That important Tuesday meeting had to be canceled. I had to see the ophthalmologist who was going to perform space age surgery to remove steroid-induced cataracts from an eye. Years of steroid use treating MS flare-ups had made a rendezvous with the laser inevitable.
Can we move the meeting to Thursday? Sorry I can’t. I am reviewing the MRI of my lower spine with an orthopedic surgeon to decide what to do about the stenosis and extreme pain I deal with every day. I just can’t take the pain much longer. Forget lunch today. Gotta see my neurologist who then wants me to be examined by a urologist. Then we will talk about physical therapy.
One sign of sickness is endlessly going to doctors when we need to be working. Another is when we talk more about our ailments than politics or baseball or our children. Then there is Coumadin, my newest drug addiction. When you are on that blood thinner, you are getting old. No offense. I am on it, too.
Growing old may beat the alternative, but it is not a happy condition. Feeling your age? Better see a specialist. Too often, I find myself dwelling on my difficulties and pondering pain. Thin lines separate emotions. Spending a life seeing doctors will make anyone feel old. When your wife yells for you to come inside, that someone from Medicare is on the phone, age isn’t creeping up on you. It is galloping. And, of course, that means more doctors.
I feel doctored to death. That condition makes me regard myself more as sick than old. Feeling old is in your head. Constantly feeling sick is in your face. In Strong at the Broken Places, I spent days interviewing Ben Cumbo, a young African American college student living with muscular dystrophy. I asked Ben what part of his identity defined him most, being male. Black, or sick. I had gotten to know his family and was sure the young man would say being black.
Being sick, he answered immediately.
Seeing a parade of doctors is not like seeing a July fourth parade. We are not on the sidelines but in the middle of the action. We are sick or we would not be there. I once told my friend, the orthopedic surgeon, during the examination of a knee, that I felt doctored to death. “I’m sure,” he replied. “But what are you going to do?”
Excellent question. We can’t live with them or without them. I am sick of the whole deal, sick, which means I need a doctor or two. I have an internist, a neurologist, an ophthalmologist and, of course, a neuro-ophthalmologist, various surgeons, a multitude of dermatologists, a new pulmonologist, a gastroenterologist, and now I am interviewing live-in psychiatrists. And that is just for starters.