Don't you just hate it when you ask somebody how they are and they actually tell you? In detail? And show you incisions?
Well, I won't do that, but I will regale you with the story of the year I turned 76, when the glass was way less than half full. I don't want to do 76 again.
Last year I fell down a lot. I was on a walker awhile. I had doctors' visits and tests and CAT scans and colonoscopies and all that kind of fun. I was forced to go to the emergency room because a famous blood thinner made my blood too thin. I was attached to a catheter at the time. Are you thinking "poor thing" yet?
They thought maybe there was something wrong with my stomach. It was bigger than usual, so I was sent to a gastroenterologist, a guy who knows all about big stomachs — or was supposed to. He took one look and said, "You have an abdominal hernia."
I said, "Oh, no!"
He said, "We don't do anything for it. We don't operate. You don't have to worry about it unless you plan to do male modeling."
That was supposed to be funny. Ha-ha.
I found out, several tests later, it wasn't a hernia.
They had me lying flat and keeping very still in the middle of CAT scan machines. They sent me to a facility where they knocked me out and took a look at my insides to see if they were still there, and in what order. They found a stomach bacteria that they treated with pills that my pharmacist told me were contrary to the regular stuff I was already taking. Oh, happy day!
Oh, I've forgotten some of this because they told me I was incoherent. I didn't quite get it. Who am I and why am I here?
Tests then showed I was anemic — so anemic I could barely function. I was finally sent to an anemia doctor who also happened to be a cancer specialist. Literally, he took one look at me and said that was no hernia. It was a kidney backup. It was the beginning of renal failure. It had to be drained. A urologist had to attach me to a catheter day and night and drain all that fluid away. And I had to start a round of injections to make my hemoglobin pick up.
To put it succinctly, the anemia/cancer specialist saved my life so one day I could sit here, coherently, and tell you all about it. Ain't this a wonderful world?
I forgot about the blood transfusions. They're not hard on you but they're time-consuming. You just lie there while they slowly, slowly, slowly drip new blood into your body.
By the way, because I ended up at a cancer center didn't necessarily mean I had cancer. I didn't. I was talking to a woman while waiting to get my next appointment lined up and I told her some of my story. And she said, "You had no chemo?"
Well, no, because I didn't have cancer.
I still go there for tests every three months, and to see the doctor every six months. So far, each time I'm tested, my results are better and better.
And I helped myself by adding protein drinks and nutrition bars to my diet, and trying to get at least 70 grams of protein daily. That's a lot of Michael Phelps eating!
I can't tap-dance now but, then again, I couldn't tap-dance when I was 75. Today, at 77, I feel like a little soft shoe might just be the thing.
But, enough about me. How are you?
New Port Richey resident Jim Aylward was formerly a nationally syndicated columnist and radio host in New York City. Write him in care of LifeTimes, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.