore I am.”

Marvin: “Life. Loathe it or ignore it. You can’t like it.”

There, now don’t we all feel like better people already?

Douglas Adams, I still miss you all these many years later.

THE WEEK DRAWS TO A CLOSE

I got to see some really great x-rays of my spine yesterday. Garry got to see them too and I gave him a short course in why Marilyn’s back hurts. And how come what hurts also keeps my spine in one piece.

FYI, I'm a level 4 -- or was at the time of my surgery.

I was level 4 at the time of my surgery.

When I was 20 years old (1967), my vertebrae L3 through L5 were surgically fused. Not the way they do it today using hardware, but by taking a piece of my hip bone, pounding it into paste, and thence into glue. They first removed (to the extent they could back then, before micro instrumentation) the discs which were herniated and ruptured. Not doing me any good anyhow. They did their best to wrap the nerves to protect them from additional damage. Then, they  doped me up, wrapped me in plaster from armpit to knees, and told me not to move for a year.

I was in the hospital for four months. Flat on my back. Then I was at home for a long time. As soon as I felt better, I got pregnant.

They don’t do the surgery like that anymore. Nowadays, the surgery is entirely different. Plus, they get you out of bed and on your feet the day after surgery. But, this was 1967.

Treatment had begun to change even then, but change hadn’t made it to Oceanside, Long Island where I had my surgery. I should have gone to a more up-to-date hospital. I would have saved myself some pain and misery, though I think, in the end, the results would have been pretty much the same.

Fast forward 49 years. The fusion disintegrated decades ago, but nature is creative. My body provided its own version of fusion using calcium. That calcification is called arthritis, but it has effectively stabilized my spine. It hurts, but I’m not falling apart. This back won’t easily break.

There’s also nothing to be done about it. No surgery. My hips are terribly painful, but my hips are fine. The pain is reflected (deflected?) pain from my spine. So how come my back hurts too? If the pain is going to make something else hurt, shouldn’t it not hurt there too?

Spondylolisthesis-1What’s an aging lady to do? I can’t do MRI because I have a pacemaker and it isn’t one of the fancy ones that are immune to magnetism. I should have a warning label that says “Keep away from magnets.” An MRI is all about magnetism, so I’ll have to settle for a simple CAT scan.

Then, off to the spine folks and see if they are able and willing to try injecting cortisone and lidocaine to at least give me a few months of relative comfort. They might not be willing to do it. My back has scared some pretty impressive medical professionals. And if they can and will do it, there’s no guarantee it would help.

The good news? That ugly mass of calcification that has formed a solid sheath around my lower spine also guarantees that I can stand on my own feet. I may not walk well or stand straight, but I’m also not falling apart. It won’t get better, but it seems likely that it won’t get a lot worse, either. It’s pretty much as bad as it can get.

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Who knew falling off horses when I was a teenager would disable me as a senior. They don’t warn you about that … and I wouldn’t have listened anyway. When you’re 15, you don’t see yourself old and broken. Probably, that’s a good thing.

The good news? My back is close to the same as it was seven years ago. It isn’t noticeably worse, though the CAT scan will paint a clearer picture. For me, not worse is good. Great, even. There are worse things than pain.

A BUSY WEEK

This is a crazy busy week. Dogs and doctors.

Two weeks ago, Garry pulled his shoulder (the one on which he had rotator cuff surgery seven years ago) lifting Bishop into the Jeep. He needed to see the ortho doc today.

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I haven’t had the leisure to take many pictures or write posts. I’m surprised I’ve done as much as I have. It’s like dancing between the raindrops.

In answer to your unasked question, Garry is (apparently) okay. He hurts and it’ll take a few more weeks of healing for the pain to diminish. It’s probably a sprain, not a tear. Which doesn’t make it hurt less. As for me, I’m off to the arthritis specialist tomorrow. I’ve been avoiding this for a few years because the news on my spine is never good and the answer is always the same: there’s nothing to be done except control the pain. Bummer.

Garry’s going to be in New York next week. I’ll have plenty of time to write. Meanwhile, as our personal juggernaut drives relentlessly through a personal calendar that barely leaves me time to cook a meal, much less eat one, I’ll be thinking of you.

DNC democratic national convention logo_2016

Tonight, watching the DNC, I was proud to be a Democrat, the party that talks about inclusion and coming together. We ain’t perfect, but we are not demonizing minorities and spewing hate. We fight among ourselves, but in the end we are for America and for each other. And that makes me feel pretty good in a year when Orange Head is telling everyone we should be afraid of everyone, and especially each other.

I’m not afraid. I bet neither are you.

Today’s Daily Post theme is “unstoppable.” I’m hoping that’s exactly what we are. Unstoppable, brave, and honorable.

PLEASURE? HOW ABOUT A BIT LESS BYZANTINE?

I have spent the entire morning making phone calls to doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and gardeners. Am I having a crisis? No. I simply changed doctors … and incidentally, changed medical networks … or partially changed networks because I’m keeping my cardiologist and associated hospital, but my new primary guy uses an entirely different network and hospitals.

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While the world is busily announcing all these great 24th century style ways of diagnosing and connecting patients and medical records … I can’t get Beth Israel in Boston to send a copy of my medical records to UMass Memorial in Worcester.

I can’t even get my previous PCP to send my records from his office in Needham to the new guy’s office in Douglas.

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Pleasure? Surely we can make this stuff simpler? Everyone is being nice. We are all kind, polite. Lots of pleases and thank yous … yet somehow, the important information which ought to be flying through the ether … isn’t.

But the gardening people? They already came this morning and dug out that catalpa which was determined to root in my well. I’m sorry catalpa, but I couldn’t let you do that. I notice they took you away, so maybe you will be reborn in a better location where you can be loved and wanted.

Pleasure? I’d be happy to not have to spend half a day untangling this stuff. Surely we can do better than this?

THE DAILY POST | PLEASURE ???

GOP TO SENIORS: JUST DIE ALREADY

If you’re on Medicare, that’s the message you’re getting.

Paul Ryan wants to bring back allowing insurance companies to refuse insurance based on pre-existing condition. In other words, if you’re really sick, you definitely won’t get medical help. He also wants to eliminate additional help for people with serious illnesses who need expensive medications and long-term care. Way to go Ryan. What a guy.

medicare__estelle_carol___bob_simpsonIf this stuff were to actually go into effect, a lot of people will die. I’m very likely to be one of them. Our death certificates won’t say “killed by their government,” but that will be the truth. Nine years ago, I almost died because I didn’t have medical insurance. I got lucky. I was saved by a great doctor and his hospital who performed the surgery I needed. If not for them, I wouldn’t be writing this or anything else.

Even without any additional cuts, out-of-pocket expenses of Medicare have been going up annually. Ever-higher deductibles and premiums and the massive doughnut hole in prescription coverage keeps going up … while Social Security doesn’t. Many of the most fundamental, critical medications aren’t covered at all — emergency and other inhalers for asthma sufferers, nitroglycerin, newer antibiotics. This year, I did not get a CAT-scan as part of my cancer check up. I haven’t had a scan for three years because I can’t afford it.

Vaccinations are no longer a medical expense either. Instead, they are now classed as prescription medication and fall under Medicare Part D. Of course, none of the prescription plans actually cover vaccinations — except for flu shots. They’re free. Anything else will cost you. Hundreds of dollars. It’s cheaper to let us get sick — maybe we’ll die and save even more money — than vaccinate us against preventable diseases. Millions might avail themselves of preventative measures (we are old, not stupid), but many fewer will contract the illness. It’s all about the good old bottom line.

Medicare-Payment-Methods-1024x768

Ever since I turned 65, it’s been a downhill slide.

The day I turned 65, I was dumped by MassHealth (Medicaid). I hoped I’d be protected by my disabled status. I’d been on disability for years which was why I was entitled to MassHealth.

No problem getting around that. Social Security reclassified (sound familiar?) me as not disabled and switched me to standard Social Security. This eliminated the extra protection and medication support I’d been getting.


“Why don’t you just die already?”


Social Security and Medicare is not charity. This is money we paid into the system during our working years. It is an entitlement as in “we are entitled to that money.” Because it is our own money supposedly being returned to us. As promised.

They took our money and promised it would be our safety net when we were no longer able to work. When they make cuts to Medicare and Social Security, they are stealing our money. Remember that when you hear the rhetoric.

FORGING AHEAD WITH PURPOSE AND A HEADACHE

I have been depressed. Not that dark “can’t get out of bed” depression that some people get and that I have also experienced. This is the slow, grinding depression that accompanies having a lot of stuff to do that I don’t want to do.

As a start, I have to change doctors. Granted I’m not thrilled with my current doctor. He’s not a particularly caring, supportive guy … and he is far away. I will only go to see him if I’m sick enough to be afraid I’ll die … but that alone probably wouldn’t motivate me to change. It’s that my doctor is changing “groups” and the group to which he is moving doesn’t accept our insurance. So, I have to find another doctor.

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If you don’t have a doctor, you can always take a hike

General practitioners or “family doctors” are in short supply. Of all the specialties, they are the most necessary yet the lowest paid. They carry the heaviest patient loads and burn out fast. The shortage of these basic providers is a national crisis. It’s worst in thinly populated areas. Big practices are mostly clustered around larger cities and we aren’t a city. We’re also short of good surgeons and all kinds of specialists. They make so much better money in Boston and there are good research and teaching hospitals there. Any big city offers better choices, medically for both doctors and patients.

All my whining notwithstanding, I have to change doctors. A lot of paperwork is required, including providing a full list of all my prior surgeries, illnesses, etc. Such a bummer. I don’t remember all the surgeries. I don’t remember the names of the doctors who performed them and in many case, the exact name of the surgery or in what country or state it was performed.

This isn’t because I’m old. It’s because there have been so many over the years.

Above and beyond remembering what happen, where, when, and who was involved … I am not exactly thrilled to revisit the experiences. There are a lot of rancid memories that go with this stuff and having to dredge it up again makes me sad. I don’t even remember the name of my heart surgeon and that was just two years ago.

Medical marijuana

Regardless, I need to take care of it immediately. There is some good news in the midst of the not-so-good stuff. I think this guy may be a better doctor than the one I’ve got … and his office is a mere few miles down the road. It will be very nice to have a doctor (again) to whom I can go without driving 60 miles through heavy traffic!

Meanwhile, before I do all the paperwork, I have to go to the dentist. I need a crown for a crumbling tooth. I’ve lost so many teeth, I cannot afford to lose another. I also have to figure out how to pay for it, since Medicare doesn’t cover teeth. Or hearing. Or vision. Or, for reasons best known to someone who isn’t talking, asthma medicine. I have — such an irony — tons of credit. That takes care of the dentist, but I have to then pay off the credit and that’s trickier. Fixed incomes are — well — inflexible.

medicare confusionWhatever is right with America, our health care system is pathetic … yet it’s far better than it was before President Obama.

Forgive me if this isn’t my best or cheeriest day. Today is full of purpose and a head-throbbing determination on my part to take care of business. Mostly, I want it to be over.

DAILY POST | PURPOSE