Weird Science

Everyone made such a big deal about mammograms ten years ago. It was the thing to do.

“We turn 40 this year,” cried my girlfriend gang, “Time for our mammograms!”

“No,” I said in my very final answer voice, “That’s silly. I have nothing to declare in that area. Why I would voluntarily walk into the doctor’s office and pay them to feel me up and take x-rated pictures, I have no idea.”

One by one that year, my girlfriends dutifully fulfilled their right of passage and came back with horror stories.

It’s borderline molestation what x-ray techs get away with in the name of science.

But my fit and forty girlfriends had all passed the test and stared me down as the last girl standing with her dignity until I took my turn.

It was a non-event, and “I told you so” really seemed superfluous at that point.

This year, however, we are staring down the barrel of 50, and the conversation is taking some interesting turns.

And by turns I mean, with a hose and a camera.

I cannot emphasize enough that I am done donating my body to science.

While I am still alive and using it.

Five kids, people.

I am all done bending over for shots in the butt, holding out my arm to vampires, having complete strangers check me for dilation, and using a Singer to stitch random bits of me back together. I’ve had enough monitors strapped to me for observation, sonograms searching for alien life, and kind ladies with soft voices sitting me on a couch and saying, “Tell me more about your mother.”

And speaking of my mother…

This is the year she might actually be right.

But let’s not jump to conclusions, it’s early days.

You’re only as old as you feel.

I’ve hovered somewhere in my early 30s for a long time, but my mother cannot wait for me to get old and experience all the agony that comes with it, in order to both share her wealth of knowledge in that arena and to commiserate with my coming-apart-at-the-seams body.

She loves me so.

I may have mentioned with a fair amount of bravado that, although I have shut down the baby factory, the factory never got the memo and continues full speed ahead, anticipating that, at the tender age of 49, we could change our mind and have triplets.

Ahem.

“I’m late,” I told my baby sister over the phone.

“For what? Dinner?”

“My period,” I said, panicky, “I am never late. Occasionally I am a day early for extra credit, but it’s been almost two weeks. I have to buy a pregnancy test.”

I am surprised that her eye-roll didn’t come right through the phone and upside my head.

“Stupid,” she said, “how old are you?”

“Thirty and some change,” I replied, “way younger than you.”

The test was negative. I called the doctor and left a request for an appointment. I gave them all the details and spent the afternoon fretting over what it could be. I only know babies. All other alternatives required surgery at best and oh my goodness what if I’m dying and I don’t know it yet and is this how I wanted to spend my very last happy go lucky afternoon???

The doctor called back and left a voice message because apparently I am now deaf in my old age and didn’t hear the phone ring.

“After going over your symptoms and reviewing your chart, I really need you to know that, at your age, this is very common. You don’t need an appointment. If you miss at least three in a row, call us back and we can chat. Otherwise, have a good day.”

Age-ism!

I’ve been profiled.

So. Wrong.

The fork in the road involves either turning right and handing my body once more over to science for experimentation – demanding it no less! – or turning left where I accept my generous birthday gift and remodel the factory into a tea shop.

Polly put the kettle on.

Quack-A-Doodle

I am so weary of medical professionals calmly explaining to me that I am getting old.

This I know.

My friends and loved ones would never talk to me this way.

My mirror tells me every day.

I have had the same general physician for years now. He’s completely incompetent and I like that about him. I walk in, tell him what’s wrong with me and listen for his suggestions.

Then I tell him what to do about it.

And he does it.

I’m no hypochondriac. I come from solid pioneer stock and our routine for healing a body part that tries to fall off is to “slap a little dirt on it”. There’s not much that some sunshine and fresh air can’t fix, so I’m rarely in his office anyway.

The year I came to him and quietly pleaded for something to help me feel better was a classic though.

“Doctor,” I began, “I feel so tired all the time. My hair is thinning. I have headaches. My throat is constantly sore.”

He ran some blood work to look professional.

Taking blood out of people proves you’re a doctor, as does a messy signature.

“My dear, your thyroid is fine, your blood work came back normal, you’re not pregnant and there’s no strep in your throat. I suggest an exercise routine.”

“But doctor! I’ve been losing weight for no reason already! I have no energy! I have no time!”

“Five kids, huh? I suggest you stop yelling at them, and your throat will feel better.”

“Do you hear me? I’m exhausted and I take my vitamins faithfully. This is ridiculous.”

“You want to gain weight? Eat a bowl of ice cream every night before you go to bed.”

“Ice cream?”

This is where I began to understand who I was speaking with.

A moron.

“Yes, and try going to bed at a decent hour.”

Obviously the man was out of his mind.

You don’t go to bed at any hour if you’re raising five kids. You don’t eat regular meals unless you count the ones over the sink. Hollering and pulling out your hair is par for the course. What this man needed to prescribe was a babysitter or a nanny. Hook her up to my IV please and refill the prescription for, I don’t know, maybe 20 years or so.

This is the doctor who, after a full physical to celebrate my 40th birthday, cheerfully explained that “from here on out, everything goes downhill”. I wasn’t to be surprised when “things just no longer work the way they used to” and I was encouraged to “take care of myself as well as I could, but it would be pretty futile”.

At this exact moment it occurred to me why they only let you have a paper gown in the room.

Even so, I was sorely tempted to use it as a weapon.

I keep him on my payroll because he lets me go to specialists whenever I ask. If there is actually something wrong, he is willing to let the big boys handle it. It takes a strong doctor to admit that.

This particular week, I referred myself to an ophthalmologist. One of my sons seemed to be having eye troubles and so in an act of support, I signed myself up with him to have our eyes checked together.

The good doctor did a thorough job, and gave the kid a clean bill of health.

He decided I needed glasses.

Perfect eyesight for my whole life and now this! Okay, okay, so maybe I hold the menus further away to read them lately, but I haven’t tipped over my water glass yet. It’s not like I can’t take an educated guess at what the entrée is.

He calmly explained…that I’m getting old.

I calmly explained that Jesus could slap a little dirt on ’em and I’d walk away with 20/20.

For free.

Just another quack thinking he knows more than I do.

Grr.