Appropriately dejected after an annual physical

Print out the eye chart, cover one eye, and see how you read it from 20 feet out. I failed line 8 abysmally.

I went for my annual check-up, and I must say, this doctor was thorough. In fact, he was too thorough. He told me way more than I ever wanted to know.

During the two-hour examination, I found out I’ve gained weight (too much ice cream), my blood pressure suggests hypertension, and I’m heading fast into osteoporosis (since I‘m tall, curvature of the spine will be all the more noticeable). He asked me if I take the essential calcium with vitamin D for absorption, and I said, “Yes.” I neglected to mention I’ve been taking half the dosage because I forget to take it twice daily.

He recommended that since my blood pressure is elevated, I check BP several times on the fly at any of the neighborhood drug stores that supply the self-administer cuff (usually near the pharmacy station). That way I‘ll be sure to get a real accurate read, not one affected by “white coat syndrome” (fear of doctor’s visit with attending spike in BP).

When I do this, I’ll be racing my husband to get at the apparatus (that‘s what he usually does while I shop for cards, etc.), and he usually sings out his success, as in a “Whoa, it’s 118 over 60! (like it’s an achievement test).”

I’m sure I won’t be regaling anyone with my figures.

During my exam, he spoke of 3 drugs that could offset osteoporosis, while I told him I have real reservations about any medication. Why? I was one of those who took the hormone replacing drug Prempro for 15 years. Any time I tried to go off it, I suffered horrendous withdrawal as in night sweats, no sleep, etc. so I’d cave in and go back on it. Years went by.

Today, Prempro is believed to increase the risk of breast cancer (I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 and had a mastectomy).

He spoke of the advantages of different types of osteoporosis drugs and even recommended one that supposedly diminishes the risk of breast cancer. He told me why I won’t want to let my bones deteriorate. As I age, I could suffer bone fractures and be permanently assigned to a wheelchair, like Liz Taylor.

The upshot of that conversation is this. We agreed, together, that I‘ll have another bone density test, first, and if this one shows further bone deterioration, I‘ll begin a drug regimen to counteract that. My idea for that is to quaff countless Tums tablets with calcium (but I don’t tell my young doctor that).

Before I left, the assistant gave me a vision test, too, and even there, I failed (either that, or his office staff moved the eye chart too far down the hall). When she asked me to cover one eye with my hand and read the bottom line of letters, I told her I didn’t see any letters, just a blurry black bar. She looked disappointed.

Then came the finale. The young woman apologized but said she had to ask the following questions: “In the past weeks, have you had feelings of listlessness, little interest, no joy?” Then she asked the more direct “Have you thought life’s not worth living?”

I admit, I wondered why she was asking me these questions but then it hit. She was trying to determine whether I’m significantly depressed, the kind that leads one to suicide.

At that realization, I chuckled. Here was staff busily trying to determine this older woman’s psychological well-being (and whether I might try to cut short my life), while I was doing all in my power to prolong it (by suffering this exam).

I told her, “Listen, have no fear. I’m not leaving this life prematurely, if I can help it.”

That didn’t mean, however, that I bounced out the door, thrilled. No, I’m not depressed, just appropriately dejected.   For I learned, I’ve got high blood pressure and osteoporosis gains a serious foothold. Even my damned vision deteriorates.

Let‘s face it, I‘d be crazy if I didn’t feel somewhat “down,” and that’s healthy, in my estimation.

Colleen Kelly Mellor blogs from the perspective of a chronic patient at Encouragement in a Difficult World: Biddy Bytes Blog.

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