Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Follow-Up With The Doctor

Yesterday, I went to see my doctor to follow up on my condition after the antibiotic that I was on for weeks finally ended. I think I had already beaten my ailment by the time I got put on the antibiotic, but a secondary benefit was that this persistent upper sinus infection seems finally to have broken up--at least I've been blowing my nose and actually getting stuff out for over a week now, and I haven't snored in at least two weeks, meaning I haven't been having to breathe through my mouth at night.
I am indebted to my daughter Rachel and my friend Michele for insisting that I get checked out for Lyme Disease, and then again to Rachel for insisting that I get a second test after the first one came back negative because "they must have screwed up, because you have it." I never, ever would have guessed that was the culprit; I live in the middle of the city, don't spend a lot of time outdoors, and don't even get mosquito bites, much less mystery bites or infections. But the Saturday when I went to my mom's to cut her bushes had to have been the culprit; the time frame fits, and my mother lives in prime Lyme habitat--suburban America. My mother and brother, who live two blocks from each other, both are constantly complaining that deer are always around their yards, eating their gardens and their bird feeders, and hedges and high grass are where ticks reside, waiting for a mammal to brush up so they can hitch a ride for a meal. I never saw a bite, much less a rash, and apparently ticks aren't large in any circumstances and can be as small as the period at the end of this sentence.
It says something about how housing patterns in this country have changed, that Lyme is now such a common ailment. And the proliferation of certain animals that are suited to suburban landscapes--deer, woodchucks, rabbits--and those that co-exist very well with human habitation in urban and suburban areas--squirrels, pigeons, crows, starlings, chipmunks--is simply staggering to contemplate, from when I was a kid. I mean, we had squirrels and starlings--but not in the numbers that we see now. And I grew up in my mother's house, and I can remember a deer in the yard--and in the winter at that--once, and I lived there, except for the years I was in college, until 1988. And now, having lived in the City of Binghamton for nearly fifteen years, I can tell you that 1) there are at least twenty-five different squirrels that live within two square blocks of my house, 2) there are at least a dozen crows that inhabit the same territory, and 3) the huge tree two houses down is filled with black, noisy starlings every evening about seven o'clock, making a racket that I think can be heard at the airport. Those numbers are amazing to me; as I said, this is in the middle of a small-to-medium city, with no real "wild" habitat anywhere close by except for the Susquehanna, and even that is a mile away. These animals are totally adapted to human landscaping, and their numbers are increasing every year, dramatically.
Anyway, end of Nature Boy tangent...the point I was making is that, like HIV and some other diseases, Lyme is a condition that is nearly exclusively a product of the modern world. And having had it, I can tell you that my natural inclination to stay the hell out of the woods and fields has been reinforced to the point where I never want to step off blacktop again. Leave "nature" to the animals that don't have opposable thumbs... the other major health concern for me has been my hypertension. It seems folly now for me to think that I took the results of a machine in a drug store as gospel, but I got away with playing with fire for a few months by not taking any medication for it. When I went to the ER about a month ago, and the reading was 170/103, I got frightened--but I was also relieved in a way, because the hair-trigger temper and constant stress that I had been exhibiting suddenly became more explicable. To make a long story short, I've been back on a med that worked for a time for a month now--and the reading yesterday was 146/88, which is more or less my "normal"--yes, it can go down a little more, but I'm also still about 8 pounds over my "ideal" weight, the weight at which I last achieved 120/80 a decade ago. But more importantly, I feel much better--I'm not on edge all the time, and my patience, at least as much as I can show, has returned. Some stressors have exited my life in the last few weeks--softball (although Lord Farquaad intruded briefly over the weekend, I simply have told my daughter that any softball commitment cannot cost money, and since Lord Farquaad reneged on his original pledge for a local schedule, she simply is not going to be on the team unless some sugar daddy steps forward. It is what it is) the most prominent, and yesterday the uncertainty over the Queen's future was resolved in our favor--she will be home within ninety days, a development I would dearly love to share with you all and probably will go into detail about in a few days. But others remain--bringing off the event that our program puts on Saturday has developed some problems (and is proof of the old adage "If you want something done right, do it yourself"), work has its own stresses, not least of which is that the triennial waiting to see if the grant got renewed is in full force now. It's tough to make plans for the future when you literally could lose your livelihood overnight--well, not overnight, but in seven weeks, and it's completely out of your hands. Sabrina's got her own teen stuff going on--a job now, a second chance at an exam, her wonderful mother being her wonderful self-absorbed and manipulative self--and of course this affects me. Some of this is coming to a head--the event will be done, for better or worse, by nightfall Saturday, and then I am off work for a week. But some of it is long-term, too.
But I'm better equipped to deal with it than I normally am. The doctor remarked yesterday that I was in better spirits than she ever remembers me being in, that I was laughing and joking and generally happy...I never know how to take remarks like that. I am aware that I am not always easy to be around, but God, when I hear stuff like that, it makes me wonder if I am morose and miserable most of the time? I have enough people around me that enjoy my company to make me believe "no" is the right answer--but then, I get a few remarks aimed at me from time to time like the doctor's, and I wonder... But I am in pretty good space, and feeling physically good has much to do with that. There are limits to how chipper and happy one is going to be if you don't feel good. And my body has been getting back to good health--or at least "as good as 52 gets"--for a few weeks now. My blood tests were reviewed as well, and there are no serious abnormalities, or none that could not be explained by being sick. The glucose levels were borderline high, but that's been true since for at least 30 years, since I got out of college, and the numbers have barely budged since 1986, so it's easier to believe that's my normal rather than think I have Type 2 diabetes. My liver functions are also a small bit off textbook normal--but even though I have been clean for nearly 17 years, I abused my body with liquor and drugs for twenty-two years before that, and it took a toll, because those numbers never really budge, either.
In general, I feel very fortunate that I have the immune system and the internal plumbing that I do. I have never, knock on wood, had serious endemic health concerns over the course of my life, and my body has taken a licking and still functions rather well, for what I've put it through. I probably shouldn't take it for granted, and it probably should be maintained better than I usually have, but in general, I remain very healthy.
And maybe God's trying to tell me something with that--that I've got a long time left on this earth and much left to do, and if I don't do it, it won't be because my body wouldn't let me. That's both oddly comforting and a serious challenge that I am not sure I am willing to meet. But at least I have a choice. Many people do not.

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